Trump-Appointed Media Agency Chief Accused of Misusing Nonprofit Funds

Conservative filmmaker Michael Pack emerged as a controversial figure since his nomination as CEO of the U.S. Agency for Global Media, which oversees state-run media outlets such as Voice of America.

The Voice of America building in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

(CN) — The head of the U.S. Agency for Global Media illegally funneled millions from his nonprofit to a for-profit film company, the attorney general for the District of Columbia claims in a lawsuit filed Tuesday.

Michael Pack, appointed by President Donald Trump last year, formed the nonprofit Public Media Lab in 2007 and served as the organization’s president and chief executive officer until his nomination.

Since 2008, according to the complaint, tax-exempt funds have flowed from PML to Manifold Productions, a film company founded by Pack in 1977.

“District law requires nonprofits to use their tax-exempt funds for their stated public purpose and not to benefit a private individual or company,” said Karl Racine, the district’s attorney general, in a statement. “Our investigation revealed that, over a 12-year period, Michael Pack personally oversaw Public Media Lab as it unlawfully directed millions of dollars in charitable funds to his for-profit company. In effect, the Public Media Lab functioned to enrich Mr. Pack.”

Pack’s wife, Gina Pack, now runs Manifold Productions. She did not respond to a request for comment. USAGM’s press office also did not respond to a request to speak with Pack.

According to the complaint, nearly all grants issued by PML since its inception went to Manifold Productions – totaling more than $4.11 million. In 2019, almost all the film company’s revenue came from PML, the complaint states.

The two entities share a business address.

The district’s Nonprofit Corporations Act requires nonprofit board of directors to formally authorize any transactions between a nonprofit and an entity connected to a key figure of the organization. But PML’s board members have not held a meeting since at least 2008, the complaint asserts, nor kept any records on how grants are spent.

“Year after year, Manifold was guaranteed funding, exclusively comprised of nonprofit, tax-exempt dollars, without the need to go through any competitive process, answer public scrutiny of these transactions, or provide any accounting on its use of PML funds,” the complaint states.

Pack, a conservative filmmaker, emerged as a controversial figure since his nomination as CEO of the USAGM, which oversees state-run media outlets such as Voice of America. In the past, Pack has collaborated with former Trump adviser Steve Bannon and released documentaries focused on conservative causes.

During his nomination, Democrats warned Pack would turn outlets like Voice of America into propaganda machines.

After his contentious confirmation in June, Pack began firing heads of Radio Free Europe, Middle East Broadcasting Networks and the Open Technology Fund.

Pack also threw out agency rules that protected Voice of America journalists from political interference.

In October, five Voice of America officials brought a federal lawsuit seeking reinstatement after their suspensions. During arguments in the case, a federal judge called the conduct “loathsome.”

The attorney general’s lawsuit seeks to place a hold on all amounts paid to Manifold Productions from Pack’s nonprofit and asks for an accounting of those funds. In addition, the lawsuit asks the court to dissolve the nonprofit. 

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