Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Another Conservative "Journalist" Found To Be On Bush Payroll

This story is getting repetitive.

First we learn that Armstrong Williams was paid by the Bush Administration to tout No Child Left Behind (http://jabbs.blogspot.com/2005/01/is-there-word-for-what-armstrong.html). Then word spread that William Kristol and Charles Krauthammer had consulted the administration on Bush's inaugural address (http://jabbs.blogspot.com/2005/01/kristol-krauthammer-lauded-bush.html).

Now comes word that syndicated conservative columnist Maggie Gallagher had a $21,500 contract with the Department of Health and Human Services to promote President Bush's push for a $300 million initiative encouraing marriage.

According to today's issue of The Washington Post, Gallagher was contracted from January to October 2002, and the terms of the deal included "drafting a magazine article for the HHS official overseeing the initiative, writing brochures for the program and conducting a briefing for department officials. "

The Post reported that Gallagher received an additional $20,000 from the Bush administration in 2002 and 2003 for writing a report, titled "Can Government Strengthen Marriage?", for a private organization called the National Fatherhood Initiative. That report, published last year, was funded by a Justice Department grant, NFI spokesman Vincent DiCaro told the Post.

***

President Bush, asked about the practice at a news conference this morning, made the rare admission that his administration had been wrong to quietly award contracts to "journalists." Bush said he expects his Cabinet secretaries to end the practice.

"We didn't know about this in the White House. There needs to be a nice independent relationship between the White House and the press, the administration and the press," the Post quoted Bush as saying. "All our Cabinet secretaries must realize that we will not be paying commentators to advance our agenda. Our agenda ought to be able to stand on its own two feet."

***

Gallagher, of course, never mentioned the conflict of interest with her readers. And she and her syndicator didn't seem all that bothered by that conflict.

"Did I violate journalistic ethics by not disclosing it?" the Post quoted Gallagher saying yesterday. "I don't know. You tell me." She said she would have "been happy to tell anyone who called me" about the contract but that "frankly, it never occurred to me" to disclose it.

Later yesterday, Gallagher filed a column in which she said that "I should have disclosed a government contract when I later wrote about the Bush marriage initiative. I would have, if I had remembered it. My apologies to my readers."

But in her interview with the Post, Gallagher said her situation was "not really anything near" the recent controversy involving Williams. Williams apologized earlier this month for not disclosing a $241,000 contract with the U.S. Department of Education.

Tribune Media Services dropped Williams' column after his administration contract was disclosed. Universal Press Syndicate, which distributes Gallagher's column, plans no such action.

"We did not know about the contract," spokeswoman Kathie Kerr told the Post. "We would have probably liked to have known." But, Kerr said, "this is what we hired Maggie to write about. It probably wouldn't have changed our mind to distribute it."

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