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From Washinton Post,
Since Jan. 7, when USA Today revealed that the Education Department paid a television pundit to give favorable coverage to the Bush administration’s education policy, the pundit, Armstrong Williams,has had his credibility damaged and his newspaper column canceled. He’s unlikely to even begin regaining any credibility unless he returns the $241,000 of taxpayers’ money that the department, through a consulting firm, paid him to promote the No Child Left Behind law.
But there were two parties to this unethical contract. One of them, Mr. Williams, at least has acknowledged error and expressed regret. The other, the Education Department, has yet to acknowledge anything wrong with government payments to journalists, let alone apologize. The department, whose spokesman refuses to answer further questions about the contract, continues to defend its legality and still appears to be under the impression that paying journalists is a “straightforward distribution of information.”
Rep. George Miller (Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the House Education Committee, rightly has joined other Democrats in asking the Government Accountability Office to seek further information about the arrangements.
Rep. John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), the committee chairman, has called on the Education Department’s inspector general to investigate, and we hope he will do so immediately. Who approved this payment? What other journalists, if any, were paid? This week Ayad Allawi, the interim Iraqi prime minister, was caught handing out cash to Iraqi journalists to ensure coverage of his news conferences. Some of the journalists said afterward that the gesture reminded them of Saddam Hussein’s regime, which also bribed journalists. Maybe Mr. Allawi was not relying on advice from old Baathists, but from the U.S. Education Department.