News BriefsWatts Threatened Resignation in House GOP Leadership Flap THE WASHINGTON POST -- WASHINGTON
House Republican Conference Chairman J.C. Watts (R-Okla.) briefly threatened to resign last week over what he considered Majority Whip Tom DeLay’s efforts to usurp his responsibilities.
As the fourth-ranking Republican in the House, Watts is charged with overseeing the GOP’s effort to forge a unified public message. But during a recent GOP caucus meeting, DeLay distributed talking points to Republican members -- so angering Watts that he told House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) in a private meeting that he was considering relinquishing his post, according to several sources.
DeLay, who briefed his colleagues on the budget and appropriations process during the closed-door meeting last week, provided colleagues a handout on the party’s “four action items:” Social Security, tax cuts, a balanced budget and reducing the national debt. The handout also included an “action items checklist,” which detailed tasks such as sending targeted mailings to each district and submitting the party’s list of accomplishments to editorial boards and talk show hosts. DeLay offered a prize for the first member and press secretary to complete the tasks.
Watts and Hastert declined to comment on the dispute, though it appeared Watts had withdrawn his threat to resign.
“I will not characterize any of my private conversations with the speaker,” Watts said. “I consider that to be family business and not for public consumption or innuendo.
Maryland Public TV Station Traded Donor Lists With Democrats THE BALTIMORE SUN -- Maryland
Public Television, which had previously denied exchanging its membership lists with political organizations, said Tuesday that it had in fact done so twice with the Democratic National Committee.
Rob Shuman, president of Maryland Public Television, will go on the air Wednesday with a statement to supporters explaining the exchanges, which were handled by an outside broker and took place before he joined
Maryland Public Television in October 1996. Shuman’s on-air message does not say what political organization received the names of MPT members, but the broadcast organization confirmed that it was the Democratic National Committee.
The admission puts MPT near the heart of a growing national controversy that seriously threatens federal funding for public television. Some conservative members of Congress are urging an end to all funds for public television in response to the practice, which surfaced last month when it was revealed that Boston’s WGBH had been trading lists with the DNC for five years.
Public television has since acknowledged that between 30 and 50 stations have been involved in such exchanges. The list of public television operations that acknowledge such practices is expected to grow once the results of a survey being done for a congressional oversight subcommittee are known.
Recipients of the lists have also included GOP political organizations, such as the 1996 presidential election committee for Bob Dole.