*Senate Bill Would Cut Off Grants to Political List Exchangers

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Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) introduced an appropriations bill Friday that calls for federal funding to be withheld from public broadcasting stations or other groups that rent or otherwise share their donor lists with political organizations.


The bill, S1650, or the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services and Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, allocates $350 million for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, for fiscal 2002. The CPB is the Washington, DC, entity that is responsible for distributing federal funds to the nation's public broadcasting stations.


It states that none of the funds appropriated in the bill could be awarded to "any grantee or entity that sells, exchanges or transfers, either directly or indirectly, the names of current or former members or donors to any political organization."


Michael Nilsen, a spokesman for the National Society of Fundraising Executives, Alexandria, VA, said the wording of the bill leaves it open for a broad interpretation.


"We don't know what a political organization is. It's not defined in that legislation," he said. "We don't know how long you use the grant - forever, or a year - it's pretty up in the air right now."


The bill also is worded so that it includes not only public broadcasting stations, but any organizations that receive federal grants.


President Clinton has already vowed to veto the bill for reasons unrelated to the public broadcasting issue.


On the other side of Congress, Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-LA), chairman of the House Commerce Committee's subcommittee on telecommunications, had vowed to introduce legislation this fall that would prohibit list exchanges between public broadcasters and political groups. A spokesman for his office did not return calls seeking comment.


The controversy arose earlier this year when several public broadcasting stations were found to have exchanged lists of donors with political groups.


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