[JPL] Report Says Ex-Chief of Public TV Violated Federal Law
drjazz at drjazz.com
Tue Nov 15 21:52:16 EST 2005
November 15, 2005
Report Says Ex-Chief of Public TV Violated Federal Law
WASHINGTON, Nov. 15 - Investigators at the Corporation for Public
Broadcasting concluded today that its former chairman repeatedly broke
federal law and its own regulations in a campaign to combat what he saw as
A scathing report by the corporation's inspector general described a
dysfunctional organization that violated the Public Broadcasting Act, which
created the corporation and was written to insulate programming decisions
The corporation received $400 million this year from Congress to finance an
array of programs on public television and radio, although its future
financing has come under heavy criticism, particularly from conservative
lawmakers. Its board is selected by the president and confirmed by the Senate.
The corporation's former chairman, Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, who was ousted
from the board two weeks ago when it was presented in a closed session with
the details of the report, has said he sought to enforce a provision of the
Public Broadcasting Act meant to ensure objectivity and balance in programming.
But the report said that in the process, Mr. Tomlinson repeatedly crossed
statutory boundaries that set up the corporation as a "heat shield" to
protect public radio and television from political interference.
The report said he violated federal law by being heavily involved in
getting more than $4 million for a program featuring the conservative
editorial writers of the Wall Street Journal. It said he imposed a
"political test" to recruit a new president. And it said his decision to
hire Republican consultants to defeat legislation violated contracting rules.
Mr. Tomlinson, in a statement distributed with the report, rejected its
conclusions. He said that any suggestion that he violated his duties or the
law "is malicious and irresponsible" and that the inspector general had
opted "for politics over good judgment."
"Unfortunately, the Inspector General's preconceived and unjustified
findings will only help to maintain the status quo and other reformers will
be discouraged from seeking change," said Mr. Tomlinson, who has repeatedly
defended his decisions as part of an effort to restore balance to
programming. "Regrettably, as a result, balance and objectivity will not
come soon to elements of public broadcasting."
While some of the details under investigation were disclosed in a news
article last May, the inspector general's report is the first official
conclusion that Mr. Tomlinson violated both the law and the corporation's
own rules. The report is also the first detailed and official inside look
at the dynamics of the corporation as some of its career staff have
struggled with conservative Republicans appointees seeking to change its
The author of the report, Kenneth A. Konz, was hired by the Corporation for
Public Broadcasting in the 1990's to be its inspector general after
retiring from the federal government, where he had served as a deputy
inspector general at the Environmental Protection Agency.
No sanctions or further action against Mr. Tomlinson will follow from the
report's findings, Mr. Konz said. But some broadcasting officials fear it
may be used to attack the corporation's budget, which is already in
jeopardy as lawmakers look for money to help pay for rebuilding the Gulf
Coast and starting an avian flu inoculation program.
The report said that Mr. Tomlinson violated federal law by promoting "The
Journal Editorial Report" and said he had "admonished C.P.B. senior
executive staff not to interfere with his deal to bring a balancing
program" to public broadcasting. The board is prohibited from getting
involved in programming decisions, but the investigators found that Mr.
Tomlinson had pushed hard for the program, even as some staff officials at
the corporation raised concerns over its cost.
An e-mail from around the same time shows that he threatened to withhold
some money to public broadcasting "in a New York minute" if public
broadcasting did not balance its lineup.
The investigators found evidence that "political tests" were a major
criteria used by Mr. Tomlinson in recruiting the corporation's new
president, Patricia Harrison, a former co-chairwoman of the Republican
National Committee and former senior State Department official.
According to the report, she was given the job after being promoted for it
by an unidentified official at the White House. Investigators found e-mail
messages between Mr. Tomlinson and the White House that, while "cryptic" in
nature, "gives the appearance that the former chairman was strongly
motivated by political considerations in filling the president/C.E.O.
position." The corporation's presidency, its senior staff job, has
historically been reserved for a nonpartisan expert in public broadcasting.
