An examination of both the board of NPR's non-profit foundation and its national board of directors recently found that their members are overwhelmingly - almost uniformly - adherents to various left-wing ideologies.
National Review's Matthew Shaffer conducted the examination. He found that "nearly all have demonstrably liberal political sympathies, with heavy support for the Democratic party, pro-abortion-rights groups, and environmental activism in particular."
It is important to remember that these two boards do not dictate content. Still, even if their politics are only incidental to NPR's liberal slant, the near-uniformity of their political views suggests that NPR attracts people with those views. That fact alone makes an interesting addition to the debate over the organization's public funding.
Shaffer explains the makeup of the organization's governing bodies:
The governance structure of NPR has Vivian Schiller, president and CEO, at the top, with the chairman of the NPR Foundation, Antoine van Agtmael, serving on the NPR board as her second-in-command. Ten managers of NPR’s member stations serve on the board in rotating three-year terms (as these are local journalists, not power players, I left them off this list). The rest of the seats on the 16-member NPR board are filled by “five prominent members of the public selected by the board and confirmed by NPR member stations” — who are supposed to represent the public, according to NPR. The NPR board “sets the policies and overall direction for NPR management, monitors NPR’s performance, and provides financial oversight,” also according to NPR.
Then, there’s the NPR Foundation. Its board consists 50 members plus a chairman — the members being big donors, fundraisers, and others. Anna Christopher, spokeswoman for NPR, says “the Foundation Board of Trustees has no role in programming, news, or the governance of NPR.” But the Foundation chairman has a seat on NPR board of governors, and the Foundation’s control of funds gives them indirect power at the very least. Requests to NPRfor basic information about how the NPR Foundation handles donations went unanswered.
Why would almost all these people be liberal Democrats? Anna Christopher says, “We don’t have a litmus test for our board members or for our Foundation trustees.” De jure, that’s surely true: Presumably, NPR doesn’t have an official policy that board members must be liberal. But de facto, they have sure done a good job making their boards members indistinguishable from that of an openly partisan organization.
Again, the issue is not whether NPR is openly partisan, or whether its news agenda is set by its politically lopsided leadership.
But even if we give NPR the benefit of the doubt, the question remains whether an organization that attracts supporters so overwhelmingly of one political persuasion should enjoy taxpayer funding.
And the consistent leftism of NPR's board is quite striking, as Shaffer notes:
The Foundation’s board members have been incredibly supportive of liberal causes. Judy Z. Steinberg has given about $40,000 to Democrats and EMILY’s List (a pro-abortion-rights group) since 2007. Jane Katcher has given Democrats and EMILY’s List more than $64,000 over the past decade. Roselyn Swig has already made more than 40 separate political donations this year, amounting to over $93,000 total. She donated over $100,000 to Democrats and pro-abortion-rights groups in both 2008 and 2006. Sukey Garcetti is director of the Roth Family Foundation, an organization whose “mission is commitment to progressive social change.” Bryan Traubert is one of Barack Obama’s very own White House Fellows and husband of Penny Pritzker, who was the national finance chair of Obama’s presidential campaign. The couple hosted a fundraising dinner for Barack Obama in 2008, with a $28,500 price of admission, leading to a Wall Street Journal profile, “Money Maven: Billionaire raises record amounts of cash for Obama.”
The makeup of NPR's governing bodies is clearly not representative of the country at large. The Public Broadcasting Act of 1967 mandated that the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which established NPR three years after the bill passed, maintain a "strict adherence to objectivity and balance in all programs or series of programs of a controversial nature."
Shaffer's findings go directly to the heart of the impending debate over NRP's funding. And the question that must be asked is: should such an overwhelmingly liberal organization receive money from taxpayers who are less likely to be liberal than not?