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Pay-for-promotion 'news' and 'commentary' ruled illegal

“We see no use for such information except for partisan political purposes. Engaging in a purely political activity such as this is not a proper use of appropriated funds.”

— report by investigators from the Government Accountability Office

You might recall back in January, that commentator Armstrong Williams was busted for promoting No Child Left Behind after receiving $240K from the White House. His PR firm, Ketchum, Inc., sldo produced “video news releases” designed to look like news reports about Administration policies.

Federal auditors ruled yesterday that this is illegal. (NYT):

Federal auditors said on Friday that the Bush administration violated the law by buying favorable news coverage of President Bush’s education policies, by making payments to the conservative commentator Armstrong Williams and by hiring a public relations company to analyze media perceptions of the Republican Party.

In a blistering report, the investigators, from the Government Accountability Office, said the administration had disseminated “covert propaganda” in the United States, in violation of a statutory ban.

The contract with Mr. Williams and the general contours of the public relations campaign had been known for months. The report Friday provided the first definitive ruling on the legality of the activities. Lawyers from the accountability office, an independent nonpartisan arm of Congress, found that the administration systematically analyzed news articles to see if they carried the message, “The Bush administration/the G.O.P. is committed to education.”

The report also sharply criticized the Education Department for telling Ketchum Inc., a public relations company, to pay Mr. Williams for newspaper columns and television appearances praising Mr. Bush’s education initiative, the No Child Left Behind Act.

Conservative syndicated columnist Maggie Gallagher was one of the witnesses picked by Republicans to testify on protecting the Defense of Marriage Act. Gallagher wrote in a column that it would be better for the nation to legalize polygamy than it would to legalize gay marriage.

We can’t forget homo-bigot Maggie Gallagher, either. She took her turn in the taxpayer’s trough in 2002, pimping Bush’s “strengthening families through marriage” initiative, inking a $21,500 contract with the Department of Health and Human Services to shill policy. Gallagher said she was “aware vaguely” that her work was federally funded.


While we’re on the subject of Armstrong Williams, the conservative homophobe is a big old queen himself. He was sued for sexual harassment by a man, and it all blew up in Army’s face (Direland):

What gives a delicious twist to the story is that it exposes Williams, a black conservative, as a homophobic sexual hypocrite and closet case who didn’t practice what he was preaching. Williams was trotted out on CNN and other cable nets repeatedly last year during the gay marriage controversy to trash those who argued that marriage equality for same-sex lovers was a “civil right,” an argument which Williams’ pigmentation–in the eyes of TV news producers–gave him standing to make. As originally reported by New York magazine back in 1998:

“Armstrong Williams, the conservative talk-show host who instigated a firestorm last week by asking the senator from Mississippi whether homosexuality is a sin, is being sued for sexual harassment by a former employee who happens to be male. Last year, Stephen Gregory — the former YMCA personal trainer whom Williams promoted to executive producer of his show — alleged in his suit that the boss grabbed his buttocks and penis, tried to kiss him, and climbed into his hotel-room bed asking for “affection” while they were traveling together. Williams immediately held a press conference to denounce Gregory’s allegations as “false, baseless, and completely completely without merit.”

After the man who was suing him produced affidavits from other men on whom Williams had pressed his unwanted attentions, Williams was forced to admit his denial was a lie, and settled the lawsuit–which alleged 50 seperate incidents of rejected physical advances–for $200,000.

Thanks to Blender Holly for the pointer.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding