In theory, an appointment to the Broadcasting Board of Governors is nonpartisan — in the same way that basketball is a non-contact sport.
In fact, political knees and elbows fly as much on the path to the BBG as they do in the driving lanes on any pro court. Just ask Norman Pattiz.
Pattiz has the unique honor of feeling the heat of almost all the major partisan firestorms currently raging in D.C.
Appointed to the board in 2000 by Bill Clinton, he was reappointed by President George W. Bush in 2002 for a two-year term, which expired last August.
Pattiz has continued to serve, waiting for a decision on another reappointment, but says the White House told him that was on hold because his name appeared in a prominent newspaper ad last year supporting then-Dem nominee John Kerry.
“I did not know my name was going to be used,” Pattiz says. “But I’m not backing away from it. It’s no mystery I’m a Democrat.”
Indeed, the nine-member BBG board consists of, by law, four Democrats, four Republicans and the Secretary of State.
BBG oversees the government’s international broadcasts that present a U.S. viewpoint. Pattiz’s focus is the Middle East, for which he spearheaded creation of Arabic-language radio station Radio Sawa and TV channel Alhurra — both of which are garnering sizeable auds.
Enter the partisan dragons: Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.) placed a hold last month on a Bush nominee to the State Dept., hoping to force the White House to reappoint Pattiz.
Conservative columnist Robert Novak attacked Biden’s hold as political payback for Pattiz’s financial contributions to Democrats in general and to Biden in particular.
Novak is at the center of the scandal involving the possibly illegal leaking of a CIA officer’s name, which has ensnared Bush appointee Karl Rove — who’s pals with Bush appointee Ken Tomlinson, the CPB chairman who is also, courtesy of Bush, chairman of the BBG.
Publicly, Pattiz and Tomlinson speak well of each other, but BBG sources say the two have clashed privately over Tomlinson’s alleged attempts “to bring in conservative ideologues” to influence product — a charge almost identical to one critics have leveled against Tomlinson at CPB.
“I’m a very small player,” Pattiz says. “But it does seem to all intersect in some way with me.”