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Don't Let this Crime Get Left Behind

By now, most people are familiar with the Armstrong Williams scandal. It was revealed last week that the Education Department paid this spineless pundit $240,000 to promote President Bush's No Child Left Behind bill. Using tax dollars.

Nevertheless, most of the nation's major newspapers (including The New York Times) have failed to follow-up on this story appropriately, relegating meager space to their back pages or failing to mention it at all. (There was no mention of the scandal in the Sunday Times).

Yesterday on Meet the Press, the scandal was mentioned briefly but all blame was put on Armstrong Williams, ignoring the fact that the Bush administration has apparently broken the law. As of yet, no investigation has been launched into this potentially impeachable offense. Like Abu Ghraib, only the little people (Williams in this case) have been held accountable. The bottom line is this: with a Republican majority in Congress we no longer have any checks and balances. It's up to the media to keep this story (this moral and legal crime) alive. Who will Bush bribe to pass his Social Security bill?

Bush Inc has violated:
1. "Publicity and Propaganda" laws recently passed by Congress.
2. The Antideficiency Act.
3. Additionally, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has stated numerous times that, under the laws cited above, taxpayer funds cannot be used by the Executive Branch for activities in which the "obvious purpose is 'self-aggrandizement' or 'puffery.'" The GAO has specifically cited messages that conceal the government's role as illegal "covert propaganda." (#3 taken from Senator Frank Lautenberg's website)

Admirably, Lautenberg is doing his best to keep this story alive:

From NJ Senator's Frank Lautenberg Website:
Lawmakers Demand President Bush to STOP Paying Journalists to Promote Administration Policies

WASHINGTON, DC -- In light of alarming news that the Bush administration paid a popular conservative radio commentator and columnist almost a quarter of a million dollars to skew his reporting to promote the No Child Left Behind Act, United States Senators Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ), Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and Harry Reid (D-NV) sent a letter to President Bush today demanding that he recover the money paid to Armstrong Williams, citing federal laws that prohibit such activity. In addition, the lawmakers also asked President Bush to disclose any payments to other journalists to push Administration policies, including President Bush's decision to privatize Social Security.

In news reports today, it was revealed conservative pundit and commentator Armstrong Williams was paid $240,000 to promote President Bush's No Child Left Behind Act on his syndicated radio program and in addition, to urge other pundits to routinely hype the law during their own appearances on other programs.

In their letter to President Bush, the Lawmakers cite federal laws that prohibit taxpayer funds from being spent by the Executive Branch for "Covert Propaganda".

"In addition to the illegality of these actions taken by your Administration, we believe that the act of bribing journalists to bias their news in favor of government policies undermines the integrity of our democracy. Actions like this were common in the Soviet Union, but until now, thought to be long extinguished in our country," wrote the lawmakers in their letter to President Bush sent today.

These revelations regarding Mr. Williams are the latest -- and most disturbing -- in a series of actions by your Administration to manipulate public opinion through covert propaganda. On May 19, 2004, the GAO found that your Administration illegally spent taxpayer funds on covert propaganda by paying Ketchum Incorporated to produce fake news stories promoting the image of the new Medicare law.

The links below are examples of syndicated columns published by the Tribune Media Company from Armstrong Williams in support of the No Child Left Behind Act.

http://www.townhall.com/columnists/Armstrongwilliams/printaw20040524.shtml

http://www.townhall.com/columnists/Armstrongwilliams/printaw20040107.shtml

http://www.townhall.com/columnists/Armstrongwilliams/printaw20040301.shtml

http://www.townhall.com/columnists/Armstrongwilliams/printaw20040514.shtml

A copy of the letter to President Bush is attached to this release.

January 7, 2005

Honorable George W. Bush President The White House Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Bush:
We are writing to urge you to immediately terminate -- and recover funds from --the contract between your administration and the journalist Armstrong Williams. According to media reports, $240,000 in taxpayer funds were transferred to Mr. Williams in exchange for his agreement to promote the Administration's "No Child Left Behind" initiative on his broadcasts and to interview Education Secretary Rod Paige during his television and radio programs. These payments to Mr. Williams constitute a clear violation of the "Publicity and Propaganda" laws recently passed by Congress. The payments also violated the Antideficiency Act.

In addition to recovering these funds, we would urge you to disclose if any other journalists have been paid by your Administration to skew their media reports in favor of your initiatives, proposals or political messages. For example, have any journalists or media organizations been paid by your Administration to promote your Social Security privatization plan or otherwise promote the idea of a "crisis" in Social Security?

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has stated numerous times that, under the laws cited above, taxpayer funds cannot be used by the Executive Branch for activities in which the "obvious purpose is 'self-aggrandizement' or 'puffery.'" The GAO has specifically cited messages that conceal the government's role as illegal "covert propaganda."

In addition to the illegality of these actions taken by your Administration, we believe that the act of bribing journalists to bias their news in favor of government policies undermines the integrity of our democracy. Actions like this were common in the Soviet Union, but until now, thought to be long extinguished in our country.

These revelations regarding Mr. Williams are the latest -- and most disturbing -- in a series of actions by your Administration to manipulate public opinion through covert propaganda. On May 19, 2004, the GAO found that your Administration illegally spent taxpayer funds on covert propaganda by paying Ketchum Incorporated to produce fake news stories promoting the image of the new Medicare law. This week, the GAO found that fake news stories produced by the Office of National Drug Control Policy also violated the "Publicity and Propaganda" clause. In addition, on November 19, 2004, the GAO launched a new inquiry into the legality of the Department of Education's contract with Ketchum to produce fake news stories and create favorability rankings of journalists. Good government means that our citizens can trust that government policies put the public's interest first. We don't need "payola" and public relations to educate our kids. We need good teachers, good schools and good standards.

Again, we urge you to take immediate action to recover funds from the contracts with Mr. Williams and any other contracts your Administration has entered into with journalists to distort their news or editorial coverage.

Sincerely,

FRANK R. LAUTENBERG
EDWARD M. KENNEDY
HARRY REID

Comments

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