The expenditure was part of a purge of career Voice of America officials and journalists to be replaced by those who would promote Donald Trump ahead of the presidential election, according to a whistleblower’s complaint to Congress last week.
The money flowed to two law firms in no-bid contracts awarded by Michael Pack, the Trump-appointed head of the U.S. Agency for Global Media who was forced out last week by President Joe Biden’s incoming administration. One top lawyer in the deal was reportedly paid $1,470 an hour.
The arrangement was exposed in a whistleblower complaint on the “gross waste of taxpayer dollars” filed last week by the Government Accountability Project, a law firm that represents whistleblowers. The State Department’s inspector general launched an investigation after receiving documents supporting the complaint, sources told the Post.
Pack hired Washington firms McGuireWoods and Caplin & Drysdale in apparent violation of federal contracting regulations without competitive bidding, the Post reported. McGuireWoods was reportedly paid more than $3 million to collect employee emails, compile dossiers and build cases of alleged “misconduct” to justify Pack’s purge, according to the Post and the Government Accountability Project.
Pack, a right-wing documentary producer, was installed eight months ago atop the agency that oversees the VOA, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and Radio Free Asia. He was recommended for the job by ally Steve Bannon, the former White House strategist pardoned by Trump on charges of defrauding supporters of the ex-president’s promised border wall.
A group of fired U.S. Agency for Global Media managers sued Pack in October, seeking protections for workers and the organization’s journalism. “As Defendants seek to tear down the integrity and credibility of the USAGM networks, the vacuum will be filled by propagandists whose messages will monopolize global airwaves,” the lawsuit warned.
In Pack’s waning days, VOA White House correspondent Patsy Widakuswara was demoted after she tried to ask then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tough questions, triggering bipartisan congressional outrage. Widakuswara was back covering the White House on Friday.
President Joe Biden last week replaced Pack with VOA employee Kelu Chao, who immediately removed all organization board members picked by Pack.