Targeting VOA

The Voice of America, with its array of feuding emigre groups manning the mikes, often engages in bureaucratic trench warfare when conflicts erupt in former homelands.

So, not surprisingly, Serbian VOA employees caused a stir recently when they openly declared their opposition to NATO bombing of their homeland.

The Serbian emigres, said to number about four or five -- some now U.S. citizens, some not -- prominently displayed a target symbol, like the one used by folks in Belgrade while massing on key city bridges and elsewhere, to protest NATO's bombing. The VOA Serbs put the symbols on their clothing, workplace computers, chairs and cars, a source reported.

This created "a sticky situation," one official said, since there would be a "legitimate First Amendment issue" involved if management were to officially order them to can the protest. For that reason,

no directive against the target displays was issued.

But, a source said, "peer pressure" -- that this was not exactly professional behavior -- seems to have had some effect. The

targets have vanished -- except one being used as a computer screensaver image.

VOA staffers, according to our source, were concerned that the Serbian group, which is responsible for selecting a range of stories to produce a "balanced" broadcast for airing in Serbian in the Balkans, was leaning heavily toward anti-U.S., anti-NATO news.

VOA brass say there has been no problem with balance. Everyone pays attention to the Balkans broadcasts these days, the source said, and the items that air are carefully screened for evenhandedness.

Grand Old Poverty

Even in these somewhat uncertain times, it's hard to think of the Republican national machine as anything but a cash-filled juggernaut.

So it came as a surprise to longtime contributors to get a desperate, anguished letter recently from National Republican Congressional Committee treasurer Donna Anderson literally begging for a few bucks. Okay, maybe a bit more, say $300.

The NRCC "is still facing a serious financial crisis," she wrote. "Last night I was burning the midnight oil [Yikes!!

Can it be they've cut off the electricity?] studying detailed financial reports," she wrote. "Unfortunately it is mostly bad news.

It comes down to this: either we raise . . . $806,200" by the end of April or we start "curtailing our staff."

"That's why," she continued, "I'm personally writing to you again and asking you to please send a contribution of $300 if at all possible. Right now. Within the hour . . . If we fail to raise at least $315,800 in the next 10 days, our entire effort to stop Bill Clinton and the Ultra-liberal Democrats from recapturing control of the House could be lost."

Anderson apologized for hitting up contributors all the time. "But I feel I must share this burden with you because there are just too few Americans like you who are willing to make the personal and financial sacrifices necessary to keep our precious Republican Majority in the House.

"Bill Clinton and his Ultra-liberal friends have pulled out all stops. They'll do anything necessary to win back Majority control of the House." (Like even have sex in the Oval Office if need be?)

And did this high-decibel desperation do the trick? Absolutely. "We don't have the Kennedy compound or the Lincoln Bedroom to sell, but we've met our goals and the lights are still on at the committee," said spokeswoman Jill Schroeder. In fact, the NRCC is outraising the Democrats 2-1 in "hard" dollars that go directly to candidates.

People will do anything not to get letters like that.

Sleuths In Advertising

Job alert! The CIA wants better "Perception Management Analysis," according to a recent job notice posted on the agency's Web site:

"The Analytical Hiring Division is looking for analysts who are familiar with and interested in the study of how foreign entities attempt to mislead US intelligence and policymakers on critical national security issues. These analysts examine the ways in which foreign governments and organizations try to manipulate and deceive US intelligence collection about their activities and plans [and then] communicate their findings to policymakers, and they lead efforts to identify our vulnerabilities and ways to address them." Why the worry about foreign spies sowing confusion? Seems like we do a good enough job ourselves, thank you.

Tips and comments for Al Kamen's column are welcomed at: In the Loop, The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or by e-mail at Loop@washpost.com. Please include home and work phone numbers.