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Sep 21 2010

Just asking …

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There are a few clues as to who might be behind “The Public Notice.” The Public Notice website says the group is “bipartisan” and “dedicated to ending government overspending,” including the so-called stimulus package and the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or “TARP,” better known as the unpopular “bank bailout.” Those positions are generally those of the Republican Party (though, of course, it was President Bush who proposed and enacted the TARP legislation).

The website Talking Points Memo reported back in March that the public face of “The Public Notice” is Gretchen Hamel, a former spokeswoman for the Bush administration:

Public Notice’s funding source remains obscure. In an interview with TPMmuckraker, Hamel — who served as the Bush administration’s top spokesperson on trade issues, and as press secretary for the House Republican Conference — said Public Notice had “dozens of donors across the U.S.,” but declined to identify them.

So, here’s a group with clear links to the Republican Party, which won’t reveal its donors, but which is funding what amounts to thinly disguised political ads on non-commercial radio stations.

I’m sure conservative readers of PBRTV will blast me (as they often do) for being a biased, pinko socialist-loving leftist, but I’ll tell you this much — left-wing groups such as Media Matters for America seem to print the names of people who are behind their websites.

Here’s a list of the people behind the activist group Public Citizen, for instance, and another listing the people behind the Pennsylvania American Civil Liberties Union.

People who are proud of their work don’t sneak around. The insistence on anonymity is enough for me to question The Public Notice’s true motives.

It smells bad — really bad, in fact — and it’s a shame that non-commercial radio stations around the country are participating in this charade.*

. . .

P.S.: Go ahead and post comments calling me a liberal communist whatever. Just don’t call me late for dinner.

P.P.S.: Don’t confuse this group with a similarly named group called “Public Notice Resource Center,” which does list its board of directors, and files regular statements with the Internal Revenue Service.

* – UPDATED TO CLARIFY: The Public Notice’s underwriting announcements have been heard on WYEP during the station’s broadcasts of “The World Cafe,” which is produced by WXPN-FM in Philadelphia, and which is solely responsible for the show’s content. This story should have made that clear.

(Jason Togyer is a writer, editor, on-air host at Pittsburgh’s WRCT-FM and executive director of McKeesport-based Tube City Community Media Inc. Opinions expressed in “Signal to Noise” are those of the author and do not represent those of PBRTV or any other organization.)


(Commentary/Editorial) (This story has been edited since publication to clarify a point. See note at the end. — Jason)

Does it bother anyone else that a mysterious group calling itself “The Public Notice” is running underwriting announcements on public, non-commercial radio stations — including Pittsburgh’s WYEP* and WDUQ — right before an election?

Because to this commentator, it sure seems like a backdoor way of slipping paid political advertising onto public radio stations.

“The Public Notice” has a website, but there’s almost no information about who’s behind it. They don’t list a board of directors and they won’t reveal who’s funding it. They don’t even list a mailing address.

If The Public Notice is truly dedicated to providing “clear, unbiased, and useful information,” then why isn’t the group releasing “clear, useful” information about its own organization?

If you click on a page that says “Donate,” the Public Notice website warns you that your contribution isn’t tax-deductible for charitable purposes.

Tax-deductible groups are prohibited from lobbying and generally must file public statements that disclose their sources of income and their expenses. Because “The Public Notice” isn’t tax-deductible, it doesn’t have to follow those rules.