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Ex-Sen. Specter to Debut on Maryland Public Television

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Ex-Sen. Specter to Debut on Md. Public TV

NBC Philadelphia

Former U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter

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Arlen Specter is out of office, but Pennsylvania's longest-serving U.S. senator isn't done trying to make an impact on public debate.

The pilot episode of a political-affairs show he's hosting will air Friday night on Maryland Public Television, with the aim of bringing an eventual series to public television stations across the country by summer.

An executive producer, Craig Snyder, said Monday he believes the series will fill a niche for people who want to learn about pressing issues in depth and without political slant.

“This is a show about letting the best arguments be heard on the different sides of issues and letting the people who are watching make up their own mind,” said Snyder, a former top aide to Specter. “What's distinctive about it is it's not people shouting at each other ... and it's not short sound bites and bumper stickers.”

No additional episodes have been shot yet, but the intent is to create an occasional series, said a Maryland Public Television spokeswoman, Faith Wachter.

Additional episodes will depend on fundraising to cover the approximately $100,000 cost to produce each show, she said.

The first episode will focus on campaign finance, and in particular the Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United vs. FEC case in 2010 that stripped away restrictions on corporate and union spending to influence elections.

Specter has been strongly critical of the decision. Guests will include former U.S. Sens. Evan Bayh of Indiana and Fred Thompson of Tennessee.

Specter's 30-year run in office ended a year ago. The one-time corruption-busting Philadelphia prosecutor and “single-bullet theory” architect of the John F. Kennedy assassination often used his willingness to cross party lines to bolster his own clout.

The 81-year-old was defeated by then-U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak in the Democratic primary after Specter switched parties in a failed attempt to avoid Republican primary voters angry over his vote for President Barack Obama's economic stimulus package.

He was the only Republican facing re-election in 2010 to vote for it, and he called it the most important vote he'd ever made. Republican Pat Toomey defeated Sestak in the general election.

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