Buying of News by Bush's Aides Is Ruled Illegal
By ROBERT PEAR
Published: October 1, 2005 NY Times
WASHINGTON, Sept. 30 - Federal auditors said on Friday that the Bush administration violated the law by buying favorable news coverage of President Bush's education policies, by making payments to the conservative commentator Armstrong Williams and by hiring a public relations company to analyze media perceptions of the Republican Party.
In a blistering report, the investigators, from the Government Accountability Office, said the administration had disseminated "covert propaganda" in the United States, in violation of a statutory ban.
October 4, 2005
Faux News Is Bad News
Federal auditors have blistered the Bush administration for secretly concocting favorable news reports about itself by hiring actors to pose as journalists and slipping $240,000 in taxpayer funds to a sell-out conservative polemicist. The government till was also tapped to have political spin doctors track whether the message of President Bush and the Republican Party was being well treated in legitimate news reporting.
In its purchase of self-aggrandizing agitprop, the administration plainly violated the law against spreading "covert propaganda" at public expense, according to the report of the Government Accountability Office. More than that, Bush officials forged a cheesy new low in Washington politicians' endless bazaar of peddling public relations initiatives at taxpayers' expense.
The White House order to close down the ersatz news coverage should have been unequivocal once the real news media uncovered the hired fakers. But administration apologists continued to insist only "legitimate dissemination" of public information was at work in the under-the-table employment of Armstrong Williams, a political talk-show host, to wax breathless over the No Child Left Behind Act.
The scheme was so seamy that auditors were unable to document whether Mr. Williams actually delivered all the articles and talk-show hype that his company claimed in quietly billing the government for $186,000 worth of yessiree-Bob "news." On Friday, a spokeswoman for the current education secretary, Margaret Spellings, reacted to the report by calling these efforts "stupid, wrong and ill advised." We hope she noticed that they were also illegal.
Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company