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Friday, October 21, 2005

Even the Emperor's Propaganda Has No Clothes?

By now we all know that Armstrong Williams was paid to promote the NCLB act, but he "forgot" to disclose that he was doing the promotion for cash. Which, technically, may well be against the law (at least the GAO thinks so). Some of us call that kind of PR, when done for a government, as "propagandizing."

Now, it appears that Williams billed, and was paid for, propagandizing he didn’t, well, actually do.

From an AP item:


WASHINGTON --Investigators at the Education Department have contacted the US attorney's office regarding the Bush administration's hiring of
commentator Armstrong Williams to promote its agenda.

The action was disclosed by Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., who has pressed for a criminal fraud investigation focused on questions about whether Williams actually
performed the work cited in his monthly reports to the Education Department.

The Government Accountability Office has concluded that the Education Department engaged in illegal "covert propaganda" by hiring Williams to promote the No Child Left Behind Act without requiring him to disclose that he was being paid. The Education Department's inspector general has also reviewed the Williams deal, which was part of a broader contract that the education agency had with Ketchum, a public relations firm.


[..snip..]

Now the US attorney for the District of Columbia is investigating whether Williams accepted public money without performing his required duties, said Dan Katz, chief counsel for Lautenberg. The attorney's office has a range of potential remedies, from suing to recover the money to possible criminal charges, Katz said.

"It's bad enough the administration bribed a journalist to promote their policies, but now it looks like taxpayer dollars were handed over for work that was never done," said Lautenberg.

Williams, a conservative black commentator, was paid to produce ads promoting the No Child Left Behind law, and to provide media time to department officials and persuade other blacks in the media to discuss the law. GAO auditors could not find the work Williams listed or could not connect the work they found to his contract."



Williams is not alone in his "pay for play:"

Syndicated columnist Maggie_Gallagher received tens of thousands of dollars to promote the "healthy marriage" inititive of the Bush administration, including during times when she was testifying before the U.S. Congress. She said she "didn't feel the need" to disclose her financial arrangement with the White House, because no one ever asked her. (Well, it looks like *someone* likes the "Don't ask, Don't tell" policy)

Another syndicated columnist, Michael McManus, who also runms the "Marriage Savers" organization, was paid to promote a Bush administration "healthy marriage" inititive to divert funds from welfare to marriage counseling. McManus' column is titled "Ethics & Religion"

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