- The Washington Times - Monday, January 3, 2000

This summer we learned public television stations around the country swapped donor lists with the Democratic National Committee and other liberal groups essentially making them fund-raisers for the Democratic party. Now it seems Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) is also in the fund-raising bed with Democrats.

Recently Minnesota Attorney General Mike Hatch, a Democrat, filed suit over allegations that MPR shared its donor lists with the DNC and others in a way that broke laws governing charities, according to the Associated Press. By not telling members how their information will be shared, MPR may have committed fraud. The civil suit, filed in Ramsey County court, seeks tens of thousands of dollars in penalties.

Although the amount of money involved is relatively small, state and federal lawmakers should take note of this case. Politicians who have the ballot box to thank for their jobs have good reasons to watch this case and seek to prevent future lapses of the public trust by public radio and television officials.

Public broadcasting stations both television and radio are rightly seen as having a liberal political agenda. The nation, meanwhile, is becoming more conservative with nearly every election. That means the left-leaning programming of these stations is increasingly out of touch with the average American. After the donor-swapping scandal broke this summer the Public Broadcasting Service took steps to reverse the trend. Those steps included producing a documentary on the Republican takeover of Congress, but the political stripe of most of the stations is still liberal.

Americans are remarkably tolerant of different political points-of-view, but they tend to resent being forced to pay for a brand of politics they abhor. Even Americans who aren't particularly politically minded are likely to take offense if the stations they pay for are not benign, but partisan.

When it comes to public broadcasting the cynicism is well-deserved. Public broadcasting officials are prone to the same incentives as other bureaucrats they are interested in increasing their budgets and therefore support certain politicians and political parties. Cutting off those incentives requires cutting off public funds. Hopefully more politicians will muster the will to do just that in the new year.

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