Gilbert, Ramer and Sembler

If confirmed by the Senate, Gilbert, Ramer and Sembler (left to right) would fill vacancies on the CPB Board.

President nominates three for CPB Board; two are big political donors

Published in Current, June 9, 2008
By Steve Behrens

A Hollywood attorney and a Florida educator, both sizeable donors to political campaigns, and a small-city broadcast journalist who covers elections but doesn’t donate were announced May 29 as Bush administration nominees for the CPB Board. The nominated newcomers:

Like many earlier presidential nominees to the CPB Board and other federal panels, Ramer and Sembler have given generously to political campaigns.

The White House also nominated two incumbents, Republican activist Cheryl Halpern and former Democratic Arkanasas governor and senator David Pryor, for new six-year terms.

The three newcomers would replace CPB Board members whose terms have expired, though observers could debate whether the Senate will hurry to hold confirmation hearings during an election season. The Senate Commerce Committee had not scheduled hearings as of last week.

President Bush has not been shy about using recess appointments, however. He could put nominees on the board for a year if the Senate hasn’t acted before Congress adjourns in September.

Will Republicans maintain control over the CPB Board? The White House is required by law to appoint a bipartisan board, with no more than a one-vote margin favoring a single party, but it’s not clear how all three newcomers would be counted.

With two of the board’s nine seats vacant, its Republican bloc of four votes is likely to hold sway if Miami broadcaster Claudia Puig continues serving in the meantime. Puig’s, Halpern’s and Pryor’s terms expired in January, but under CPB’s governing law the board members can serve until they’re replaced.

Gilbert, who has been reporting news in Elko, Nev., for almost 25 years, said she was nominated by Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), the Senate majority leader. She was not listed as a campaign donor by the FEC and told Current she prefers that her news audience can’t tell which party she favors.

In Elko County, Nev., which has a population of around 50,000, Gilbert co-anchors KENV’s morning news inserts in NBC’s Today Show with the general manager serving as weatherman and co-anchor. She also does a daily half-hour public affairs show at separately owned KELK.

Ramer, a senior partner in the entertainment industry law firm of Gang, Tyre, Ramer & Brown in Beverly Hills, Calif., was cited as a “superlawyer” in a New York Times feature two decades ago. He has represented Steven Spielberg, Clint Eastwood and many other boldface names.
He has served on KCET’s board since 1992 and was its chair from 2001 to 2003.

Ramer served as president of the American Jewish Committee from 1998 to 2001, and the White House chose him as one of about 80 official delegates who accompanied President Bush to Israel’s 60th anniversary celebration this month in Jerusalem. He is a board member of the nonpartisan Pacific Council on International Policy and a member of the Committee on the Present Danger, which opposes Islamic terrorism.

Ramer was founding board chair of the Geffen Playhouse at the University of California-Los Angeles and a member of the board of councilors at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication, where fellow CPB Board member Ernest J. Wilson III and former CPB director Frank Cruz are dean and councilor ex-officio, respectively.

Sembler chaired the board of Tampa pubTV station WEDU in 2001-03 and now serves on the board of the Association of Public Television Stations. She was a St. Petersburg Times reporter before taking her job at the private secondary school in Pinellas County.

Sembler’s family by marriage is prominent in Florida real estate and Republican Party. Greg S. Sembler, her husband, is c.e.o. of the Sembler Co., a shopping-center firm that manages 10.2 million square feet of space in the country.

Father-in-law Mel Sembler, founder and chair of the company, was finance chair of the Republican National Committee from 1997 to 2000 and national finance co-chair of Mitt Romney’s campaign. He was appointed ambassador to Australia by the first President Bush and ambassador to Italy by the second.

The newcomers to the CPB Board fill vacancies left by Puig; Los Angeles broadcast and business exec Frank Cruz, who left the board in 2006; and Los Angeles comedy writer Warren Bell, whose one-year recess appointment had expired.                       

Web page with earlier version of story posted June 2, 2008. This version posted June 12, 2008.
Copyright 2008 by Current LLC


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The CPB Board, with member bios.

Gilbert co-anchors the news on NBC affiliate KENV in Elko, Nev., and a daily show on its sister AM station as well.

Two decades ago, the New York Times called Ramer a "superstar" lawyer who has stars for clients.

Sembler is a member of the APTS Board of Trustees.

Portions of the Communications Act pertinent to CPB.

Search the Federal Election Commission database of individual donors.

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