Senate Commerce Committee chairman Larry Pressler (R-S.D.) has backed down on demands for answers on the political contributions of public broadcasting employees and the ethnic background of National Public Radio staffers.

Pressler, in a Jan. 27 letter to Corp. for Public Broadcasting chairman Henry Cauthen, sought reams of documentation on how pubcasters spend their money, whether stations have violated a law against lobbying, and whether CPB is complying with rules requiring objectivity and balance in programming.

Cauthen protested that some of Pressler’s questions violated the privacy rights of employees.

On Feb. 2, Pressler notified Cauthen he is withdrawing 10 of the 170 questions submitted in his questionnaire. “If that’s going to get into the way of getting the big budgetary figures, then let it go,” said Pressler, who backs elimination of the $285 million in annual federal support to public broadcasting.

A spokeswoman for Cauthen said the CPB chairman is “very happy” Pressler dropped the provocative questions.