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Partisan guns reload

Republicans angered over Melton hiring

With Congress out of session and political warriors out of town getting a little R&R before battles resume after Labor Day, D.C. is usually quiet in August.

But not this summer.

Partisan sensitivities are still raw and raging, with media types caught in the middle.

The news that Time Warner had hired Carol Melton as its principal lobbyist drew fire from Republicans last week.

One aide to a senior congressman was quoted in a Capitol Hill newspaper as saying the majority of Melton’s campaign contributions over the last 10 years went to Democrats.

Shades of GOP fury at the Dan Glickman hire!

Except that Melton, unlike the former Democratic congressman, has never been an elected official of any party. She did once work for the FCC — during the Reagan administration.

And, as one article noted, before coming to TW, during Melton’s eight years at Viacom she “allocated 61% of the company’s contributions to Republican candidates and 38% to Democrats.”

Meanwhile, the Senate has finally confirmed longtime Bush loyalist and communications whiz Karen Hughes to be the State Dept.’s top international PR official.

The White House nominated her last March, but Hughes couldn’t start before now because she wanted her son to finish high school first. Despite career diplomats’ protests that the job should be filled immediately because its No. 1 priority — improving the U.S. image in the Arab world — desperately needed attention, the administration obliged.

“One day Karen Hughes may actually begin work in the job to which she was appointed,” says Norm Kurz, communications director for Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.). “But if the administration is finally prepared to make public diplomacy a high priority, it’s hard to understand why the president is dragging his heels on reappointing Norm Pattiz to the Broadcasting Board of Governors.”

Hughes will also have a seat on the BBG, where some insiders feel the administration’s alleged preference for loyalty over experience is mirrored in the chairmanship of Ken Tomlinson — who is also the CPB chairman accused of trying to politicize pubcasting.

Bush has praised Pattiz, a BBG member whose term expired last year, for his success in getting young Arabs to tune into U.S.-sponsored radio and TV. But the White House has yet to reappoint him; Pattiz, a Democrat, says it’s because he supported John Kerry‘s presidential campaign (Variety, July 25-31).

Tomlinson vigorously denies that he’s clashed with Pattiz over bringing conservative ideologues into BBG for political reasons and maintains he runs BBG “the same way it was run under Bill Clinton, the first George Bush, Reagan and even Carter.”

By favoring candidates allied with the party in the White House, he is simply “following tradition, not ideology,” he says.

Should Pattiz, a successful commercial broadcaster whom Tomlinson has frequently praised, be reappointed?

“That’s a White House decision,” Tomlinson says.

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