Robert Novak

 One-time payments to Darling and Mann were minimal compared with public broadcasting's permanent payments to big-time lobbyists. Respected Republican lobbyist Charlie Black's firm has represented PBS for four years, now receiving $180,000 a year. The account had been handled by Karen Nussle, wife of Republican Rep. Jim Nussle, the House Budget Committee chairman. (Mrs. Nussle left the firm earlier this year as her husband began his campaign for governor of Iowa.)

 Lobbyist Domenic Ruscio, a former Carter administration official, for many years has represented APTS (receiving $60,000 a year). He has been trying to pack the nine-member CPB with four from the public television community that the board presumably is overseeing.

 Ruscio's wife, Bettilou Taylor, arranged the Specter subcommittee hearing on short notice for July 1, with Tomlinson the only CPB member invited. When it was learned Tomlinson would be in Afghanistan that day (as chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors), Taylor changed the meeting date to July 11. Thus, the first hearing in memory covering public broadcasting appropriations was really an attempted ambush of Tomlinson.

 The first question passed by Taylor to Specter, which he then read out: "Mr. Tomlinson, The New York Times has reported a couple of payments, one for a lobbyist, $10,000 into the insights of a specific senator. Is that true?" There was no disclosure of the subcommittee staff director's relationship to public broadcasting's lobbyist.

 Specter was indistinguishable from Democrats in the course of the hearing, scolding Tomlinson for paying Darling $10,000 "on a very tight budget" and questioning "the propriety of the expenditures." Tomlinson received no support at the hearing. A massive propaganda and lobbying effort resulted in a 284 to 140 vote June 23 in the Republican-controlled House to restore a cut in public broadcasting funds. That has been the monolith faced by Ken Tomlinson, during his term-limited chairmanship ending in mid-September.

Robert Novak

Robert Novak (1931-2009) was a syndicated columnist and editor of the Evans-Novak Political Report.

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