BBG Watch Commentary
BBG Watch has learned that a former Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) Republican member S. Enders Wimbush, who criticized a current BBG Republican member, Ambassador Victor Ashe, was recently rejected by the BBG as one of the candidates for the position of interim Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) president at the insistence of Victor Ashe. The position went to former RFE/RL president and former NPR executive Kevin Klose.
S. Enders Wimbush was quoted in Joe Davidson’s Washington Post article, “Report blasts foreign broadcasting board as ‘dysfunctional’ and ‘ineffectual’,” as saying: “Having spent two years in meetings and discussions with Victor Ashe, I think the OIG gave him a very light going over.”
Wimbush was referring to the Office of Inspector General report on the BBG, which has been widely criticized for being unprofessional, incomplete and biased, particularly in its attack on Victor Ashe. A champion of improving employee morale at the agency, Ashe is the most liked and respected BBG Governor among rank and file employees.
In an immediate response to the OIG report, the BBG employee union accused OIG inspectors of completely siding with the BBG’s International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) senior staffers who have been consistently rated in the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) employee viewpoint surveys as being the worst managers in the Federal Government.
Joe Davidson reported in his article that the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Local 1812 called the report a “hatchet job” and urged Congress to investigate why the inspector general did its investigation. The AFGE said the inspector general was “so brazen in its attempt to besmirch a person’s character.”
Davidson also reported that Local 1812’s president, Timothy Shamble, said Ashe has been “very gracious and nice to the rank and file.” Added Greg Burns, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 1418: “He actually listens to the union’s insight. . . . None of the other governors take any interest.” According to our sources, however, some of the other BBG Governors are now actively paying more attention to management issues affecting employee morale, including fair treatment of the agency’s federal and contract employees.
For his attempts to expose waste and mismanagement and increase accountability at the agency, Ashe is intensely disliked by the entrenched senior IBB executives who seemed to have gotten OIG inspectors’ ear, one former BBG official told BBG Watch. “Unfortunately, the inspectors were not very perceptive or sufficiently familiar with the agency. They failed to uncover any waste, just as earlier they completely had missed signs of serious waste and mismanagement at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty,” a former BBG official said. Ashe was pointing out these problems before anybody else, a former official added.
Unlike former BBG Governor Wimbush, none of the currently serving BBG Governors has said anything in public against Ashe. BBG Watch has learned that Ashe works well with at least some of the other BBG members, including Democrats Susan McCue and Michael Meehan, and has received their support for his call for the former RFE/RL president Steven Korn to resign and be replaced by Kevin Klose.
BBG Watch has learned that in recent conversations and meetings with other BBG members, Ashe argued strongly against Wimbush becoming Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty interim president and CEO. Wimbush may have been told of Ashe’s opposition and his comment for the Washington Post article may reflect his anger at Ashe for opposing him.
Both Ashe and Wimbush are Republicans, but Ashe had opposed many of the positions supported by Wimbush before Wimbush resigned from the Board. Wimbush had supported termination of Voice of America (VOA) radio and television broadcasts to China, a move opposed by Ashe, media freedom NGOs, and many members of Congress who forced the BBG to abandon the idea.
According to several sources, other BBG members also had reservations about Wimbush becoming interim RFE/RL president and he was not offered the position. Wimbush had tried a decade ago to become RFE/RL president but failed to win the position at that time.