Friday, January 28, 2005

The Appearance of Impropriety, part 4

It seems Armstrong Williams was correct about not being the only one on the payroll. Shills numbers two and three have fallen out of their trees in short order.
A bit more about Shill Two here. Scroll down a bit to find the story.


Blogger Management said...

Writer Backing Bush Plan Had Gotten Federal Contract

By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 26, 2005; Page C01

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.

"Did I violate journalistic ethics by not disclosing it?" Gallagher said 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 in the day, 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."

In the interview, Gallagher said her situation was "not really anything near" the recent controversy involving conservative commentator Armstrong Williams. Earlier this month Williams apologized for not disclosing a $241,000 contract with the Education Department, awarded through the Ketchum public relations firm, to promote Bush's No Child Left Behind law through advertising on his cable TV and syndicated radio shows and other efforts.

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, said NFI spokesman Vincent DiCaro. Gallagher said she was "aware vaguely" that her work was federally funded.

In columns, television appearances and interviews with such newspapers as The Washington Post, Gallagher last year defended Bush's proposal for a constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriage.

Wade Horn, HHS assistant secretary for children and families, said his division hired Gallagher as "a well-known national expert," along with other specialists in the field, to help devise the president's healthy marriage initiative. "It's not unusual in the federal government to do that," he said.

The essay Gallagher drafted appeared under Horn's byline -- with the headline "Closing the Marriage Gap" -- and ran in Crisis magazine, which promotes humanism rooted in Catholic Church teachings. Horn said most of the brochures written by Gallagher -- such as "The Top Ten Reasons Marriage Matters" -- were not used as the program evolved.

"I don't see any comparison between what has been alleged with Armstrong Williams and what we did with Maggie Gallagher," said Horn, who founded the National Fatherhood Initiative before entering government. "We didn't pay her to write columns. We didn't pay her to promote the president's healthy marriage initiative at all. What we wanted to do was use her expertise." The Education Department is now investigating the Williams contract.

The author of three books on marriage, Gallagher is president of the Washington-based Institute for Marriage and Public Policy, a frequent television guest and has written on the subject for such publications as the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Weekly Standard.

While she was being paid by HHS in 2002, Gallagher in her syndicated column dismissed the arguments against "President Bush's modest marriage initiative" as "nonsense," writing: "Bush plans to use a tiny fraction of surplus welfare dollars to fund marriage education services for at-risk couples."

In a column later that year that appeared in the Myrtle Beach (S.C.) Sun News, Gallagher said Bush's welfare-revision bill would, among other things, encourage "stable marriages," and that it was a "scandal" for Democrats to reject the president's plan and fail to offer an alternative.

National Review Editor Rich Lowry said of the HHS contract: "We would have preferred that she told us, and we would have disclosed it in her bio."

Tribune Media Services dropped Williams's 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 said. "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."

8:14 PM  
Blogger Management said...

Payola Part Two

On the heels of the Armstrong Williams scandal, the contractual obligations of another commentator cheerleader have been exposed. In 2002, syndicated columnist Maggie Gallagher staunchly defended the Bush marriage initiative in any venue that would give her space without disclosing that she was under a $20,000-plus contract with the Department of Health and Human Services to promote the proposal. She "received an additional $20,000 from the Bush Administration" for authoring a report, "titled 'Can Government Strengthen Marriage?', for a private organization." In one of her columns, Gallagher goes on to plug this same policy brief and encourages HHS to implement it, of course, without mentioning her financial connection. After the Armstrong Williams debacle, White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan rebuffed questions about whether there were additional commentators on the government dole, saying, "I'm not aware of any others that are under contract."YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR: The department certainly got its money's worth. Gallagher commissioned polls to contradict other columnists who had found the public was not fond of the Bush marriage initiative, suggested that marriage education programs reduce divorce and domestic violence, repeatedly advocated the Bush marriage initiative and attacked its critics, and went so far as to state that the future prosperity of our nation depends on our appreciation of marriage. Though Gallagher makes the argument that the contract was for specific work to be done, and thus not the same as the one under which Armstrong Williams was placed, the contract apparently puts no limit on the "variety of activities" in which Gallagher can be engaged on its behalf. After originally questioning whether or not the situation was an issue of journalistic ethics in the first place, Gallagher has "apologized" by claiming that she had forgotten about the contract.

TAKE ACTION: E-mail Lee Salem – executive vice president for print syndication at Universal Press Syndicate – and tell him that Gallagher has violated the trust of her readers and destroyed her credibility. Demand UPS immediately stop distributing her column.

8:19 PM  
Blogger Management said...

