Friday, May 09, 2008

Scandal: Florida conservojock busted on larceny charges

As I discovered this story that I'm about to share with all of you, I asked myself, is this art imitating life?

Okay, that was a cheap shot. But my counterparts on the other side seemingly have no shame, so neither do I. Embattled former KGO radio host Bernie Ward accepted a plea deal, and admitted to possessing and distributing child pornography. I find it rather disturbing that right-wing goons are beaming with glee over this, particularly since there are exploited children involved. To consider something like that 'entertainment,' well, that's pretty disgusting. And that especially goes for Brian Maloney, a.k.a. the Radio Tranquilizer, who's head is buried so far up Rush Limbaugh's fat ass that all he sees is pigshit.

I haven't written as much about Ward as others have, and when I have, I limited it to repeating a few paragraphs from news sources. It's not because of Ward's ideology, but rather the fact that I find child exploitation to be very disturbing. I don't get offended by much, but we all have out breaking point. Like the 'sex dungeon' guy in Austria, which made me shout out loud at my TV. And to exploit this tragedy for other sleazy means, or for self-serving means, is just as disturbing. Ward is a disturbed man, and should have realized the consequences of his actions. His 'research' argument was flimsy at best. Even when it comes to people on the left, particularly Eliot Spitzer, I do have a problem with hypocrisy in general. And I'll leave it at that.

Nonetheless, here's the story I want to share with all of you. Meet Richard Lester Senninger. He's a budding syndicated talk radio host based out of WFOY in St. Augustine, FL who goes by the on-air name Rick Wright (not to be confused with the Pink Floyd keyboardist by the same name). He owns an alleged company called Intel Radio Network, which syndicated (read: buys time on tiny AM stations) and leased satellite time to distribute his show, "Outside the Wire" to several stations across the country during the 9P-midnight weekday time slot.

The 51 year old Senninger is in hot water now, as he was arrested at his home Wednesday afternoon and booked in the St. Johns County jail in Palencia, FL. Senninger is currently facing charges that he is a fugitive from justice in Michigan for larceny and theft. He is being held without bond pending an appearance before a judge, and is currently waiting extradition to Iosco County, Michigan. Gary Rapp, Iosco County prosecutor, said the larceny by conversion charge was for "more than $1,000 and under $20,000." According to a Florida state attorney fraud investigator, Senninger also has bench warrants issued in Michigan for non payment of child support.

The house of cards came a tumblin' down pretty quick for this so-called conservative political commentator, as WFOY's owner, Kristine Phillips was getting ready to drop Senninger's show due to nonpayment of bills. Following the arrest, he was quickly replaced by Westwood One's Jim Bohannon in the evening slot.

On her weekday talk show yesterday morning and in the local media, Phillips took time to set the record straight, claiming that she is a “victim” of Senninger as well. "He came to me two months ago with an impressive radio background. He was syndicated before and had sold that. He wanted to syndicate again, and he wondered if it could originate from WFOY," Phillips said. She claims that she was selling Senninger local radio air time and the use of her studio to produce his program as well as satellite time for syndication. Senninger boasted of affiliates across the country. Of course, he turned out to be rather undependable. Phillips claims that Senninger has been lagging far behind in payments. Phillips pressed Senninger on his past due amounts on Monday and became suspicious when he offered her payment the following day — using someone else’s credit card. And, she "started getting calls from former colleagues who told me about not getting paid and his passing bad checks. So things had sort of come to a head with us." He owed her what she describes as a "pretty substantial amount." Needless to say, Rick Wright was on his way out the door.

WFOY is basically a run-of-the-mill conservotalk station, featuring the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, Laura Ingraham and others. As is typical in Florida AM circles, the station sells airshifts to any budding talk radio star willing to pony up the cash. No shame in that. Radio is a tough nut to crack, and if it takes an initial investment to do so, then so be it. Just make sure you know how to manage your affairs. Right, Air America?

