Trump Appointee Who Wanted To Turn Voice Of America Into Breitbart Spent Millions Of Taxpayer Dollars Investigating His Own Staff
from the holy-shit dept
Remember Michael Pack? That’s the Steve Bannon protégé who Trump appointed last year to head the US Agency for Global Media. USAGM is the organization that oversees Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia, Middle East Broadcasting and the Open Technology Fund. It was an open secret that Pack was appointed to turn those widely respected, independent, news organizations into pure Breitbart-style propaganda outfits. He wasted little time causing a huge fucking mess, firing a ton of people in a manner so upsetting that even Republican Senators were concerned. It also turned out that many of the people he fired… he legally had no right to fire.
In the fall, things got even more ridiculous as it came out that Pack had been investigating VOA journalists to see if they were “anti-Trump” and then moved to get more power to directly dictate how VOA should be reporting. One of President Biden’s first official acts in office… was to fire Pack, who laughably claimed that his being fired was “a partisan act” that would harm the credibility of USAGM.
Meanwhile, the latest story, as revealed by NPR, is that Pack spent millions of tax payer dollars investigating staff throughout the various organizations to try to come up with reasons they could be fired. This was in response to the courts pointing out he couldn’t just randomly fire people in these organizations.
Last summer, an appointee of former President Donald Trump was irate because he could not simply fire top executives who had warned him that some of his plans might be illegal.
Michael Pack, who was CEO of the U.S. Agency for Global Media that oversees Voice of America, in August suspended those top executives. He also immediately ordered up an investigation to determine what wrongdoing the executives might have committed.
Instead of turning to inspectors general or civil servants to investigate, Pack personally signed a no-bid contract to hire a high-profile law firm with strong Republican ties.
The bill ? footed by taxpayers ? exceeded a million dollars in just the first few months of the contract.
And hiring an outside law firm is an abuse of his position, according to the Government Accountability Project, which discovered the details of this contract via a FOIA request:
“The engagement constitutes gross mismanagement, gross waste of taxpayer dollars and abuse of authority,” David Seide of the Government Accountability Project, wrote in a letter Thursday to Congressional committees with oversight of the committee.
“The ‘deliverables’ provided by McGuireWoods are ? always were ? of questionable value,” he wrote. “The investigations produced nothing that could justify the kind of discipline Mr. Pack sought to impose on current USAGM employees he did not like ? he wanted them fired (they have since been reinstated). Investigations of former employees also yielded nothing.”
It seems almost cartoonish what Pack did here:
The group’s analysis of the new documents, shared with NPR, found the law firm McGuireWoods charged more than $320 per hour for 3,200 billable hours from August through October alone. It devoted five partners, six associates, two lawyers “of counsel,” two staff attorneys, seven paralegals, three case assistants, 14 other timekeepers, and 11 “outsourced attorneys” to the work.
The invoices reflect that McGuireWoods’ legal team, among other duties, reviewed social media posts, “news articles relating to Michael Pack” and an “[Office of Inspector General] audit on Hillary Clinton’s email breach.”
It truly is insane how obsessed Trumpists are over Hillary’s emails.
But the main crux of the “investigation” appears to have been to cook up any reason at all to justify Pack firing all the non-Trump people he wanted to fire:
The nonprofit group’s review found the McGuireWoods team spent nearly 2,000 hours in a massive review of documents and emails, 400 hours on fact investigation, and nearly 700 hours on what was labeled as “analysis/strategy.” The records also show the legal team conducted voluminous legal research on federal ethics regulations and U.S. statutes. Such tasks for federal departments are typically, though not exclusively, undertaken by government attorneys, inspectors general, and human resources employees.