The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

02 September 2005

Unimpressive Financial Backers


Air America Defender Needs Dough, No Questions Asked

Have some extra money?

Air America scandal apologist Bill Press seems to be having trouble raising $2 million needed for his stalled syndicated talk show. Perhaps you can help.

Is the former CNN "Crossfire" host and California Democratic Party chairman willing to take it from just about anybody?

So far, he's raised just a quarter of the necessary amount, with funding from dubious sources. No wonder he was so quick to defend Air America in the midst of its sleazy scandal, it must have seemed a minor issue to the longtime Democrat operative.

One investor is controversial financier Richard Blum, also known as Senator Dianne Feinstein's (D-California) husband.

Blum is known for extensive, questionable business dealings with China's Communist Party leadership, which date to 1981. From a San Francisco Chronicle profile:

In 1981, Blum organized the first modern expedition to scale the east face of Mount Everest. He filed dispatches on the expedition to the San Francisco Examiner.

In these articles, he explained how a goodwill visit to China by Feinstein in 1979 won him the ear of the Chinese authorities, who ultimately granted him access to the long-forbidden slope.

"We had come to build goodwill, promote trade and to make new friends," Blum wrote in one story, adding, "but I asked for and received permission to have another kind of meeting -- one with the Chinese Mountaineering Association."

Over the years, however, as Blum and Feinstein have grown in their respective spheres of business and politics, critics have periodically wondered whether one or the other member of this power couple had unduly used their money or influence to benefit the other.

Blum's background has long been considered an impediment should Sen. Feinstein attempt a presidential run.

Notorious Former Serbian Leader's Role

Press money has also come from former Yugoslavian Prime Minister Milan Panic, who might come in handy, should Bill locate his own Boys & Girls Club piggy bank to raid.

Here's what leftist publication Mother Jones had to say about Panic back in 1996:

Panic, prime minister of Yugoslavia until a failed 1992 run for the presidency, is now CEO of ICN (International Chemical and Nuclear) Pharmaceuticals Inc. The United Nations embargo of the former Yugoslavia hit ICN hard.

Panic, himself a Serb, was one of many who flouted the Clinton-backed boycott by using front companies in Serbia to continue their business dealings.

Panic also ran into major Securities and Exchange Commission trouble in 2002, after ICN withheld from investors, the FDA's rejection of a Hepatitis C drug application. His former company was forced to pay a $1 million to the SEC, Panic himself had to fork over $500,000.

In 2003, Panic was fined by the California Fair Political Practices Commission for campaign contribution violations.

Workplace Misconduct Complaints

Long notorious in the corporate world for harassment complaints. US News & World Report did an entire feature story on the myriad of lawsuits that have dogged Milan Panic.

Here, he's sued for workplace sexual misconduct.

This, from the Washington Post in 1998:

Similarly, Milan Panic, chairman and chief executive of California-based ICN Pharmaceuticals Inc., has faced harassment lawsuits, but his board continues to support him. He has settled several lawsuits while denying wrongdoing. He faces another civil trial in October. Panic has conceded he had relationships with employees but said they were consensual.

Findlaw has this:

In November 1998, a shareholder read an article in U.S. News and World Report about the troubles facing ICN Pharmaceuticals, Inc., arising from numerous complaints of sexual harassment and misconduct by ICN's CEO, Milan Panic.

The article stated that "Panic and ICN shareholders have paid millions in settlements in four separate cases and are at risk for millions more.. In April, with two harassment suits still pending, the board sweetened [Panic's] $644,680 salary with a $1.8 million bonus." Outraged, the shareholder filed a derivative complaint naming Panic and other Board members.

From the US News & World Report story:

Panic is also, however, a lightning rod for complaints of sexual harassment. Panic and ICN shareholders have paid out millions in settlements in four separate cases, and are at risk for millions more.

At least six women in the past five years have alleged that the 68-year-old, twice-married father of five has repeatedly propositioned or groped them and rewarded or punished female employees based on whether they complied or complained.

Five of the women have filed discrimination charges with California's Department of Fair Employment and Housing. Four of those have sued ICN: One trial begins July 13.

Yet far from ousting Panic, the board of directors has done all it can to protect him. In April, with two harassment suits pending, the board sweetened his $644,680 salary with a $1.8 million bonus.

Interestingly, the Los Angeles Times (and Bloomberg News, from where the story originates) mentions nothing about these controversial funding ties in today's article about the talk show, but does say this:

Press, a former co-host of CNN's "Crossfire" television show, is seeking to raise $2 million for a private company that is distributing the new program. He has raised $450,000 from 11 investors, according to an August filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Press, a former chairman of the California Democratic Party, said the program will emphasize "progressive" values, and his goal is to syndicate it nationally. The idea is create a profit-making venture and a counterbalance to such conservative talk-radio hosts as Rush Limbaugh, Press said.

How do the likes of Milan Panic and Richard Blum fit this "progressive" profile? Is Press further demonstrating the left's moral bankruptcy?

Or maybe it's that he has two faces: the "enlightened" public image and the real Bill Press, where anything goes, if you have the dough.

Questions About Capital Needs

Another issue: why does Press need $2 million, to fund a syndicated radio show that so far has met with little interest from radio operators, or the public?

Programs are being launched with shoestring budgets these days, it's hard to understand the need for that kind of money.

And what exactly could an investor expect in return for contributing to this "venture"?

See previous Radio Equalizer reports on the Press show here and here.

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  • Am told some people are having trouble leaving comments. If so, email them to me at and I'll post them for you. Thanks.

    By Blogger Brian Maloney, at 02 September, 2005 17:36  

  • A democrat cozying up to Communists? I'm *shocked*

    Seems like Panic and Clinton have the same biography. Serial sexual predators.

    By Blogger RUMPLEMINTZ, at 02 September, 2005 18:46  

  • Brian said: “Blum is known for extensive, questionable business dealings with China's Communist Party”

    Who do you think is FUNDING MUCH of the CURRENT US NATIONAL DEBT that Bush and company are running up.

    Could it be “China's Communist Party”.

    By Blogger mick, at 02 September, 2005 22:53  

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