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web posted August 9, 1999

PBS president says political list-sharing will end

Public Broadcasting Service stations across the country will stop sharing its donor lists with political groups "by the end of this week," PBS President Ervin S. Duggan said August 1.

In remarks to the Television Critics Association, Duggan spoke at length about the controversy, in which as many as 30 of the nation's 349 PBS stations gave donor lists to partisan groups -- usually branches of the Democratic Party or groups associated with Democratic causes.

Republicans have loudly complained about the recently disclosed practice, and some GOP members of Congress have threatened to try to withhold PBS funding.

"It has delayed the (federal budget) authorization process and I don't know what the outcome will be," Duggan said. "I hope we can put it behind us."

At issue is whether stations violated federal tax law by swapping, selling, renting or otherwise providing their donor lists to political parties. Tax experts have said that would not be a violation as long as all political parties received equal access to the lists.

However, "no station should do anything that would call into question its independence or impartiality," Duggan said.

PBS, which distributes national programs to member stations, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a clearinghouse for federal funding, could try to force compliance by withholding money from the stations. However, that would be an overreaction because they seem eager to cooperate, Duggan added.

The issue came to light in May when Boston station WGBH-TV admitted giving a list of donors' names to the Democratic National Committee.

While condemning the practice, Duggan said outside list brokers working for PBS stations swapped names with both Republican and Democratic groups.

"This is nonpolitical and nonpartisan behavior," Duggan said, noting that Bob Dole's 1996 presidential campaign, the conservative think tank Heritage Foundation and a group called Country Club Republicans were among those who received the lists.

The list-swapping reflects the "sometime frenetic and desperate search" for potential donors, not political bias by the PBS stations involved, he said.

In Washington, the House Commerce Committee was scheduled to consider funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting on July 14 but postponed the meeting after the mailing list disclosures.

Two GOP lawmakers -- Rep. Billy Tauzin of Louisiana, chairman of the committee's telecommunications subcommittee, and Rep. Christopher Cox, of California -- have asked for investigations into the practice.

Tauzin, who was sponsoring the funding authorization bill for PBS, said he will reduce his funding proposal.

Judge dismisses most of FEC charges against Christian Coalition

A federal judge threw out most of the charges in a government lawsuit on August 2 accusing the Christian Coalition of illegally aiding Republican candidates.

U.S. District Judge Joyce Green rejected arguments by the Federal Election Commission that the coalition's contact with campaigns and its distribution of voters guide to churches on the Sunday before Election Days should be counted as excessive campaign contributions.

It was not a complete victory for the beleaguered organization.

Green ruled that the group must pay a civil penalty to the Federal Election Commission for advocating the election of Rep. Newt Gingrich during the Georgia Republican's successful 1994 bid to gain GOP control of the House.

She also ruled that the Christian Coalition improperly shared its mailing list with the 1994 Senate campaign of former Iran-Contra figure Oliver North.

However, she dismissed numerous other allegations in the FEC's 1996 lawsuit alleging that the group improperly promoted the candidacies of President Bush, Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., and House Republicans J.D. Hayworth of Arizona and Bob Inglis of South Carolina.

"A corporation's mere announcement to the campaign that it plans to distribute thousand of voter guides on the Sunday before Election Day, even if that information is not yet public, is not enough to be coordination," Green ruled.

The coalition had asked that the FEC's entire lawsuit be dismissed, but it was likely to cheer the ruling as a victory after years of battling the IRS and the FEC over how to treat its political activities.

The Christian Coalition, founded in the 1980s by religious broadcaster Pat Robertson, became a major force in Republican politics in the 1990s, mobilizing conservative voters through grass-roots activities. Its church guides, which rated candidates on the Sunday before Election Days, became a cherished weapons for many GOP candidates.

But the group has struggled financially and politically in recent years after Robertson handed over the reins to others and the groups became engaged in internal disputes and the ongoing battles with the federal government.