Third columnist caught with hand in the Bush till
Michael McManus, conservative author of the syndicated column "Ethics & Religion," received $10,000 to promote a marriage initiative.
Jan. 27, 2005 | And three makes a trend.

One day after President Bush ordered his Cabinet secretaries to stop hiring commentators to help promote administration initiatives, and one day after the second high-profile conservative pundit was found to be on the federal payroll, a third embarrassing hire has emerged. Salon has confirmed that Michael McManus, a marriage advocate whose syndicated column, "Ethics & Religion," appears in 50 newspapers, was hired as a subcontractor by the Department of Health and Human Services to foster a Bush-approved marriage initiative. McManus championed the plan in his columns without disclosing to readers he was being paid to help it succeed.

Responding to the latest revelation, Dr. Wade Horn, assistant secretary for children and families at HHS, announced Thursday that HHS would institute a new policy that forbids the agency from hiring any outside expert or consultant who has any working affiliation with the media. "I needed to draw this bright line," Horn tells Salon. "The policy is being implemented and we're moving forward."

Horn's move came on the heels of Wednesday's report in the Washington Post that HHS had paid syndicated columnist and marriage advocate Maggie Gallagher $21,000 to write brochures and essays and to brief government employees on the president's marriage initiative. Gallagher later wrote in her column that she would have revealed the $21,000 payment to readers had she recalled receiving it.

The Gallagher revelation came just three weeks after USA Today reported that the Education Department, through a contract with the Ketchum public relations firm, paid $240,000 to Armstrong Williams, a conservative African-American print, radio and television pundit, to help promote Bush's No Child Left Behind program to minority audiences.

To date, the Bush administration has paid public relation firms $250 million to help push proposals, according to a report Thursday in USA Today. That's double what the Clinton administration spent on P.R. from 1997 to 2000. Shortly after Williams' contract came to light, the Democrats on the Committee on Government Reform wrote a letter to President Bush demanding that he "immediately provide to us all past and ongoing efforts to engage in covert propaganda, whether through contracts with commentators, the distribution of video news releases, or other means." As of Thursday, a staffer on the committee told Salon, there had been no response.

Horn says McManus, who could not be reached for comment, was paid approximately $10,000 for his work as a subcontractor to the Lewin Group, a health care consultancy hired by HHS to implement the Community Healthy Marriage Initiative, which encourages communities to combat divorce through education and counseling. McManus provided training during two-day conferences in Chattanooga, Tenn., and also made presentations at HHS-sponsored conferences. His syndicated column has appeared in such papers as the Washington Times, the Dallas Morning News and the Charlotte Observer.

Horn, who has known McManus for years, says he first learned about the payment on Thursday. In the wake of the Gallagher story, he asked his staff to review all outside contracts and determine if there were any other columnists being paid by HHS. They informed him about McManus. Horn says the review for similar contracts continues.

Horn insists that HHS was not paying Gallagher and McManus to write about Bush administration initiatives but for their expertise as marriage advocates. "We live in a complicated world and people wear many different hats," he says. "People who have expertise might also be writing columns. The line has become increasingly blurred between who's a member of the media and who is not. Thirty years ago if you were a columnist, then you were a full-time employee of a newspaper. Columnists today are different."

The problem springs from the failure of both Gallagher and McManus to disclose their government payments when writing about the Bush proposals. But one HHS critic says another dynamic has led to the controversy, and a blurring of ethical and journalistic lines: Horn and HHS are hiring advocates -- not scholars -- from the pro-marriage movement. "They're ideological sympathizers who propagandize," says Tim Casey, attorney for Legal Momentum, a women's rights organization. He describes McManus as being a member of the "extreme religious right."

Horn denies the charge: "It's not true that we have just been selectively working with conservatives." According to news accounts, the administration seeks to spend $1.5 billion promoting marriage through marriage-enrichment courses, counseling and public-awareness campaigns.

In 1996, McManus co-founded Marriage Savers, a conservative advocacy group, which, among other things, urges clergy not to conduct a marriage ceremony unless the couple has had lengthy counseling first. "The church should not be a 'wedding factory,' but a training ground for strong marriages to go the distance -- for life," McManus wrote.

In his April 3, 2004, column, McManus wrote, "The Healthy Marriage Initiative would provide funds to help those couples improve their skills of conflict resolution so they might actually marry -- and be equipped to build a healthy marriage. Those skills can be taught by mentor couples in churches for free. But for the non-religious, counselors would be paid."

A year earlier, McManus assured readers that funds provided for the Healthy Marriage Initiative "could be used to teach skills to improve communication and resolve conflict that would make the relationship happier and lead to a healthy marriage." He based that assessment on comments made by HHS's Horn, who, indirectly, served as McManus' boss -- although that relationship was never revealed to readers.

8:21 PM  

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