BBG Watch Media

“Rep. Ed Royce says it’s a misunderstanding. But government watchdogs are growling about his bill to set up a ‘Freedom News Network,’ when his friend has an outfit of the same name,” Tim Mak, the Senior Congressional Correspondent for The Daily Beast, wrote in an article published Tuesday.

“Ethics watchdogs and government officials are up in arms about a bill by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce that appears to benefit a longtime associate,” Mak wrote. The bill is H.R. 2323 designed to reform the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG).

Victor Ashe, a former Republican BBG member, former U.S. ambassador to Poland and former mayor of Knoxville, TN, issued a statement in response to The Daily Beast article: “This is a clever attempt to slander a distinguished member of Congress.” “Wrong headed and malicious,” Victor Ashe said, suggesting that it is also an attempt to kill BBG reform.

The Daily Beast article says that “Robert Cristiano–as a sports psychologist, real estate executive, and self-proclaimed ‘personal friend’ of Royce’s—-has emerged as the central player in an apparent plan to benefit from the congressman’s efforts to reform the U.S. government’s international broadcasters, including Voice of America and Radio Free Europe.” Both VOA and Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) are overseen by the BBG. The article quotes an unidentified BBG member as saying that an inquiry is needed.

“Royce denies that he’s involved in anything improper. He even shot down the idea that he and Cristiano are friends. But this bill is the latest example, watchdog groups say, of how relationships with players on Capitol Hill can be leveraged in unseemly ways,” the article states. “Cristiano has purchased lobbying services, the Radio Free Europe building in Prague, and hosted a fundraiser for Royce,” Tim Mak reported.

The article also points out that “Supporters of Royce’s efforts argue that international broadcasting’s current structure is illogical and inefficient, and in desperate need of structural reforms.”

READ MORE: “Did This Congressional Powerhouse Write a Bill to Help His Donor ‘Make a Quick Buck’?,” Tim Mak, The Daily Beast, June 16, 2015