by The People’s Minister of Information JR
Who is this white lawyer posing as a left wing candidate in the Oakland mayoral race, a man with a long history of collaborating with and representing police and backing legislation, as a public servant, that has gotten people killed? Dan “the opportunist” Siegel.
Since this man wants to be mayor, I decided to talk to some of his colleagues who have worked with him over the years, so that we can inform the Bay on truly who this man is. Here is Tracy Rosenberg, who as treasurer of the Pacifica Radio board, worked with Dan Siegel for over 15 years. Her answers discussing who he TRULY is are very insightful. Check her out in her own words.
M.O.I. JR: When did you meet Dan Siegel? When did he start working with Pacifica?
Tracy Rosenberg: I met Dan Siegel for the first time in 1999, when the nonprofit I was working for at the time (which I now direct) first got intensely involved in the conflicts going on at the Pacifica Radio Network. We did so as an advocate for independent media and quickly got involved in trying to help KPFA, which at the time was threatened with a sale and/or shutdown, which happened for three weeks in the summer of 1999.
Dan at the time was a lawyer in private practice, a member of the Oakland School Board – which was heading towards receivership – and a close friend of then-chair of KPFA’s local advisory board, Sherry Gendelman. Dan Siegel would represent Gendelman and several of the other local board chairs at the other four Pacifica stations in a lawsuit against their parent 510(c)(3), Pacifica, that was filed in 1999.
M.O.I. JR: What were people saying about him prior to him coming to KPFA?
Tracy Rosenberg: Dan has a long history in Berkeley. He was a Maoist when young and played an active role in the People’s Park confrontation with the University of California, actively inciting police assault in the May 1969 confrontation that killed one person.
This resulted in Siegel having trouble getting his law license after graduating from Boalt (UC Berkeley’s law school) and having to go all the way to the Supreme Court of California to get them to overrule the State Bar’s decision that he lacked the “moral character” to practice law.
Siegel’s firm made most of its money in academic tenure lawsuits, where it won several large settlements from the University of California for tenure denials. He was active in Oakland politics, serving on the Oakland School Board for many years as it lurched into receivership and representing many City of Oakland politicians and employees in lawsuits. His firm also does some significant pro-bono work for demonstrators and victims of police brutality.
Dan Siegel was active in Oakland politics, serving on the Oakland School Board for many years as it lurched into receivership and representing many City of Oakland politicians and employees in lawsuits.
M.O.I. JR: He recently left Pacifica to run for mayor of Oakland. What was Siegel’s history at Pacifica?
Tracy Rosenberg: Dan’s history at Pacifica is long and tangled. Perhaps it is best described as corporate counsel for four years, interim executive director twice, national election supervisor once, local and national board member, and lawyer suing or defending the foundation at least a half a dozen times in the past decade. If that sounds like a lot, then it is.
Dan has felt little compunction about filling any and every position within Pacifica, and often two or three of them at the same time, in defiance of most commonly understood precepts about conflicts of interest. As corporate counsel he handled about a half a dozen lawsuits, mostly for sexual harassment, and most cost Pacifica significant settlements.
He negotiated and signed off on the 2007 Democracy Now contract that many place at the heart of the network’s financial crisis and which certainly accounts for two thirds of the institution’s debts. His testimony as a witness at a trial against Pacifica cost hundreds of thousands of dollars at a time when he was a board member and owed it to Pacifica to try to mitigate rather than exacerbate their damages in a lawsuit filed against them.
His stint as election supervisor came after firing the incumbent who was pointing to serious problems and forcibly preventing the eventual winners from taking their seats for months, until forced to do so by a court. In short, it’s a history that can be characterized as using any means necessary to try to keep institutional control in the hands of the small faction he favors.
M.O.I. JR: What role did he play in the Nadra Foster case?
Tracy Rosenberg: When Nadra Foster was beaten up in the lobby of KPFA for refusing to admit to trespassing in her workplace of 15 years, Dan’s good friend and former client Sherry Gendelman said she “tipped her hat” to the KPFA employees who called the police.
Dan himself spoke forcefully to block an investigation by KPFA’s local station board into what exactly led to the violent confrontation. Given his role as a frequent critic of the police, the Foster beating was no doubt embarrassing for Dan, and to a significant extent he hedged his public statements in admitting that incident was unfortunate and the police should not have been called, while working behind closed doors to prevent any consequences or remediable action at KPFA, where the end results were that a bookkeeper resigned and KPFA dropped the charges against Foster.
Given his role as a frequent critic of the police, the beating of 12-year volunteer Nadra Foster at KPFA was no doubt embarrassing for Dan, yet poke forcefully to block an investigation by KPFA’s local station board into what exactly led to the violent confrontation.
The unpaid staff who paid for Foster’s bail out of pocket were never even reimbursed by the station.
M.O.I. JR: What role has he played with Save KPFA? Who is Save KPFA?
Tracy Rosenberg: Save KPFA is a coalition of some long-term entrenched paid programmers at KPFA with supportive members of the community, many connected with high-level labor union bureaucracies and progressive Democratic Party vehicles like the Wellstone Democratic Club, Move-On and the PDA.
