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Published: Wednesday, 12/10/2008

Toledo mayor seeks revival of equal-time law

BY TOM TROY
BLADE POLITICS WRITER

As promised, Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner yesterday took his beef with local radio station WSPD-AM, 1370 to the halls of Congress, asking the staff of U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman (D., Calif.) to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine.

And the mayor agreed to play a local role in helping gain support of the $15 billion bailout for Detroit's Big Three: he offered to contact former Toledoan John Snow, chairman of the private equity firm that owns Chrysler LLC, for assurances that none of the money will go to Cerberus Capital Management executives.

Mr. Finkbeiner was in Washington yesterday with a group of U.S. mayors lobbying for an emergency loan of taxpayer funds to Detroit's automakers.

He said he met with Patricia Delgado, Mr. Waxman's chief of staff, and offered his help if Mr. Waxman wishes to revive the Fairness Doctrine. Mr. Waxman is the new chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which has oversight of the Federal Communications Commission.

The mayor on Monday accused WSPD of violating the principles of the now-defunct rule by not giving him equal time to respond to its "daily diatribes" against him, and said he would take it up with Mr. Waxman. The doctrine, which was eliminated by President Reagan in 1987, required radio and TV stations to give equal time to issues and candidates.

WSPD general manager Andy Stuart is one of the charter members of Take Back Toledo, a group unveiled last week to raise a petition to try to recall Mr. Finkbeiner from office.

"We reviewed things on the airwaves since that expired," Mr. Finkbeiner said of his conversation with Ms. Delgado.

He said he gave her a copy of the speech and promised to help provide data and tapes of WSPD broadcasts.

A spokesman for Mr. Waxman yesterday confirmed Mr. Finkbeiner's visit and said no decision has been made whether to delve into the Fairness Doctrine question.

WSPD program director Brian Wilson said the likelihood of bringing back the Fairness Doctrine is "highly improbable," and said it would violate the First Amendment of the Constitution which guarantees free speech.

He said Mr. Finkbeiner is welcome back on WSPD when he apologizes for calling the station "a distributor of mistruths, half-truths, and outright lies."

Over the summer, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) said she would support the revival of the Fairness Doctrine. However, few Democrats have echoed Ms. Pelosi's view, and a spokesman for President-elect Barack Obama said he doesn't support reviving the rule.

Regarding the Big Three bailout, Mr. Finkbeiner said he and other mayors met with U.S. Rep. Barney Frank (D., Mass.), a main author of the plan to extend a $15 billion bridge loan to the automakers.

Mr. Finkbeiner said Mr. Frank asked him if he knew anyone from Cerberus Capital Management, the majority owner of Chrysler LLC, which has its Jeep assembly plant in Toledo. He said he knows John Snow, chairman of Cerberus, who is a University of Toledo graduate, and volunteered to call him and get assurances that the bailout money won't wind up in executives' pockets.

The mayor's spokesman, Jason Webber, said Mr. Finkbeiner paid for the trip with his own funds.



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