The IRS refused to grant the group tax-exempt status in 1998 in a ruling kept under wraps pending appeal. The Christian Coalition withdrew its appeal after being notified this spring it was likely to lose at the appeals court level,

The IRS concluded that certain Christian Coalition activities were too partisan for the group to enjoy tax-exempt status, a decision that denied the group the tax benefits enjoyed by other nonprofit religious organizations.

The FEC pursued a separate lawsuit alleging the group's political activities should have fallen under federal campaign rules, which impose strict limits on the amount of aid federal candidates can receive from special interests. The coalition called the arguments "groundless."

The group reported indebtedness and internal strife following the 1998 elections, in which Republicans lost seats in the House in the midyear election.

Eager to regain influence and contributors, Robertson recently agreed to play a larger role with the group and in June announced a major reorganization triggered by the denial of its request for tax-exempt status. Robertson declared then that the organization would "continue to be a force in American politics."

Hillary Clinton: President's infidelities were 'weakness' caused partly by childhood abuse

First lady Hillary Rodham Clinton said in an interview that despite President Bill Clinton's adulterous affairs, she has stood by him because the infidelities were a "weakness" caused in part by the emotional upheaval of childhood abuse.

But despite the problems, she said, Clinton is "a very, very good man" with whom she maintains "a deep connection that transcends whatever happens."

Mrs. Clinton commented in a wide-ranging interview with a new magazine, Talk, which debuted on newsstands August 3.

In the interview, Mrs. Clinton blamed early trauma for many of the president's later problems.

"He was so young, barely four, when he was scarred by abuse," she said. "There was terrible conflict between his mother and grandmother. A psychologist once told me that for a boy being in the middle of a conflict between two women is the worst possible situation. There is always a desire to please each one."

When asked to elaborate on the abuse comments, White House spokesman Mike Hammer said, "I have nothing to say on it at this time."

As to suggestions that the White House was blindsided by the interview, Hammer added, "I'm sure she talked to the president. But I don't know the level of their discussions on it."

Former top Clinton aide George Stephanopoulos said on ABC that Mrs. Clinton was unwise and made a mistake in what she told the interviewer.

Mrs. Clinton told the magazine that her husband had "weaknesses. Yes, he needs to be more disciplined, but it is remarkable given his background that he turned out to be the kind of person he is, capable of such leadership."

Rumors of affairs have clouded the Clintons' marriage since their days in the Arkansas governor's mansion.

"You have to be alert to it, vigilant in helping. I thought this was resolved 10 years ago," Mrs. Clinton says. "I thought he had conquered it; I thought he understood it, but he didn't go deep enough or work hard enough."

In response, Bill Clinton denied he was physically abused as a child through his press secretary. Clinton is also insisted that he, alone, is responsible for his actions involving his relationship with Monica Lewinsky.

Clinton asks business to hire more from welfare rolls

A welfare system overhaul designed to put recipients to work -- and which Bill Clinton initially opposed -- has been a success so far, he told business leaders on August 3, but he asked them to "finish the job" by hiring even more recipients.

Clinton traveled to Chicago to participate in a welfare-to-work partnership conference, which offers training for businesses interested in hiring welfare recipients.

"In this era of unprecedented prosperity, we still have some work of own to do to make sure that we embrace all Americans in this prosperity," he said

The president trumpeted statistics showing what he said was the impact of welfare overhaul legislation he signed in 1996, including statistics showing the lowest percentage of Americans on welfare since 1967. Welfare rolls are down 48 percent since Clinton took office in 1993.

The president also encouraged businesses to invest in poverty-stricken parts of the nation left behind by the economic good times -- the theme of his tour of impoverished areas last month.

Clinton also said that states should be able to keep $4.2 billion in unspent federal welfare money, and appealed to Congress to leave those funds in place. Congress has periodically discussed taking the money, and GOP budget writers are considering taking some of it back to use for other domestic programs.

"There are some in Congress who want to cut the welfare block grant we give to the states and take some of that money back because the welfare rolls are so low to finance a big tax cut. I think that would be a mistake," Clinton said.

The states need the money to aid other people in moving more welfare recipients to work through job training programs and to pay for programs such as transportation assistance to welfare recipients who are already working, he said.

