Public Media Lab, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit, is being investigated by the District of Columbia’s attorney general, according to Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.). Public Media Lab is run by Michael Pack, President Donald Trump’s nominee to run the U.S. Agency for Global Media.
A spokesperson for D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine confirmed the investigation to The NonProfit Times but declined further comment.
Menendez, the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, alleged Pack used the organization’s funds for his own benefit. Pack is one of three directors listed on Public Media Lab’s 2018 federal Form 990, and the only one listed as an officer. Public Media Lab receives and awards grants for developing, producing, and supporting educational documentary films, according to its Form 990.
That Form 990 showed $875,000 in contributions and $775,000 paid to Manifold Productions of Chevy Chase, Md.
Pack is president of Manifold Productions. Public Media Lab had given $300,000 to Manifold Productions in 2017 and $200,000 in 2016 per its Form 990s. In each case, Manifold was the sole recipient for the year. Neither Pack nor the other two directors are listed as having drawn salaries from Public Media Lab. Pack claimed one hour a week of work on behalf of Public Media Lab, while the other two directors claimed none.
The U.S. Agency for Global Media oversees, among other media outlets, Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia and Alhurra, an Arabic-language satellite TV channel. A committee vote regarding his confirmation last Thursday was postponed after the AG’s office informed the committee of the investigation.
“The [D.C. Office of the Attorney General] is investigating whether Mr. Pack’s use of his nonprofit’s funds was unlawful and whether he improperly used those funds to benefit himself,” Menendez said in a statement.
“For nearly eight months, Mr. Pack has refused to provide the Senate Foreign Relations Committee with documents it requested that get to the heart of the matter that the OAG is now investigating, or to correct false statements he made to the IRS,” Menendez continued. “His steadfast refusal to honor the commitment to transparency that he gave the Committee at his nomination hearing forces us to ask whether Mr. Pack was actively hiding wrongdoing from the Committee. Chairman [James E. Risch, R-Idaho] never should have put Mr. Pack up for a committee vote in light of Mr. Pack’s refusal to come clean with the Senate on his vetting issues.”
Manifold Productions releases include Created Equal: Clarence Thomas in his Own Words (2020); Rickover, The Birth of Nuclear Power (2014); and The Last 600 Meters (2008), a documentary on two battles from the Iraq War.