Cronyism and Secrecy Run Rampant at Corporation for Public Broadcasting

Contact: Tim Karr, Free Press, (201) 533-8838

Mary Boyle, Common Cause, (202) 736-5770

Cronyism and Secrecy Run Rampant at Corporation for Public Broadcasting

New president fills the CPB offices with partisan propagandists; Inspector General’s report on political meddling by ex-chairman kept from the public

Free Press, the Center for Digital Democracy and Common Cause today deplored the recent hiring of government propagandists and GOP loyalists to top positions at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) and demanded that the agency make public a forthcoming Inspector General’s report on ethical violations and partisan interference by its board members.

President Patricia de Stacy Harrison — a former chairwoman of the Republican National Committee who was selected to head the CPB in June — recently hired three senior officers from the State Department, including two from the “Public Affairs and Public Diplomacy” division, which oversees government efforts to “advance U.S. interests and security and to provide the moral basis for U.S. leadership in the world.”

“Public diplomacy is simply a euphemism for propaganda,” said Timothy Karr, campaign director of Free Press. “The Corporation for Public Broadcasting was created to shield public broadcasting from political interference, not to be a megaphone for the Bush administration. Harrison’s latest hires prove that the Republican operatives at the CPB haven’t been deterred from their quest to turn our treasured public broadcasting system into a partisan echo chamber.”

The new CPB hires all previously worked with Harrison at the State Department when she served as assistant secretary for educational and cultural affairs and acting undersecretary for public diplomacy and public affairs. They followed close behind when she joined the CPB:

Tom Igsitt, now CPB’s vice president for government affairs, was a driving force behind a campaign to place pro-American propaganda in Arabic media worldwide to win Arab support for the war on terror. Under Isgitt’s direction, the State Department produced Arabic-language television and radio ads that were widely ridiculed for attempting to package U.S. policy as a commercial “brand.”

Mike Levy, the new CPB vice president of communications, served as Harrison’s chief of staff when she headed the RNC. At the State Department, Levy developed “pro-active media strategies” to increase support for U.S. counter-narcotics initiatives in more than 100 countries as part of the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs. He also previously worked as special assistant to Labor Secretary Elaine Chao and as press secretary to several GOP congressional campaigns.

Helen Mobley, hired as CPB’s senior director of corporate communications and planning, worked closely with Harrison to manage the State Department’s efforts to bring Afghan women to America to showcase new freedoms after the downfall of the Taliban regime. Mobley also was deputy director of scheduling during George W. Bush’s first presidential run and has been active in, Bobby Eberle’s Texas-based campaign “to spread the conservative message throughout America.”

Visit for extended profiles of the new CPB staff.

“The packing of the CPB with individuals more comfortable with selling the United States overseas than with honest criticism of their government sends a not-so-subtle signal to those working in public broadcasting that truth is out and spin is in,” said Common Cause President Chellie Pingree.

Harrison got her own position at the CPB through her political connections to then-Chairman Kenneth Tomlinson, who also heads the Broadcasting Board of Governors — which oversees the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, Radio and TV Marti and other government-run international broadcasting. Tomlinson’s successor, current CPB Chairwoman Cheryl Halpern, is another big GOP fundraiser who spent seven years as a member of the Broadcasting Board of Governors.

Tomlinson is currently being investigated for efforts to impose his political agenda at the CPB by funding programming with a pro-government slant, secretly monitoring PBS and NPR for signs of “liberal advocacy journalism,” as well as hiring unqualified political cronies like Harrison. Inspector General Kenneth Konz is expected to present his findings — which reportedly included ethical and procedural violations as well as misuse of funds — on Tuesday to a closed-door meeting of the CPB board of directors, of which Tomlinson remains a member.

“The CPB is being governed more like a private, secret society than an agency supported by taxpayers,” said Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy. “Rather than hiding, once again, behind closed doors, the board must hold an open, public meeting on the forthcoming Inspector General’s report. As the hiring of former State Department propaganda colleagues by Patricia Harrison illustrates, the CPB has been ideologically hijacked. Supporters of public broadcasting should be alarmed.”

Free Press, the Center for Digital Democracy and Common Cause have repeatedly called for greater openness and accountability at the CPB. The three groups testified at the most recent CPB board meeting about the need for greater transparency and more public involvement. Earlier this year, Free Press and Common Cause delivered more than 150,000 petitions to the CPB, demanding an end to partisan interference at the agency.

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