Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Democratic members of the federal Broadcasting Board of Governors yesterday failed in a bid to remove Chairman Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, who has been accused of improperly using his office to benefit himself and a friend.

In two party-line votes, the BBG’s three Republicans and three Democrats first split over forcing Mr. Tomlinson to resign and then over revoking his authority to run the agency that oversees Voice of America and other government broadcasting operations.

“This was clearly a partisan effort,” said board member Blanquita Cullum, who supports Mr. Tomlinson, a conservative stalwart who was appointed to the post by President Bush. “The move was planned to usurp the authority of President Bush and the Senate.”

Republicans said Democratic board member Jeffrey Hirschberg, who called for the votes, is engaging in a partisan attack, citing his financial ties to liberal figures such as former President Bill Clinton.

Since 1999, Mr. Hirschberg has given nearly $100,000 to Democratic candidates and organizations, including the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, according to public campaign-finance records.

Mr. Hirschberg’s brother, Judd Blair Hirschberg, who was convicted of mail fraud in 1991, was one of 59 persons pardoned by Mr. Clinton in December 2000, shortly before he left office.

“It is incorrect for Ken Tomlinson to characterize his problems as caused by ‘partisan divisions inside the BBG,’” read a statement released by Mr. Hirschberg and fellow board members Joaquin F. Blaya and Edward E. Kaufman.

“It is the independent report of the Inspector General, which is the cause of his problems.”

A State Department inspector-general investigation, called for by Democratic legislators, accuses Mr. Tomlinson of running a “horse-racing operation” from his BBG office and said he “improperly put a friend on the payroll.” Mr. Tomlinson runs a stable of thoroughbred racehorses on his private farm in Virginia.

The results of the investigation were turned over to the Justice Department, which has declined to press charges against Mr. Tomlinson. According to the IG report, Mr. Tomlinson spent fewer than three minutes and sent one e-mail per day on his horse-racing ventures.

Mr. Tomlinson was in BBG meetings yesterday and was not available for comment.

Neither Mr. Tomlinson nor members of the BBG received a copy of the IG’s report, which has been leaked to the press, before yesterday’s vote.

Mr. Tomlinson, who has close ties to White House adviser Karl Rove, was nominated by Mr. Bush in August 2002. His term expired in 2004, and he was re-nominated, but the Senate has refused to act on it. Mr. Tomlinson can remain as chairman until the Senate approves a new nominee.

The IG investigation was requested by Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, Connecticut Democrat, and Reps. Howard L. Berman and Tom Lantos, California Democrats.

“Congressman Berman believes that surely the president will now send a new nominee to the Hill,” with “an ethical cloud” still surrounding Mr. Tomlinson, said Berman spokeswoman Gene Smith.

Last year, Mr. Tomlinson resigned from the board of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which he had chaired. The CPB’s inspector general had accused him of political favoritism in hiring employees.

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