Does Sheriff’s Weekly Radio Gig Violate the Law?

A candidate for Los Angeles County Sheriff has filed complaints with the Federal Communications Commission, the Fair Political Practices Commission, and the County Clerk over a weekly radio show segment featuring Sheriff Alex Villanueva.

AM station KFI has been hosting a show every Sunday called “Live and Unscripted with L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva.” L.A. County Sheriff’s Cmdr. Eli Vera believes the segment violates the federal equal time rule

“We’re within 100 days of the election, but yet he’s the only one that’s getting these opportunities and is talking about things that are highly political, and doesn’t shy away from saying so,” Vera told the Los Angeles Times. He says KFI has denied his own requests to be interviewed.

Additionally, Vera claims KFI is essentially offering Villanueva free advertising — a claim echoed by Loyola Law Professor Jessica Levindon. Since KFI typically charges more than $1,000 for a 30-second radio ad, that would put its “contribution” at well over the legal limit of $3,000.

KFI Program Director Robin Bertolucci told the Times that it is in full compliance with election rules and that equal time is available to all candidates.

“To my knowledge no one at KFI has heard from Eli Vera regarding a request for equal time,” Bertolucci said. “Since I heard about this matter I have emailed and called Eli but have not heard back.”