WASHINGTON – The Corporation for Public Broadcasting’s former chairman violated federal law by steering a conservative-oriented talk show onto PBS’s schedule and used “political tests” to recruit a former co-chairman of the Republican National Committee as its president, an internal investigation has found.
Kenneth Tomlinson, the former chairman, also threatened to withhold federal funds if PBS refused to “balance” its programming with more conservatives, and he hired lobbyists, consultants and two ombudsmen without the board’s knowledge or approval, according to a five-month investigation and report by the CPB’s inspector general, Kenneth Konz.
Konz’s report, requested by Democrats in Congress and released publicly Tuesday, appears to end a chapter in Tomlinson’s controversial two-year tenure as head of the agency that passes about $400 million in federal funds to public radio and TV stations and is supposed to shield public broadcasting from political pressure. Tomlinson, a Republican, whipped up controversy in the past year by asserting that public broadcasting’s news and public-affairs programming is dominated by liberals.
Tomlinson resigned this month as CPB chairman as the agency’s board privately reviewed Konz’s findings. Tomlinson blasted the inspector general’s conclusions as “preconceived and unjustified.”
Konz said in an interview that he found no criminal violations. His report, however, documented a series of Tomlinson-led initiatives that were undertaken without the knowledge of CPB’s board or that directly violated the agency’s statutes and procedures.
Konz noted that Tomlinson coordinated some of his activities with White House officials, particularly hiring decisions, and exchanged e-mails with presidential adviser Karl Rove, an old friend of Tomlinson’s.
His report was particularly critical of Tomlinson’s recruiting of former RNC co-chairman Patricia Harrison to become CPB’s president and chief executive, saying e-mail exchanges suggested Tomlinson was “strongly motivated by political considerations.”