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Sheriff Villanueva’s Radio Show Violates Election Rules, Two Challengers Say

Sheriff Alex Villanueva.
(Kyle Grillot for LAist)
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Two candidates for Los Angeles County Sheriff are complaining that conservative talk radio station KFI is violating FCC rules by giving incumbent Alex Villanueva his own show every Sunday night.

Sheriff’s Commander Eli Vera and retired Sheriff’s Capt. Matt Rodriguez say they want equal time.

For two hours each week, the sheriff touts his accomplishments and bashes what he calls the “woke political establishment” during his show, called “Live and Unscripted with L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva.”

Frequent targets include the County Board of Supervisors, the Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission, and District Attorney George Gascón.

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Villanueva is a prominent supporter of the campaign to recall Gascón.

It’s a huge platform. KFI is one of the most popular radio stations in L.A.

Vera and Rodriguez also say the valuable airtime amounts to an in-kind political contribution to the sheriff, in violation of election rules.

“KFI is complying with all election rules and regulations, and of course, equal time is available upon request to all candidates for this seat,” Program Director Robin Bertolucci said in a statement.

Vera said he has asked repeatedly for air time.

FCC rules require broadcast stations to give an equal opportunity to political candidates. Altogether Villanueva is facing six opponents.

KFI attracts a more conservative audience that may be very helpful to the sheriff. The Democratic Party helped lift him to victory in 2018 but has since soured on Villanueva and called on him to resign.

As he does on the campaign trail, the sheriff casts himself during his show as fighting a corrupt political system.

“The powerful, the elite, the ones that control all of the campaign contributions, for example, they are going to keep ramming these unqualified individuals down our throats,” he said recently.

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Bertolucci said in her statement that Villanueva was invited to host a show “to discuss crime and the issues that impact the residents of Southern California.”

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