They’ve used various names over the years, including KPFA Forward and Concerned Listeners, but the current incarnation is as Save KPFA. They have acted as an echo chamber for a narrative that KPFA is the best Pacifica station, subsidizes the rest of the Pacifica network, is run by “real professionals” and basically manages itself – i.e., no outsiders needed or wanted.
This narrative runs a bit contrary to the reality of a 35 percent decline in members since 2006, but it goes on unabated.
Siegel’s faction has acted as an echo chamber for a narrative that KPFA is the best Pacifica station, subsidizes the rest of the Pacifica network, is run by “real professionals” and basically manages itself – i.e., no outsiders needed or wanted. This narrative runs a bit contrary to the reality of a 35 percent decline in members since 2006, but it goes on unabated.
Dan has been a major funder of the Save KPFA efforts, which have included adding expensive “slate card mailers” to the local board elections – making it very hard for genuine grassroots candidates to run without raising thousands of dollars to support their candidacies – sponsoring alterna-fundraisers to divert funds away from KPFA to protest management and program changes Save KPFA did not approve of, and filing and participating in numerous lawsuits to change the outcome of decisions by placing financial stress on the nonprofit parent.
M.O.I. JR: How did Dan Siegel lay the groundwork for the current civil war going on at Pacifica? What has the role of his law office been?
Tracy Rosenberg: Siegel, along with much of the Save KPFA faction, latched on to the genuine uprising among Pacifica listeners and supporters that happened in 1999 amid misplaced emails that showed board members were planning to sell one or more of the stations. Somewhat cynically, they embraced the call for democratization, although even then some of their supporters like Sherry Gendelman made it clear they didn’t really believe in or want any “nonprofessionals” participating in radio station operations beyond basic clerical tasks and late night DJing.
Siegel’s lawsuit ended up combined with the far more authentic grassroots effort headed by Carol Spooner (The Listener’s Lawsuit), and after the old board was removed, it was sort of left to “the listeners” as voters to sort out the future direction of the network through a democratic process. The short answer is that they didn’t.
The Save KPFA folks and their compatriots at the other stations started launching blizzards of propagandistic information at voters, programmers fought program changes and advocated for the status-quo-supporting slates on the air and, in the end, the majority of the voters tuned out and stopped voting, and the ones who did vote often had little to no idea what they were actually voting for.
The addition of the extra-curricular slate mailings turned the elections into a rich man’s game, and Siegel has proven that $10,000 can get virtually anyone elected to KPFA’s local station board. Siegel has consistently used his law firm to advance the interests of his favorite paid-staff-allied board members and worked to actively discourage more grassroots participation in KPFA.
His legal work has probably cost Pacifica millions of dollars over the past decade and has been designed to financially pressure the organization into acceding to the narrow demands of the Save KPFA factional slate or face dire financial consequences.
M.O.I. JR: What are your thoughts on Dan Siegel becoming the mayor of Oakland?
Siegel’s legal work has probably cost Pacifica millions of dollars over the past decade and has been designed to financially pressure the organization into acceding to the narrow demands of the Save KPFA factional slate or face dire financial consequences.
Tracy Rosenberg: Dan would probably repeat some of his behavior around Pacifica within Oakland city government. KPFA has long been run as a patronage outfit and some of that tendency seems to also exist within Oakland city government and would probably be exacerbated.
While it is a nominally left patronage system, it works much as patronage systems always have, to maintain existing power bases and generally to frustrate innovation and creativity. Siegel has a history of financial implosions with organizations he’s been involved with, notably the Oakland School Board and Pacifica, but there are others, so I would not expect a financially healthy trajectory for the City of Oakland.
Siegel has a history of financial implosions with organizations he’s been involved with, notably the Oakland School Board and Pacifica, but there are others, so I would not expect a financially healthy trajectory for the City of Oakland if he becomes mayor.
From my own experience, I would say that while a few symbolic progressive pieces of legislation would probably be passed with some fanfare, the underlying structure and the majority of the decisions would be based on a corrupt patronage model replete with numerous conflicts of interest – and I don’t think that is in the best interests of the City of Oakland.
M.O.I. JR: While on the School Board, Siegel and Quan voted to bring police into the Oakland Public Schools, and in 2011 unarmed Raheim Brown was killed outside of Skyline High by one of these armed campus policemen. What do you think about this? What is the difference between the real Dan Siegel and the image that he has made for himself?
Tracy Rosenberg: I think it’s a serious disconnect between portraying oneself as an anti-police brutality hero and voting to put children in the vicinity of armed police. Raheim was a victim of this disconnect. Siegel is not alone in having some distance between what he says and what he does, but in the end it is more important to stop voting for actions that result in murders than to vote for them and sue on the back end after the murders happen.
The People’s Minister of Information JR Valrey is associate editor of the Bay View, author of “Block Reportin’” and the newly released “Unfinished Business: Block Reportin’ 2” and filmmaker of “Operation Small Axe” and “Block Reportin’ 101,” available, along with many more interviews, at www.blockreportradio.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.