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Another columnist paid to help promote Bush policy


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WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Department of Health and Human Services said Friday that a third conservative columnist was paid to assist in promoting a Bush administration policy.

 

Columnist Mike McManus received $10,000 to train marriage counselors as part of the agency's initiative promoting marriage to build strong families, said Wade Horn, assistant secretary for children and families.

 

The disclosure came as the Government Accountability Office sent a letter to the Education Department on Friday asking for all materials related to its contract dealings with a prominent conservative media commentator.

 

That department, through a contract with the public relations firm Ketchum, hired commentator Armstrong Williams to produce ads that featured former Education Secretary Rod Paige and promoted President Bush's No Child Left Behind law. The contract also committed Williams, who is black, to provide media access for Paige and to persuade other black journalists to talk about the law.

 

Federal law bans the use of public money on propaganda.

 

The Education Department received the GAO's letter and is reviewing it, said department spokeswoman Susan Aspey. "Secretary Spelling has made it very clear she is getting to the bottom of this."

 

Margaret Spellings started this week, replacing Paige.

 

In a letter to Sens. Arlen Specter, R-Pennsylvania, and Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, dated Friday, Spellings wrote, "At this point, what I can say is that at a minimum, there were errors of judgments at the Department, and I am diligently working to get to the bottom of it all."

 

The lawmakers are the chairman and the ranking member of a panel that oversees education spending, and their subcommittee is looking into the matter.

 

Spellings also said the department has directed Ketchum to stop all work under the contract.

 

Earlier this week, Bush ordered his Cabinet secretaries not to hire columnists to promote administration agendas. The declaration was prompted by reports that Williams and another columnist, Maggie Gallagher, had been paid by the administration.

 

All three columnists failed to disclose to their readers their relationships with the administration.

 

Health and Human Services' Horn stressed McManus was not paid to write favorably to about the administration. Still, he said, HHS has now implemented a rule to prohibit the use of outside consultants or contractors who have any connection with the press.

 

"There's a growing misperception that taxpayers' money is being used to pay columnists to use their position in the media to portray the administration in a positive light," Horn said. "I felt a compelling need to draw a bright line in order to restore the public's confidence that we are not doing that."

 

McManus was hired by the Lewin Group, which had a contract with HHS to support community-based programs. As co-founder and president of the nonprofit group Marriage Savers, his expertise was applied to help the community-based programs to build "the capacity to develop healthy marriage initiatives," Horn said.

 

The Institute for Youth Development, which got a grant from HHS, also is paying Marriage Savers $49,000 to offer guidance to unmarried couples who are having children, Horn said.

 

McManus has written supportively about the HHS marriage initiative in many of his columns since the consulting work began in January 2003.

 

McManus' weekly column appears in about 50 newspapers. He would not comment Friday but said he planned to issue a statement.

 

HHS spokesman Bill Pierce said he was unaware of any other columnists or commentators who were being paid to do work for the department.

 

Determining who is considered a journalist isn't always easy, Horn said.

 

"Oftentimes they will be experts in an area, write op-eds, be a media personality, write columns," he said. "The question really is: Is it legitimate for the government to draw upon that?"

 

Gallagher apologized this week to readers for not disclosing a $21,500 contract with HHS to help create materials promoting the marriage initiative.

 

The Education Department paid Williams $240,000 to produce television and radio ads promoting the No Child Left Behind Act. Williams has apologized and called it a mistake in judgment not to disclose that the administration was paying him.

 

Sens. Edward Kennedy, D-Massachusetts, and Frank Lautenberg, D-New Jersey, had requested the GAO to expand a continuing inquiry into the matter.

 

"The issue here isn't just whether a journalist violated ethics, but whether the Bush Administration broke the law," Lautenberg said Friday. "If the GAO finds that the payment to Armstrong Williams was an illegal use of taxpayer dollars, then the money should be returned and Education Department officials should be held accountable."

 

USA Today first reported the McManus contract Friday.

 

 

 

http://www.cnn.com/2005/ALLPOLITICS/01/28/...s.ap/index.html

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I love the fact that since there isn't much support for Bush's policies, or not enough, that he has to pay people to act like they think it's a good idea. With taxpayer dollars even....

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Yeah, not much support.

 

How'd that election go, by the way?

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So if you voted for Bush, you endorse all his polices? Fiscal conservatives want to increase the deficit? Is there a p-word Im looking for here...pluralism?

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Should go back 12 years and see what turns up too :plain

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Good to see some good old fashion unbiased libertarian outrage. :lol

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CNN reported that Clinton did similar non-competitive "promotional" contracts.

 

I would like to see all such things for the past couple of decades exposed so the public can determine the extent of how they've been snookered.

 

Outrage? If this is the best you can come up with to be "outraged" over, life must be pretty boring at the moment... :plain

 

IMO, this warrants a solid "irked" that results in rules spiking the practice, not an "outraged".

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Because a thread about a conservative group wasting its money on billboards making fun of hollywood is sooo much more interesting. But I guess you gotta maintain your average of starting 7 threads a day. I think if you look through the pages of this specific subforum, its pretty evident whose life is boring.

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Whether or not they can pin anything illegal on these individuals, the practice is blatantly unethical. Not that government officials ever seem to care about that sort of thing...

 

All they can manage is a "well there may have been some errors in judgement...."

 

horseshit. They know damn well what they were doing. And they know there are no consequences.

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Maybe if the Dems could have put out a decent candidate, they would have won. Iraq is starting to take shape thanks to Bush. Kerry is a joke. Don't tell me that Hillary is next. I would love to see Rudy Guliani run for the Reps next!

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Unfortunately, Hillary might be our best hope in 2008, although it's very very early yet. If it was Hillary vs. Giuliani, I could just imagine all the mud-slinging ads used by both sides....it could get very nasty indeed.

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The governor from Virginia makes alot sense if you ask me.Definitely need to attract the southern voters.

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I'm mixed on whether or not that matters.

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It isnt the southern voters that matter its the moderate voters. In order to win an election outirght u need to have moderate views to sway moderate voters. Of course a dme will lean more to the left and a rep more to the right, but keep it near center and ull win ina landslide. My prefered candidate is a fiscal conservative who is socially liberal, but that puts more importance on fiscal matters than social matters

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keep it near center and ull win ina? landslide

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The heads of the Democratic party do not understand this concept.

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What did Kerry propose that made him an extreme liberal? What policies has Bush undertaken that can be considered comprimises on the center? Last time I checked, a 4% victory isnt a landslide. This election had little to do with moderates. Ask the Christian right and they say they are responsible for this election, not the moderates.

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keep it near center and ull win ina landslide

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The heads of the Democratic party do not understand this concept.

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What did Kerry propose that made him an extreme liberal? What policies has Bush undertaken that can be considered comprimises on the center? Last time I checked, a 4% victory isnt a landslide. This election had little to do with moderates. Ask the Christian right and they say they are responsible for this election, not the moderates.

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Neither candidate was a moderate. Which is why there wasnt a landslide. Kerry is defintely not a moderate based on his fiscal voting record in mass. Im not saying hes an extreme leftist either, but hes defintely not a moderate

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Kerry has one of the most liberal records in the Senate. What he campaigned on and what he has done are two different things. How many times did Kerry change his position on topics. Dont talk down to me asking me what Kerry said and blah blah blah. No it wasnt a landslide victory by W, but it was a mandate. When over 50% vote for a candidate, you can consider that a mandate.

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