Dems Want FCC to Block Conservative Co.’s Radio Station Deal after Firing of Clinton Fundraiser
Democrats in Congress want the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to block the sale of a tiny south Florida radio station because the new owner fired a Hillary Clinton fundraiser who once served as mayor of a local city. The politician turned radio host, Raul Martinez, was the Spanish-language station’s top host before a conservative media conglomerate bought it and changed the liberal-leaning programming. The deal received sparse local media coverage but earned national attention when lawmakers in Washington D.C. asked a federal agency to reject the sale for what appears to be political reasons.
It all seems to be connected to Democrats blaming conservative local Spanish media for losing two key south Florida congressional seats in the 2020 election. In the state’s District 27, political newcomer Maria Elvira Salazar, a Cuban-American journalist, upset incumbent Donna Shalala, who served as Bill Clinton’s Secretary of Health and Human Services. In the 26th District, Carlos Gimenez, also Cuban-American and the two-term mayor of Miami-Dade County, ousted incumbent Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, a native of Ecuador. Democrats blamed it on misinformation—specifically false threats of socialism—promoted by local Spanish-language media outlets that tend to have politically conservative programming. “It was a McCarthyism type of pounding,” Shalala said in a news article after her shocking loss to a largely unknown candidate who lacks her name recognition.
In the aftermath of the losses a trivial Spanish-language radio station, Caracol 1260 AM, is receiving peculiar attention over a programming shift from federal lawmakers more than 1,000 miles away. The news-talk station is being purchased by conservative America TeVe for $350,000. The new owners immediately replaced Martinez, the former mayor of Hialeah, with a conservative journalist named Juan Manuel Cao, who escaped Communist Cuba after serving time as a political prisoner. The Cuban-born Martinez is a prominent liberal commentator and Clinton friend who hosted a fundraising event at his home for Hillary’s 2007 presidential campaign. His son, Raul Martinez Jr., worked as Clinton’s Florida director of coalitions. In the 1990s the elder Martinez was convicted of extortion and racketeering for accepting $1 million in cash and property from land developers. The conviction was reversed on appeal and in 1993 he supposedly won an election that a judge threw out because of voter fraud.
This week the Congressional Hispanic Caucus called on the FCC to reject the radio station’s sale to prevent what Democrats view as a progressive broadcast station from airing conservative viewpoints in Miami’s Hispanic community. FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr, a Trump appointee, blasted the lawmakers in a statement posted on the agency’s website. “This attempt by Democrats in Congress to pressure the FCC into blocking the sale of a Spanish-language radio station based on the political viewpoints that it would broadcast to South Florida’s Hispanic community crosses a line drawn by the First Amendment,” Carr said. “The FCC has no business doing the Democrats’ bidding or using our regulatory process to censor political opinions that Democrats do not like.” He continues to accuse the congressional delegation of treating the FCC as an arm of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), expressly pressuring the agency to take action that will increase party’s electoral odds in Florida.
Indeed, Mucarsel-Powell, who lost her congressional seat after one term, responded to a news magazine story on the radio station sale and programming change by posting on social media: “To win in 2022 this must stop!” In a separate news article a former Obama administration official called the sale of the station to conservatives “a problem for the party.” Another Obama administration official characterized the station’s programming change as “another expanding tentacle in the right-wing media ecosystem that is trying to implant itself in south Florida by having ideological control of the airwaves that Hispanic voters most listen to.” Carr, the Republican FCC commissioner, calls Democrats’ request “a deeply troubling transgression of free speech and the FCC’s status as an independent agency.”