Michael Pack settles lawsuit over use of donations, agrees to pay restitution and dissolve nonprofit

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U.S. Senate

Michael Pack speaks at a September 2019 nomination hearing for the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

Lawyers for filmmaker Michael Pack and the attorney general’s office for the District of Columbia have agreed to settle a lawsuit over use of donations to a nonprofit Pack created to support filmmakers.

In May 2020, Pack, a former SVP of television for CPB who has produced several films for public media, came under an investigation led by D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine for allegedly using donations from his nonprofit, Public Media Lab, to fund his independent film and production company, Manifold Productions. 

Public Media Lab’s mission was to receive and award grants to filmmakers, according to federal tax documents, but the attorney general’s office said Pack’s use of funds from the nonprofit warranted an investigation because his activities may have been “unlawful” and “improperly used” to benefit himself.

The attorney general’s office filed the lawsuit in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia’s Civil Division in January 2021. In June 2022, an appellate court judge rejected a motion for dismissal filed by Pack’s attorney in March 2021. Pack’s production company did not return a message seeking comment.

As part of the settlement, Manifold Productions agreed to pay $210,000 in restitution to Public Media Lab. The nonprofit lab will distribute the restitution funds to nonprofit entities “following procedures to be provided by the District” and then dissolve completely after paying off its liabilities, according to a consent judgment and order. Pack’s production company and the nonprofit did not admit wrongdoing or unlawful conduct under the settlement.

The settlement, signed Monday by Associate Judge Shana Frost Matini, includes provisions for monitoring Pack’s involvement with nonprofit organizations. For a period of 10 years, Pack must inform any nonprofit he plans to become involved with as an officer or board member of the settlement. The prospective nonprofit would also be required to notify the D.C. attorney general’s office of his role no later than 30 days before Pack assumes office. Pack could also be subject to enforcement actions in D.C. if concerns arise about him joining the nonprofit.

Pack founded Manifold Productions in 1977; his wife Gina is EP, according to the company’s website. Manifold produced a PBS documentary on Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas in 2020. Other films distributed by PBS focused on nuclear power and Alexander Hamilton.

Pack, who controlled a television budget of $70 million at CPB, left the corporation in 2006. During his tenure, he helped create America at a Crossroads, a $20 million CPB project that examined the world post-9/11. The initiative faced controversies over production issues, according to a 2009 investigation by Current.

Pack is a self-described conservative who was president of the Claremont Institute, a conservative think tank, from 2015–17. Steve Bannon, a strategist who served in the White House during President Trump’s first months in office, was credited as an executive producer of two films Pack created for public television.

In June 2020, following a nomination from Trump and confirmation by the U.S. Senate, Pack became CEO of the U.S. Agency for Global Media, which oversees Voice of America. Pack resigned once President Biden took office in January 2021.

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