There has been some behind the scenes controversy over Cascade Radio Groups decision to allow Ken Mann to continue to be on the air from 5pm-6pm five days a week while also being a declared candidate for County Council. It seemed pretty obvious to many people that Ken Mann should have left the show when he announced his candidacy and filed his intention to run with the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission, but it now appears that he will not leave the show until filing week in early June.
The apparent arguments for allowing Ken to continue his co-hosting role seems to be that his candidacy is not official until filing week, that it is not a PDC violation, and that it is not that big a deal anyway. I am not sure who at CRG made those decisions, but they are contradicting all precedence and those complaining about the decision have legitimate concerns. When Brett Bonner announced his candidacy for the mayor of Bellingham five years ago, management at that time decided he had to leave the air immediately and Brett was cut back to part-time work and could not host the morning show. Brett declared earlier in the campaign process, but in that instance CRG came up with a completely different answer. I realize that management has changed, but the fact is the precedence for what should happen was determined 5 years ago and all of the suddenly changing it now is arbitrary and capricious. Recently, Chris Matthews of MSNBC fame was contemplating a run for the 2010 Senate against Arlene Spector. The controversy was not about whether Chris Matthews would have to leave the show when he declared, but whether he should have that level of media access while even exploring a senate campaign. Chris Matthews knew he had to quit his job at MSNBC as soon as he declared to avoid the appearance of having an unfair campaign advantage. Although slightly less relevant to this situation, but Fred Thompson quite Law and Order when he was deciding whether to be a presidential candidate. It could be argued that he did not have the time to do both and therefore quit to focus on the campaign, but again it was a given that he could not be on TV weekly while also being a candidate. The fact is elections are supposed to be fair, and it is impossible to be fair when one declared candidate gets daily air-time while his opponent does not.
Having been a former candidate, I am fully aware of the media’s desire for impartiality when it comes to candidates. They were very clear at KGMI that if they had me on the air they had to give equal time to my opponent. This not only pertained to being on air as a guest on one of the shows, but even advertising as well. The fact is that a person becomes a candidate for office when they announce they are running for a particular public office and then must file a C1 report with the PDC declaring their intention to run and raise money. This is not a PDC issue as they regulate campaign contributions and expenditures so the fact that the PDC does not care is irrelevant. The June filing deadline is an arbitrary date so the county auditor has a firm decision on who is running and who is not so they can begin preparing for the primary elections. The campaign begins as soon as the candidate announces his/her intentions to run for office. Never before has a person not been consider a candidate until filing week when they announced earlier that they were running and began raising funds. CRG, KGMI, and Ken Mann blew it on this issue and he should have left the show as soon as he announced he was running. They have set a dangerous precedence and gone against good ethical policies when it comes to dealing with candidates who are on-air personalities. Any candidate for the 2nd district has a valid argument that they should get equal airtime and should pursue it with CRG. It is time for Ken Mann to leave the show to avoid any potential improperities and complaints of lack of fairness, or alternatively, Patti Brooks should go ahead and announce her candidacy now for next year’s state representative elections and then stay on the air until next June picking up a year of free media along the way.