Arizona PBS Makes A Campaign Contribution to Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate Katie Hobbs
As a public charity, AZ PBS can't participate in partisan politics but it nevertheless acceded to Democrat Katie Hobbs refusal to debate GOP Kari Lake and gifted Hobbs with a solo half-hour interview.
The Arizona’s Public Broadcasting System (PBS) this week donated a free half-hour of statewide political advertising to Katie Hobbs, the Democratic candidate for AZ Governor.
PBS has been a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) “public charity” since 1970 and accepts a financial subsidy each year from the U.S. government, which, of course, is funded by taxpayers of all political persuasions.
In exchange for these valuable perks, the Internal Revenue Code unequivocally prohibits AZ PBS from directly or indirectly participating in or intervening in any political campaign on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for elective public office.
But AZ PBS apparently isn’t concerned about its tax-exempt status. That’s why it torpedoed the Arizona gubernatorial debate by offering Hobbs a free half-hour interview, which took place earlier this week.
The non-partisan Arizona Citizens Clean Election Commission (CCEC) organized a joint debate to air on AZ PBS on October 12. Hobbs refused to participate. One would expect that Lake would have the debate hour to herself by default because it was Hobbs choice whether or not to attend. But the CCEC postponed the debate after learning that PBS had acceded to Hobbs’ request for a solo interview.
A debater who doesn’t show up typically loses. But PBS treated Hobbs like the winner.
Lake complained that AZ PBS “is working overtime to help elect Katie Hobbs.”
AZ PBS v. Small Regional TV Station
The CCEC announced this week that it is dumping AZ PBS as its debate partner in favor of AZTV7, a small independent TV station owned by the Londen family of Phoenix and licensed to Prescott, AZ. CCEC says AZTV7 will livestream a half-hour interview with Lake on Sunday at 5 p.m.
There is a huge difference between AZ PBS and AZTVZ.
AZ PBS is one of the country’s largest public TV stations, reaching 80% of Arizona homes and 1.9 million households each week.
AZTV7’s is the 10th ranked TV station in AZ with regional viewership.
And many voters do not have the ability to livestream the debate (particularly older voters). Tough luck for them?
The CCEC and AZ PBS - two supposedly non-partisan institutions that receive taxpayer support - have singlehandedly distorted the AZ gubernatorial election by showcasing Hobbs and burying Lake just weeks before the mid term election.
Neither CCED nor AZ PBS returned a request for comment on Thursday.
Not the establishment pick
Clearly, Lake, who questions the results of the 2020 election and has been endorsed by former GOP President Donald Trump, is not the establishment pick. But shouldn’t a taxpayer funded organization make a least some effort to comply with IRS rules and be non-partisan? Doesn’t AZ PBS have enough faith in Arizona voters to allow them to make a decision without AZ PBS’s thumb on the scale? Is AZ PBS so concerned about preserving its taxpayer subsidy that it will break the rules to deter the election of a potential threat?
The non-partisan CCEC also undermined Lake by cancelling the Oct. 12 debate on PBS. Why didn’t the debate go forward as planned? The CCEC repeatedly acceded to Hobbs’ reticence, shifting dates for the debate, and ultimately denied Lake her right to go forward on AZ PBS in Hobbs’ absence.
According to its web site, the five member non-partisan CCEC was formed pursuant to the 1998 Citizens Clean Elections Act “to restore citizen participation and confidence in our political system.” The CCEC gets an annual budget of about $5 million from Arizona taxpayers.
It’s not clear how much money the feds give to AZ PBS. According to its latest public tax form, AZ PBS received $21 million in “government grants” for the one-year period ending June 2020.
Hobbs says she won’t attend the Oct. 23 debate, adding, “The debate about debates is over.”