Wednesday, January 26, 2005

all the news that fits into my agenda

a couple weeks ago a big scandal hit revolving around commentator and pundit armstrong williams. it was discovered that williams had received $240,000 from the bush administration to pimp the "no child left behind" act. williams wrote columns, went on tv, & basically stuck his ass in the air at every opportunity to promote NCLB and never disclosed the enormous pile of bribe money propping him up. he tried to claim that it didn't really matter because he liked NCLB & would've talked it up even if he hadn't been paid off. but everyone knew this was garbage (as the prwatch article above explains, he'd sold out before), and he lost his column and punditry jobs. oh, the shame. the media went all out damning williams and the government, although apparently not so many had bad things to say about the pr house that bribed him: ketchum. then again, maybe everyone knows to expect this kind of thing from ketchum.

but now the blood is in the water and others have begun to actually look for government payoffs to journalists and columnists. and surprise surprise, those searches aren't coming up empty.

the next right-wing columnist to be outed as a sell-out is maggie gallagher:

In 2002, syndicated columnist Maggie Gallagher repeatedly defended President Bush's push for a $300 million initiative encouraging marriage as a way of strengthening families.

"The Bush marriage initiative would emphasize the importance of marriage to poor couples" and "educate teens on the value of delaying childbearing until marriage," she wrote in National Review Online, for example, adding that this could "carry big payoffs down the road for taxpayers and children."

But Gallagher failed to mention that she had a $21,500 contract with the Department of Health and Human Services to help promote the president's proposal. Her work under the contract, which ran from January through October 2002, included drafting a magazine article for the HHS official overseeing the initiative, writing brochures for the program and conducting a briefing for department officials.

big money, no whammies. only one tenth of armstrong williams's payoff, but it's still more than 2/3 of what i make in a year. the ethical violation seems clear to me: the govt paid her to work on their program, then she pimped the program without mentioning the 20 large of govt cash in her pockets. do you suppose you might think highly of someone who paid you $21,500?

in her latest column, gallagher tries to dig her way out. first she says that they didn't actually pay her to write columns, so disclosure isn't necessary. of course even if this is true, it's still a fairly blatant conflict of interest, and if she was writing columns about programs she worked for, she was duty-bound to disclose that. and by the end of the column she seems to acknowledge this: her final, official excuse is "the real truth is that it never occurred to me."

hoo boy. gallagher says that armstrong williams "rightly" lost his column and that she isn't interested in the lines of defense he used. but her own defense (oops, i forgot) is even worse than williams's! so she's damn lucky that her ethical lapse isn't quite as bad: she only got one tenth the money, and she wasn't explicitly paid to promote the marriage act in the media. although she did promote it, HHS surely knew she would, and she never disclosed her conflict of interest, so she clearly violated ethical standards. unless things get worse for her, the quotes at the bottom of the post article suggest she won't be losing her job anytime soon. but she's already lost respect (well, not from me; i didn't respect her to begin with) and prestige...

who will be the next to fall?

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