By Paul Farhi
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
A year-long State Department investigation has found that the chairman of the agency that oversees Voice of America and other government broadcasting operations improperly used his office, putting a friend on the payroll and running a "horse-racing operation" with government resources.
The report, released yesterday, marks the second time in less than a year that an internal investigation has found evidence of rules violations by Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors.
In November, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting inspector general found that Tomlinson had made improper hires, had tried to tamper with PBS's TV programming and appeared to show political favoritism in selecting CPB's president while he was chairman, Tomlinson resigned his CPB post that same month.
The new allegations against Tomlinson, 62, stem from his chairmanship of the BBG, which oversees the federal government's array of international broadcasting services, including VOA, Radio and TV Marti in Cuba and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
Tomlinson defended his performance as BBG chairman, saying, "I believe it will become clear that this [inspector general] investigation was inspired by partisan divisions."
Although the Broadcasting Board of Governors and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting are unrelated entities, Tomlinson's alleged violations overlapped both federal agencies. He conducted CPB work and "personal matters" while working for the Broadcasting Board, and directed BBG employees to do the same, the State Department's investigation found. Investigators said he received compensation from both the BBG and CPB for the same days worked on 14 occasions, but did not specify an amount.
The investigation also found that Tomlinson -- a former Reader's Digest editor and longtime Republican ally of White House political adviser Karl Rove -- helped hire a friend as a BBG contractor without the knowledge of other board or staff members. The friend -- whose name was withheld from a public summary of the investigation but whom Tomlinson identified as retired VOA employee Les Daniels -- received nearly $245,000 for unspecified services over a two-year period. Tomlinson signed the invoices for these payments even though there was no documentation that the work had been completed, investigators said.
That accusation is similar to one made last year by CPB's inspector general, who found that Tomlinson employed contractors without documentation, including a still-mysterious Indiana man who was paid to monitor the number of conservative and liberal guests who appeared on PBS talk shows.
The most sensational complaint against Tomlinson might be that he used government resources to support his stable of thoroughbred racehorses, potentially violating federal embezzlement laws. Tomlinson has had a lifelong interest in breeding and racing horses. Upon his retirement from Reader's Digest in 1996, he began to devote himself to raising horses at his ranch, Springbrook Farm, near Middleburg.
The investigation determined that Tomlinson used his office for his thoroughbred activities, but the summary offers no details.
The State Department said it turned its report over to the Department of Justice, which has declined to bring criminal charges against Tomlinson. The allegation involving the contractor, however, is pending in DOJ's civil division.
Tomlinson, who is attending a conference in Berlin, said via e-mail yesterday that he made "diligent efforts" to bill each board for the work he did. "It is well known and accepted by all," Tomlinson wrote, "that because of the importance of what I was doing in the war on terror that I would be working more than 130 days a year," which is the statutory maximum.
He also wrote that he devoted an average of one e-mail and 2 1/2 minutes a day at the office to his horse operations. "In retrospect," he wrote, "I should have been more careful in this regard."
The inspector general's report was made public by three Democratic members of Congress: Reps. Howard Berman and Tom Lantos, both of California, and Sen. Christopher Dodd of Connecticut. The three legislators requested the investigation last year after being contacted by an anonymous BBG employee.
The lawmakers called for Tomlinson's removal yesterday and urged President Bush in a letter to "take all necessary steps to restore the integrity of the Broadcasting Board of Governors."
A White House spokeswoman, Emily Lawrimore, said Bush continues to support Tomlinson's pending renomination as BBG chairman. She had no further comment.