The report said Mr. Tomlinson defended his decision to hire a candidate
with strong political ties because of the need to build relationships with
Congress for future funding requests.
Ms. Harrison disputed suggestions that she was motivated by politics.
"Only actions will dispel critics who believe I have a political agenda,
which I do not have," Ms. Harrison said in an interview today. "I want to
define my tenure in as open a way as I can." She said that excellence,
creativity and quality are as important in programming as objectivity and
The report said politics might have been involved in other personnel
decisions. In one case, a candidate to become the senior vice president for
corporate and public affairs was asked by a board member about her
political contributions in the last election. Another official was given a
particular job title at the corporation at the request of the White House,
the report said
The report said Mr. Tomlinson's decision to hire two Republican consultants
to help the corporation in its lobbying efforts against public broadcasting
legislation last year was "not handled in accordance with C.P.B.'s
contracting procedures." The inspector general criticized another contract
with a researcher to monitor the "Now" program, when its host was Bill
Moyers, because it was signed by Mr. Tomlinson without informing the board
and without board authorization.
The report said that a White House official, Mary C. Andrews, worked on a
plan by the corporation to create a new office of ombudsmen to promote
balance in programming. Ms. Andrews had been hired by the Corporation for
Public Broadcasting at the time but was still on the White House payroll.
It said her efforts "appeared to be advisory in nature and she did not
provide the ombudsmen with guidelines on how to operate or interfere with
But it also found that the decision to sign contracts with two ombudsmen
"does not appear to comply with established C.P.B. procurement processes."
Following a board meeting this morning at which the corporation adopted a
series of resolutions to impose tighter financial controls, Mr. Tomlinson's
successor as chairman, Cheryl Halpern, met with senior lawmakers in hopes
of blunting any political fallout.
But the report poses its own problems for Ms. Halpern, a Republican
fund-raiser, and the rest of the board, which for many months supported Mr.
Tomlinson's broader efforts at objectivity.
"Our review found an organizational environment that allowed the former
chairman and other C.P.B. executives to operate without appropriate checks
and balances," the report said. It ascribed the problems, in part to the
"culture of C.P.B."
Ms. Halpern headed the board's audit committee under Mr. Tomlinson, and she
raised concerns among executives at National Public Radio for criticizing
its coverage of the Middle East. She was also Mr. Tomlinson's choice to
succeed her, in part, he has said, because of her continued commitment to
end any programming bias.
The report questioned a severance package for the corporation's former
president, Kathleen A. Cox, who was forced to resign abruptly last April
after a series of disagreements with Mr. Tomlinson. According to the
report, the package was more than three times her annual compensation, and
Mr. Tomlinson structured its payouts over a period of years so that the
lump sum would not be disclosed on publicly available tax records.
In a statement attached to the report, Ms. Cox named other board members
aside from Mr. Tomlinson who she said were involved in some of the
decisions criticized by the inspector general. Ms. Cox said she was forced
to resign after Mr. Tomlinson told her that she was "not political enough"
for the job
The report came in response to requests by two senior Democratic lawmakers,
Representative David R. Obey of Wisconsin and John Dingell of Michigan.
Their request followed an article in The New York Times last May that
described the contract to monitor the "Now" Show, the plan to hire Ms.
Harrison, the role played by Mr. Tomlinson in promoting "The Journal
Editorial Report," and Ms. Andrews role in the creation of the office of
Mr. Tomlinson remains the head of the Broadcasting Board of Governors,
which supervises all American government-broadcasting programs overseas.
The inspector general of the State Department is examining accusations
there of misuse of federal money and the use of phantom or unqualified
employees by Mr. Tomlinson.
In a recent letter, Senator Chris Dodd, Democrat of Connecticut, asked
President Bush to consider ordering Mr. Tomlinson to step down from the
board of governors until that investigation was completed.
Dr. Jazz Operations
Oak Park, MI 48237
More information about the jazzproglist