Pappas Telecasting Cos. responded Wednesday to Free Press attacks on its in-kind contributions of airtime to political candidates, a majority Republican, in California.
The offers of airtime, to 13 Republican County Committees and 5 Democratic, came to light after some of the opposing candidates asked for equal time and were offered it at lowest unit rates, rather than as a comparable in-kind donation.
Pappas concedes donations are contributions, but also vetted the move with its attorneys, according to the company, as well as with the FCC to determine that such contributions are legal in California, and do not trigger equal time but instead an equal opportunity for ad time at the lowest rate on the card.
Company EVP, legal and government affairs, Peter Pappas (no relation to CEO Harry Pappas), says: "assertions that this is illegal are inaccurate and unfair."
As to the Free Press charges that this is "an abuse of the public airwaves to advance their own political agenda," Pappas points out that the chairman and CEO and senior executives of the company have contributed to both parties.
Peter Pappas says that although the total if all the offered time were used is $325 for the Republicans and $125,000 for the Democrats, it will likely be more like a quarter of that, since the time is subject to availability and other constraints.
Peter Pappas spoke to B&C from Florida. Pappas, who is also a board member of the company, is on leave to work for the campaign as finance co-chair of the Kerry For President Committee.