"So I say let's spend this money to develop the human capacity of our people. It will make the economy stronger and we will all be better off," he said.

But Clinton said that one troubling aspect is a drop in the use of food stamps by low-income people that is greater than the drop in the number of people eligible for the assistance.

"I think clearly what has happened is that a lot of people have moved from welfare to work, they're delighted to be at work and they literally don't know they are still eligible for this assistance," he said.

Kazan says he deserved special Oscar

Director Elia Kazan, whose special Oscar for lifetime achievement touched off fierce Hollywood protests last March, says he deserved the award because "I've directed films that nobody else has."

In an interview with Vanity Fair Magazine published August 4, the 89-year-old director broke the silence he has maintained since the award and said he "hated" his trip to Los Angeles for the Oscars ceremony.

At the awards, director Martin Scorsese and actor Robert De Niro presented him with the special Oscar while part of the star-studded audience sat on its hands and refused to applaud.

The award to Kazan touched off protests because the director had named names of Communists he worked with during the 1930s in testimony before the House Committee on Un-American Activities at a time when alleged Communists were blacklisted in Hollywood.

In an interview with Patricia Bosworth, an old friend and Vanity Fair contributing editor, Kazan said the Oscar ceremony was something of "a circus."

But Kazan said he was glad to get the Oscar because, "I deserved it. I've directed films nobody else ever has, different kinds of films: 'America, America,' "A Streetcar named Desire,' 'On the Waterfront' ... you know 'em. The closer they came to my own experience and my own life, the better they were and the better I felt."

Kazan said the McCarthy period was "hard. It was hard for me and hard for everyone, wasn't it?"

Chinese dissident sentenced to 13 years in prison for subversion

A Chinese court has sentenced a member of the China Democracy Party to 13 years in prison for subversion, the fourth such heavy jail term imposed on organizers of the banned group last week.

Liu Xianbin, a 31-year-old who began his activism during the 1989 Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests, was sentenced by a court in Suining, in the southwestern province of Sichuan, said his wife, Chen Mingxian.

His sentence equaled that imposed on party leader Xu Wenli, whose 13-year jail term handed down late last year was the longest sentence for a Chinese dissident in three years.

The severe sentences signal the government's resolve to crush all challenges to the Communist Party's monopoly on power.

Earlier last week, three other members of the China Democracy Party were given lengthy prison terms for their part in the would-be opposition group formed by dissidents last summer.

A 41-year-old former bank official, She Wanbao, was given a jail sentence of 12 years by a court in Guangyuan City, also in Sichuan, for his involvement in the China Democracy Party, his wife said.

A few days later, a Beijing court sentenced two other organizers of the group, Zha Jianguo and Gao Hongming, to nine and eight years imprisonment, respectively, also for subverting state power.

Liu's wife, mother and sister-in-law attended the hearing in Suining. They said Liu, who did not have a lawyer to represent him, spoke in his own defense.

"We had no chance to speak together, since the court officials took him right away," Chen said. "But our eyes did meet a couple of times when he was brought into the courtroom."

Liu spent two years in jail for his involvement in the 1989 demonstrations that the government crushed. He helped establish a branch of the China Democracy Party in Sichuan province and later took a leading role on a committee to coordinate party activities in 14 provinces and cities, traveling the country to meet other dissidents.

Liu was arrested on July 2. He is the ninth China Democracy Party member sentenced since early May -- all of them on subversion charges. In all, some 20 members of the group could be sentenced this month, the Information Center said.

She planned to appeal, but the Information Center said Liu did not intend to, on the grounds that his sentence was "political persecution." Appeals by dissidents are invariably rejected.

Since imprisoning the China Democracy Party's leaders late last year, Chinese authorities have broadened their crackdown to include the group's lower-level organizers, decimating the movement.

About 200 party members have been detained in the past four months and at least 65 are still in custody, according to the Hong Kong-based Information Center.

The crackdown is part of a campaign to quash dissent ahead of the politically sensitive 50th anniversary of Communist Party rule on October 1. Chinese leaders want to prevent dissidents from tapping into mounting public discontent over unemployment, official corruption and stagnating incomes.

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