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The Tone of Your Company
Published on Saturday, September 9, 2006 by CommonDreams.org
The Tone of Your Company
by Christopher Brauchli
 

Take the tone of the company you are in.
--Philip Dormer Stanhope, letters to his son

It’s time for an update and an apology. The update is on the consequences of having one’s criminal conduct discovered. The apology is for someone who, though not a crook, could be entered in a contest for sleaziness without embarrassing the person who entered him. I should have entered him last November. I do so now. Both men had great excuses for their misbehavior.

Some weeks ago I reported on the activities of Claude Allen. Mr. Allen had a most peculiar reaction to Hurricane Katrina even though he was not one of those who lost everything to the floodwaters. He didn’t even live in New Orleans. He was the top domestic policy adviser to George Bush. As Mr. Allen explained to the judge when being sentenced on August 4, 2006 for criminal activity after Katrina struck he was working 14-hour days and lost his bearings. “Something did go very wrong. I lost perspective and failed to restrain myself . . . I did not realize or fully appreciate what was going on.”

Mr. Allen’s loss of perspective manifested itself in a manner most peculiar. He began shoplifting. He would buy items at Target and take them to his car. He would then return to the store, take the identical articles from the shelf to the cashier together with his receipt and get a cash refund. He reportedly earned more than $5000 this way.

He was upset and tearful during his sentencing. He pled guilty to stealing less than $500 and was put on supervised probation for 2 years, sentenced to 40 hours community service and ordered to pay $850 to Target which was more than $250 more than he pled guilty to stealing but $4000 less than police said he got in his criminal activities. Community service could include “coaching [children’s] soccer, reading [them] Shakespeare.” If Mr. Allen avoids criminal activity for two years, his conviction will be removed from his record.

My apology is owed to Kenneth Y. Tomlinson. I ignored him. Mr. Tomlinson is not a crook. He is simply an example of Bush White House sleaze.

Mr. Tomlinson was chairman of the board of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. A report by the inspector general of CPB released in November disclosed while serving as chair of CBP Mr. Tomlinson had hired contractors without board or staff knowledge or documentation. Among his hires was an acquaintance who was paid more than $20,000 to monitor public radio and TV stations for bias. In addition to his questionable hiring practices the inspector general found that he improperly tried to influence the content of programming on public radio and television. Following these disclosures Mr. Tomlinson resigned from the board. Happily for him, but not for the country, that did not end his government employment. He remained the chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors that, among other things, is in charge of the Voice of America, Radio and TV Marti in Cuba and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

Unhappily for him, that agency, like the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, has an inspector general. That inspector general found Mr. Tomlinson did the same kinds of improper things at the BBG that he’d done at CPB but on a somewhat grander scale. The friend he hired at BBG was paid more than $245,000 although the IG is not clear as to what the man was supposed to do. Mr. Tomlinson signed the employee’s invoices that enabled him to get paid. The IG also found that Mr. Tomlinson used his office at BBG to conduct some of his racehorse business and, perhaps most egregiously, billed for more than the 130 days annually for which he was permitted to bill, by government regulations. Whereas Mr. Allen’s behavior was explained by Mr. Allen as being attributable to post-Katrina stress, Mr. Tomlinson blames his over billing on the war on terror. As he explained in an e mail to a Washington Post reporter: “It is well known and accepted by all 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.” The inspector general’s report was turned over to the Department of Justice which, being busy investigating the likes of you and me, has no time to criminally prosecute Mr. Tomlinson. The civil division is considering prosecution.

Three Democratic members of congress wrote Mr. Bush a letter asking that Mr. Tomlinson be removed from the BBG saying the president should “take all necessary steps to restore the integrity of the Broadcasting Board of Governors.” Integrity and Mr. Bush have at most a passing acquaintance. That explains why Emily Lawrimore, a White House spokeswoman said Mr. Bush continues to support Mr. Tomlinson’s renomination as BBG chairman.

For Christopher Brauchli's political commentary see his web page Human Race and Other Sports.

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