The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (search), already embroiled in controversy because of allegations of a liberal-leaning bias in its programming, chose a former Republican Party co-chairman Thursday as its president and chief executive.

Patricia S. Harrison (search), currently the assistant secretary of state for educational and cultural affairs, was selected following three days of closed-door meetings by the corporation's board of directors.

Democratic lawmakers last week urged the CPB to put off choosing a new president, citing the recent controversy involving the corporation's chairman, Kenneth Y. Tomlinson (search). A Republican, Tomlinson, has been critical of public affairs programming at PBS (search), alleging that it's too liberal.

The corporation, which was set up by Congress in 1967 to shield public broadcasting from political influence, funnels federal dollars to PBS, National Public Radio (search) and hundreds of public radio and television stations.

In a letter to Tomlinson, Sens. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., and others expressed dismay at the expected appointment of Harrison.

"We find it astonishing that Ms. Harrison, given her former prominence as a partisan political figure, would even be considered as a candidate for a job that demands that the occupant be non-political," the senators said in their letter.