Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Bush Reappoints Broadcasting Chief Who Used Public Funds To Promote Conservative Programming

President Bush on Tuesday renominated the chairman of the agency that directs U.S. overseas broadcasts even though the nomination has been stalled in the Senate amid allegations of misconduct.

Kenneth Y. Tomlinson was nominated again as chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors and for a term on the board expiring Aug. 13, 2007. The board oversees Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia, Radio and TV Marti, broadcasting initiatives in the Middle East and other nonmilitary U.S. broadcasting overseas.

In September, a spokeswoman for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said senators did not plan to act on Bush's nomination of Tomlinson in January 2005 while a government investigation of his activities was under way. The law that created the board in 1994 allowed Tomlinson to remain as chairman until a successor was confirmed.

A report by the State Department's inspector general, released Aug. 29, said Tomlinson misused government funds for two years as chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors. Tomlinson disputed the allegations in the report.

The U.S. attorney's office in Washington concluded that a criminal investigation was not warranted, according to the State Department report. At the same time, the report said a civil investigation related to charges that he had hired a friend as a contractor was pending. (More)

Steve Benen: It’s one thing to pick a partisan hack for an important governmental post, evaluate his joke of a tenure, and then move onto someone new. After all, maybe the president didn’t realize just how ridiculous Tomlinson was when the White House first tapped him.

But after several years of humiliating hackery, Bush no longer has any excuses. Renominating Tomlinson again this week is a not-so-subtle message to Democrats and the rest of the electorate: Election failures or not, nothing is going to change at the Bush White House. No partisan is too unqualified, no right-wing ideologue can screw up enough, no controversy is too scandalous to prevent a Bush buddy from keeping important administration positions.

The John Bolton renomination was offensive enough; this is adding insult to injury.

At this point, Ken Tomlinson’s partisan, ideological, and generally ridiculous work is legendary. By August, it became almost comical.

State Department investigators have found that the head of the agency overseeing most government broadcasts to foreign countries has used his office to run a “horse racing operation” and that he improperly put a friend on the payroll, according to a summary of a report made public on Tuesday by a Democratic lawmaker.

The report said that the official, Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, had repeatedly used government employees to perform personal errands and that he billed the government for more days of work than the rules permit.

The summary of the report, prepared by the State Department inspector general, said the United States attorney’s office here had been given the report and decided not to conduct a criminal inquiry. The summary said the Justice Department was
pursuing a civil inquiry focusing on the contract for Mr. Tomlinson’s friend.

This is actually the second instance of Tomlinson getting caught breaking the law. A year ago,

we learned that he violated the Federal Broadcasting Act, which prohibits the use of “political tests” in employment.

We’re dealing with a man who has lied, schemed, and politicized his way through three years of government service. And yet, Tomlinson has stayed in a key diplomatic post.

Indeed, Tomlinson’s job as head of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, given to him by Karl Rove, puts him in charge of an “independent” government commission that oversees the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Free Liberty, and Radio Sawa and its sister TV network, Alhurra — making Tomlinson a key person in America’s international diplomacy.

As Franklin Foer explained in a very good TNR piece a year ago, Tomlinson has run the BBG just as he ran the CPB, “purging the bureaucracy of political enemies, zealously rooting out perceived ‘liberal bias,’ and generally politicizing institutions that have resisted ideological intrusions for decades.”

In August, after Tomlinson had been caught, again, misusing government resources and violating government personnel policies, I asked “How long will the White House stand by this clown?” At the time, several lawmakers, in both chambers, were imploring Bush to immediately remove Tomlinson from his position.

Instead, Bush has renominated him for another term. This tells us all we need to know about the president’s rhetoric about “bipartisanship.”

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