The Open Know-how Fund (OTF) is suing the U.S. Company for International Media (USAGM) over roughly $20 million in congressionally appropriated funds it says the federal government is refusing to offer, Axios has discovered.
Why it issues: There’s bipartisan uproar from Congress over the funding that OTF says is being withheld. The USAGM, whose new CEO is searching for to exchange OTF leaders with Trump loyalists, is required by legislation to offer the funding by way of federal grants, however it has given shifting rationales for why the cash has been held up.
The large image: The OTF is a government-supported nonprofit targeted on advancing web freedom. With out funds, it will probably’t assist work by activist journalists in locations like Hong Kong and Belarus, the place authorities are more and more cracking down on web freedom.
Particulars: The lawsuit, set to be filed Thursday in federal claims courtroom, alleges the USAGM breached its contracts with the OTF in 3 ways:
- It withheld about $9.four million in funding that it owes below OTF’s 2020 grant settlement.
- It withheld a further $9.eight million in prior OTF program grants held by Radio Free Asia, OTF’s former dad or mum group.
- A USAGM senior adviser “engaged in transparently pretextual efforts to drive OTF into breaching its grant settlement.”
The lawsuit additionally says two chief monetary officers on the USAGM flagged that it was unlawful to withhold the funds, however the USAGM tried to maneuver ahead with the plan anyway.
- The primary CFO, Grant Turner, a longtime profession civil servant, was ordered by a USAGM adviser final week to “stop and desist” transferring a portion of the promised OTF funding. Turner additionally protested the illegal switch of
these OTF funds to a different account.
- Turner stated, in keeping with the lawsuit, that the USAGM’s efforts are a “skinny cowl” for the “operational destruction” of the OTF.
- The next day, Turner’s substitute, appearing CFO John Barkhamer, additionally refused to adjust to the order to switch funds into one other account, in keeping with the lawsuit. He resigned in protest and reported USAGM management’s conduct to the inspector normal for the company.
Be good: The problem of funding the OTF is especially delicate, provided that the USAGM announced on Tuesday that it plans to create and fund its personal Workplace of Web Freedom. Sources worry the company is withholding the OTF’s funds as a way to shift them to its new company, which is prohibited if finished with out congressional approval.