The station's owner is no stranger to controversy or criminals herself. Phillips and her husband, Kevin Leslie Geddings, a radio announcer also known on air as “Kevin Leslie,” bought WFOY and a sister station, ESPN Radio affiliate WAOC in May 2006. Geddings was sentenced in May of last year to four years in prison and fined $25,000 in North Carolina after he was found guilty by a jury of committing five counts of mail fraud in relation to his former stint as Florida lottery commissioner, where his public relations firm accepted kickbacks from a lottery contractor. Not trying to open old wounds, as Phillips obviously got burned in the whole Rick Wright scandal. But I'm just reporting the facts.

Senninger's website, which as of today has been taken down allegedly due to nonpayment to his host, made many claims about his experience. Over the past thirty years he's been a talk show host, TV executive producer, co-owner of several radio stations, founder of an advertising agency in central Florida and "a sought after public speaker and prolific author." He also boasted that his show was "profitable."

He told Phillips that he had affiliates on the West Coast, but his site, before it was scrubbed, listed only a few meager affiliates. Whether any of these stations have actually been running Wright's show is unknown, but it's interesting to note a few things. Senninger sent a press release to Radio Online a few weeks back, announcing the addition of new affiliates in Chicago, Tampa and Pensacola, starting April 28. First, he claimed two Chicago affiliates. This, of course, is a stretch, since both of these stations serve everywhere but Chicago. WKKD is a tiny 200 watt station that serves the Aurora area, far west of Chicago. Little 500 watt daytimer (a mere 18 watts at night) WMCW is far northwest of the city, and probably covers more of Wisconsin than even the most remote suburbs of it's intended market. interestingly enough, earlier this week, the owner both stations took WMCW off the air for good, in hopes of moving it farther north into Wisconsin. WKKD is looking to move farther west toward the Quad Cities. other affiliates included WTAN in Tampa and WVNJ in Oakland, NJ. All stations listed offer leased-time programming.

The web-wiping of Senninger has been rather swift. Yesterday, his website went offline, along with all graphics files. His friends have run as fast as possible away from him as well. After being exposed as a deadbeat dad, one blogger, who appeared on a show about paternity issues, scrubbed and entry about his appearance on Senninger's show. Another blog, from frequent guest Glenn Sacks, also wiped all mention of Wright.

And his top collaborator, Bob Parks, turned on him as well. In several entries, Parks called Senninger a liar and claimed he and other contributors were getting stiffed on their paychecks. He also accused him of defrauding friends and advertisers:

There were numerous phantom electronic funds transfers never sent, special delivery checks never sent, and according to some, checks that did arrive, bounced. Mortgage payments were missed, utilities were shut off and on, and to add insult to injury, we were being strung along by someone who it turns out was living large in the “Land of Good Living.”


Last Saturday, I began contacting his advertisers and Monday, Florida law enforcement authorities. When they told me of just whom my boss was, I felt like one of those astonished housewives in a bad Lifetime movie, where the husband’s double life was revealed.

Parks also claimed that Senninger was also defrauding military veterans, all while playing the mock patriotism card.

Suffice it to say, Senninger is a world-class scumbag, a guy who created a world of radio shuck 'n jive phoniness in order to fatten his own wallet. He deserves what's coming to him. Granted, this is not as lurid and disturbing as the Bernie Ward situation, but if holier-than-thou wingnut goons want to point the accusatory finger at the left, hinting that they all must obviously be just like Ward, then I've got my own finger to point in your direction:

Right back at'cha!


Bob Parks said...

No one working for Senninger at IRN were collaborators. We were all unpaid employees.

While many have been screwed financially by Senninger, please, enjoy your laugh.

Bob Parks

Freedem said...

While Bernie Ward sounds like a much more relevant discussion, he is a single rare case, but not the horror that led to William Irey's arrest (but served Rehabilitation only) or the from Mark Foley (also "Rehabilitated" in lieu of charges) to Ted Bundy.

The point of such lists is that the empathy deficit that creates such a passel of monsters is the base of the conservative mantra, and thus the political point.

By contrast this Senniger case is just a sad con man without any deeper point.

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