New York Times Profiles Randall Tobias, President Bush’s Nominee To Head Global AIDS Initiative
Although former Eli Lilly executive Randall Tobias -- who has been nominated by President Bush to head the global AIDS initiative -- "is a household name" in Indianapolis, where Lilly is based, he "is a bit of a mystery man" elsewhere, the New York Times reports. According to the Times, AIDS advocacy organizations say that they know "so little about him that none have announced plans to oppose his Senate confirmation" (McNeil, New York Times, 7/29). Bush on July 2 nominated Tobias to head a new State Department office assigned to oversee the global AIDS initiative (HR 1298), which authorizes $3 billion a year over five years for HIV/AIDS programs in Africa and the Caribbean, with up to $1 billion in fiscal year 2004 going to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. As coordinator, Tobias would work under the secretary of state, and he would be able to distribute funds directly to nongovernmental organizations and transfer funds between government agencies. The position will carry the rank of ambassador (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/3).
Since retiring from Lilly, Tobias has dedicated himself to running the foundation he created, donating mostly to childhood literacy programs and supporting the Damien Center, an AIDS service organization in Indianapolis. Tobias' supporters say that he will approach the job of global AIDS coordinator "with the same talent for consensus building that he has shown on the boards of Duke University, Phillips Petroleum and Colonial Williamsburg," but his critics are afraid that Tobias "knows little about AIDS in Africa," according to the Times. "We're up on a lot of people and we don't know anything about him, and that's not good," Kate Krauss of the AIDS Policy Project said, adding, "But I'm interested in his performance, not his personality." Tracy Elliot, executive director of the Damien Center, said, "I imagine he'll attack [the job] as a practical businessman, saying 'We've got a market to reach.'" The Times notes that Tobias declined to be interviewed for the article because of his upcoming Senate confirmation hearings (New York Times, 7/29).