Friday, January 07, 2011

Where is the GAO's NPR Funding Audit?

Colorado Congressman Doug Lambron asked for the Government Accountability Office to audit NPR in December, 2010. So far, no results have been reported. I doubt any audit has taken place. Lamborn opposes federal funding for NPR, which may be why the GAO hasn't moved forward. However, given the recent resignation of Ellen Weiss, and disclosure of the $300,000 salary paid to NPR president Vivian Schiller (even without an unpaid bonus), clearly some sort of audit is needed, asap. NPR received $450 million dollars from the late Joan Kroc. It may not need federal money to keep going. And if it doesn't need it--why pay it?

The audit should also look into how much NPR paid its legal counsel for the recent report on the firing of Juan Williams--and whether severance may have been provided to Ellen Weiss as "hush money."

Meanwhile, here's Congressman Lamborn's press release from last year:
Lamborn Calls for Independent Audit of NPR Funds
Cites Concerns With 'Complicated Revenue Streams'

Congressman Doug Lamborn (CO-05) this week sent a letter to the Acting Comptroller General of the Government Accountability Office (GAO), Mr. Gene Dodaro, asking for a thorough audit of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) and National Public Radio (NPR) so lawmakers can clearly identify NPR's use of federal dollars.

“In the era of trillion dollar annual deficits, we obviously must cut our federal spending. We no longer have the luxury of funding non-essential services, if we ever did. As we move forward with tough spending cuts, it is critical that we have the most accurate picture of government spending to ensure the cuts are made responsibly.”– Doug Lamborn (CO-05)

Below are excerpts from the letter:

“…it is imperative that an accurate and complete snapshot of CPB’s use of taxpayer funding be available to lawmakers and the public. Unfortunately, the charts, figures, statistics and documents posted on these entities’ websites—and often cited in the news media—do not sufficiently account for the complicated revenue streams between and within these entities. Efforts by Congressional staff, including the non-partisan Congressional Research Service, to contact CPB and NPR for clarification in this regard have been frustrating and limited in success.

“I ask that the GAO undertake an audit of CPB or otherwise conduct an investigation to assess its overall financial and fiduciary relationship with NPR and PBS, and present to Congress how all sources of federal funding are used within and among them. In regards to NPR specifically, I ask that GAO provide a breakdown of the following:

The originating governmental source and specific amount of federal funds given to the NPR organization
The originating governmental source and specific amount of federal funds given directly to local affiliate stations
The flow of these aforementioned federal funds from CPB to the NPR organization to local affiliate stations
The extent of the commercial relationship between the NPR organization and its local affiliate stations in the distribution and purchase of NPR programming, respectively
Whether any federal funding to NRP, either given directly or through CPB, is used for specific purposes beyond the development of content programming..."
Note:The last audit of the NPR spending by the GAO was in 1983.


Lamborn's bill, H.R.6417, would prohibit federal dollars from going to NPR, through congressional appropriations and any of the various federal grants NPR now accesses. This is a more narrowly focused bill than H.R. 5538 that Lamborn introduced in June. H.R. 5538 would eliminate federal funding for NPR’s parent organization, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. H.R. 6417 would effectively eliminate NPR’s ability to access any federal tax dollars (CPB requested $136 million for FY 2013 on behalf of all NPR entities) and apply it toward reducing the national debt (currently at $13.8 trillion).

NPR receives taxpayer funding in two different ways. First, they receive direct government grants from various federal agencies, including the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Department of Commerce, the Department of Education, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Over the past two years this direct funding has totaled approximately $9 million. Second, NPR also receives taxpayer funds indirectly through federal grants to local public radio stations. In 2010 those stations received a total of $65 million.

NPR claims that less than 2 percent of its total annual budget comes from the federal government. But when the indirect revenues NPR receives in licensing fees from the federally-funded local stations are included, that number jumps to an estimated 20 percent.

Flow of Federal Tax Dollars to National Public Radio:

NPR receives a significant amount of funding from private individuals and organizations through donations and sponsorships. For example in 2008, NPR listed over 32 separate private donors and sponsors who provided financial support in excess of half-a-million dollars that year. NPR officials have indicated that taxpayer funding makes up only a small portion of their overall budget. Therefore eliminating taxpayer support should not materially affect NPR’s ability to operate. It will, however, save taxpayers many millions of dollars each year.