Remember Kenneth Tomlinson, Karl Rove’s pal who lost control of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting after he tried to push PBS’s programming to the right?
The dood is slimy but the Bush Assministration stands by his renomination as chair of the the Broadcasting Board of Governors.
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.
Three Democratic lawmakers, Senator Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut and Representatives Howard L. Berman and Tom Lantos of California, requested the inquiry after a whistle-blower from the agency had approached them about the possible misuse of federal money by Mr. Tomlinson and the possible hiring of phantom or unqualified employees.
Mr. Tomlinson, a Republican with close ties to the White House, was ousted last year from another post, at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, after another inquiry found evidence that he had violated rules meant to insulate public television and radio from political influence.
His renomination to a new term as chairman of the State Department office that oversees foreign broadcasts, the Broadcasting Board of Governors, is pending before the Senate.
The State Department report noted his use of his office to oversee a stable of thoroughbreds but did not mention one specific way in which his professional responsibilities and personal interests appear to have intersected. The horses, according to track records, include Karzai, as in Hamid Karzai, and Massoud, from the late Ahmed Shah Massoud) references to Afghan leaders who have fought against the Taliban and the Russians, as well as Panjshair, the valley that was the base used by forces to overthrow the Taliban.
The lawmakers who requested the inquiry sent a letter to the president on Tuesday urging him to remove Mr. Tomlinson from his position immediately “and take all necessary steps to restore the integrity of the Broadcasting Board of Governors.”
A spokeswoman for the White House, Emily Lawrimore, said President Bush continued to support Mr. Tomlinson’s renomination. Ms. Lawrimore declined to comment on the State Department report.
In the statement issued through his lawyer, Mr. Tomlinson said that he was “proud of what I have accomplished for U.S. international broadcasting’’ and that the investigation “was inspired by partisan divisions inside the Broadcasting Board of Governors.’’
He implied that it was more efficient for him to work for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting at his office at the broadcasting board. About his horse racing work, he said the inspector general had concluded that it amounted to “an average of one e-mail and two and a half minutes a day’’ at the office.
He also said he spent more time on broadcasting responsibilities at his farm and residences than he spent on his horses at the office.
“In retrospect, I should have been more careful in this regard,’’ he said.
Mr. Tomlinson, 62, is a former editor of Reader’s Digest who has close ties to Karl Rove, Mr. Bush’s political strategist and senior adviser. Mr. Rove and Mr. Tomlinson were on the board of the predecessor to the broadcasting board in the 90’s. Mr. Tomlinson has been chairman of the broadcasting board since 2002.
Mr. Tomlinson’s ouster in November from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting was prompted by a separate investigation by that inspector general at the corporation. That inquiry found evidence that Mr. Tomlinson had violated rules as he sought more conservative programs and that he had improperly intervened to help the staff of the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal win a $4.1 million contract, one of the corporation’s largest programming contracts, to finance a weekly public television program.
The heavily edited State Department report on Mr. Tomlinson’s activities at the Broadcasting Board of Governors did not identify the friend who received the improper employment contract. The report said that there was no competitive bidding to hire him, that he was retired and on a government pension when Mr. Tomlinson hired him and that he never filed the required paperwork with the board.
In his statement, Mr. Tomlinson identified the man as Les Daniels and said he had worked for 35 years at the Voice of America.
Mr. Tomlinson said, Mr. Daniels did important work as a liaison aide with the public and working on significant projects. Mr. Daniels was paid nearly $250,000 over two and a half years, ending last year.
Mr. Tomlinson was rebuked in the earlier report at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting for improperly hiring an acquaintance from a journalism center founded by the American Conservative Union. The corporation paid the person more than $20,000 to monitor public radio and television programs for bias, including “Now,” with Bill Moyers as host.
The State Department report said that from 2003 through 2005 Mr. Tomlinson had requested compensation in excess of the 130 days permitted by law for his post. The report said that he had requested and received pay from the broadcasting board and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting for the same days worked on 14 occasions but that investigators were unable to substantiate whether they were for the same hours worked on the same days.
Investigators who seized Mr. Tomlinson’s e-mail, telephone and office records found that he had improperly and extensively used his office at the broadcasting board for nongovernmental work, including work for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the horse racing and breeding ventures. The material seized included racing forms and evidence that he used the office to buy and sell thoroughbreds.
People who have seen the report said it noted that Mr. Tomlinson, on his lawyer’s advice, ended an interview with investigators early. One person familiar with the inquiry said Mr. Hamilton ended the interview as the investigators began to ask about using the office for horse racing business. Mr. Hamilton would not comment about the interview.