Colorado-Springs Republican Doug Lamborn has led the charge for two years to ban federal funding for National Public Radio programming. His bill has gained traction among Republican House leaders just as a conservative dirty-tricks media campaign waged against the public broadcaster has made news. Majority Leader Eric Cantor, looking to strike while the iron is hot, fast-tracked the bill, lining up a vote for today. The bill cuts no money from the federal budget.
“Taxpayers should not be on the hook for something that is widely available in the private market,” Lamborn said in a statement. “I wish only the best for NPR. Like many Americans, I enjoy much of their programming.”
Last year, Lamborn was less guarded about his motivations in writing the bill. He seized on the controversy over NPR’s firing of Juan Williams to rally conservatives who believe public broadcasting is liberal and biased. Lamborn appeared on the FOX network several times to make his case.
“You may have heard about the recent firing of NPR News Analyst Juan Williams and the $1.8 million donation by liberal activist George Soros to hire 100 NPR reporters,” Lamborn wrote to supporters at the time. “These two actions make it clear that public broadcasting is a friend and protector of liberal issues and political correctness, at the expense of free speech and balanced news reporting.”
Last week, top NPR fundraiser Ron Schiller resigned after conservative politics dirty trickster James O’Keefe released a hidden-camera video of Schiller making disparaging remarks about the Republican Party and the Tea Party. Like past O’Keefe product, the video was dubiously edited for effect. FOX News host Glenn Beck and others compared the video against raw footage and found it fundamentally altered and misleading.
The irony in the fact that conservative lawmakers like Lamborn are leaning on discredited overtly political media work produced by O’Keefe to bolster their claims that NPR is biased has thinned their case at all but the most conservative news outlets and in the right blogosphere. O’Keefe has been warned repeatedly by judges that his wiretapping activities have been illegal. He plead guilty to breaking into Democratic Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu’s office last year to produce one of his hit-videos. His videos on ACORN, which conservative lawmakers seized upon to defund the low-income housing and voter registration organization, have been discredited. Judges ruled in cases across the states that ACORN did nothing illegal.
NPR fans and most Democrats in Congress support NPR tax-payer funding, calling the organization a valuable resource in the increasingly polarized and corporate media news environment.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Lamborn’s legislation “prohibits NPR and its local affiliates from using federal dollars to produce programming or purchase content from other member stations. Affiliate stations could only use taxpayer money for administrative costs, under the bill.” None of that cuts into federal spending.
NPR received $430 million in federal funding this year. Its stations receive roughly 10 percent of funding from tax dollars. Donations fund the rest of the NPR budget and those are hard to come by in large rural parts of the country.