According to a
in today's Detroit Free Press, Armstrong Williams is
negotiating to return some of the money that he was paid under a
government contract. You may recall that Mr.
Williams is a news commentator, and that he received $186,000 in order
to publicly endorse the pending No Child Left Behind legislation.
According to the Free Press (actually, the article was
written by a
staff reporter for USA Today), Mr. WIlliams is going to return some of
the money, because he did not actually do what he had agreed to do,
under the terms of the contract:
Commentator to return federal cash
October 3, 2005
BY GREG TOPPO
[...] Federal investigators, in findings issued Friday, said
contract violated a government ban on covert propaganda. Investigators
said the Williams contract and others -- including a
government-produced video made to look like a news report -- amounted
to illegal propaganda because the government's role wasn't made clear
to viewers or readers.
Williams, a prominent conservative columnist and pundit,
central findings of the investigation and said he was negotiating to
return some of his fees because he didn't promote the law or ask others
to do so, as the contract required. [...]
This would give the impression that the government
paid for work that
was not actually done. I guess that would be bad: a case of
poor oversight; not a scandal. But the article is misleading.
does not say merely that the contract violated
. Rather, it says that the contract was illegal
It says that our government used our own money to disseminate
propaganda to us:
As explained below, we find that the Department
contracted for Armstrong Williams to comment regularly on the No Child
Left Behind Act without assuring that the Department’s role
was disclosed to the targeted audiences. This violated the publicity or
propaganda prohibition for fiscal year 2004 because it amounted to
covert propaganda. As a result of this violation, the Department also
violated the Antideficiency Act, 31 U.S.C. sect. 1341.
The provisions of the Antideficiency Act are here
in case you are curious about this curiously-named legislation.
There is a similar article
in the NYT, but the NYT does not mince words:
Buying of News by Bush's Aides Is Ruled
By ROBERT PEAR
Published: October 1, 2005
WASHINGTON, Sept. 30 - Federal auditors said on Friday that
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
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
relations campaign had been known for months. The report Friday
provided the first definitive ruling on the legality of the activities.
That is more accurate. They broke the law.
President Bush's Department of Education broke the law.
Mr. Williams now says that he did not do what he was hired to
If that is true, then maybe that part of the problem goes
away. But the other two acts (buying favorable news coverage,
and hiring a public relations company to analyze media perceptions of
the Republican Party) remain. So the GAO has ruled that the
law was broken three times, but maybe, if we can believe Mr. Williams,
there were only two illegal activities, plus one instance of poor
Now, for a special treat. We get to find out how
this blog post was, and we do not have to spend any tax dollars to do