Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Denver news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Des Moines news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Minneapolis-St. Paul news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tampa Bay news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Charlotte news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM) is trying to lure away partners that have provided services for the Open Technology Fund (OTF) to work with a different agency it has stood up called the Office of Internet Freedom (OIF), emails obtained by Axios show.

Meanwhile, the controversy-wracked USAGM under Trump appointee Michael Pack has also been withholding funds from the OTF, a government-supported nonprofit focused on building software that advances internet freedom.

  • Sources say that USAGM has withheld nearly $20 million to-date of funding to the OTF, which critics fear is being routed to the OIF without Congressional approval.

Details: USAGM is reaching out to OTF grant recipients directly in an effort to get them to apply to work for the OIF, according to the emails.

  • Sources say that some vendors have expressed concern as to how their contact information was obtained. The OTF manages sensitive work with journalists and technologists in areas where internet freedom is restricted.
  • In emails to the OTF vendors, USAGM executives urged them to apply to OIF using a set of project categories that mostly overlaps with the OTF's areas of focus and told them they might be able to prequalify based on their existing relationship with OTF.

Between the lines: Observers argue that the USAGM maneuver is an effort to move the funding of internet freedom projects out from under OTF's more rigorous requirements so that money can be funneled to projects favored by USAGM leadership.

The big picture: The USAGM is facing lawsuits and investigations into its handling of OTF as well as other USAGM media agencies, like Voice of America.

  • Last week, 6 USAGM employees filed a whistleblower complaint against USAGM that has since led to investigations by the State Department Office of Inspector General and the Office of Special Counsel.
  • Last Friday oral arguments were heard in the lawsuit brought against Pack after he fired the boards of directors of OTF and other USAGM media outlets.
  • After a report was published last week from NPR that alleged that two political appointees at USAGM were investigating a top VOA journalist for bias, Rep. Michael McCaul, the lead Republican of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told VOA, “I remain very concerned about the state of affairs at USAGM and its grantees like OTF under CEO Pack’s watch.”
  • Pack defied a Congressional subpoena two weeks ago to address questions about withholding funds to the OTF.

What's next: In August, the OTF filed a lawsuit against USAGM for withholding $20 million.

  • Sources say USAGM might be trying to reroute funds from the OTF to OIF before that lawsuit can be resolved.
  • The OTF has added a complaint to its existing lawsuit against USAGM that address the solicitations to vendors.
  • A U.S. federal claims court ruled in late September that OTF will be granted an expedited hearing schedule in light of the new complaint.
  • The court has set a final hearing on Nov. 4.

Go deeper

Armin Laschet elected as leader of Merkel's CDU party in Germany

Armin Laschet. Photo: Christian Marquar - Pool/Getty Images

Armin Laschet, the centrist governor of North Rhine-Westphalia, was elected on Saturday as the new leader of Germany's Christian Democratic Union (CDU), defeating the more conservative Friedrich Merz by a 521-466 margin.

Why it matters: Laschet is now the most likely successor to Chancellor Angela Merkel as the standard bearer of the German center-right heading into September's elections. With Merkel preparing to step down after 16 years in power, Laschet is seen as a continuity candidate.

Updated 11 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: CDC director defends agency's response to coronavirus pandemic — CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Azar says deadly Capitol siege could "tarnish" Trump administration's legacy — Biden says, "We will manage the hell out of" vaccine distribution.
  3. Vaccine: Battling Black mistrust of the vaccines"Pharmacy deserts" could become vaccine deserts — Instacart to give $25 to shoppers who get vaccine.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode againFed chair: No interest rate hike coming any time soon —  Inflation rose more than expected in December.
  5. World: WHO team arrives in China to investigate pandemic origins.
Bryan Walsh, author of Future
19 mins ago - Politics & Policy

America is anxious, angry and heavily armed

Data: FBI; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Firearms background checks in the U.S. hit a record high in 2020.

The big picture: This past year took our collective arsenal to new heights, with millions of Americans buying guns for the first time. That trend coincides with a moment of peak political and social tension.

You’ve caught up. Now what?

Sign up for Mike Allen’s daily Axios AM and PM newsletters to get smarter, faster on the news that matters.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!