Friday, January 7

An education "Strong Arm" tactic.

Conservative commentator and talk show host Armstrong Williams got his hand caught in the cookie jar.

USA Today broke the story Friday morning, detailing how Williams' company got a $240,000 contract from the US Department of Education to highlight the advantages of the No Child Left Behind Act.
The contract, detailed in documents obtained by USA TODAY through a Freedom of Information Act request, also shows that the Education Department, through the Ketchum public relations firm, arranged with Williams to use contacts with America's Black Forum, a group of black broadcast journalists, "to encourage the producers to periodically address" NCLB. He persuaded radio and TV personality Steve Harvey to invite Paige onto his show twice.
White House spokesman Trent Duffy said he couldn't comment because the White House is not involved in departments' contracts. Education Department spokesman John Gibbons said the contract followed standard government procedures. Gibbons said there are no plans to continue with "similar outreach."
Williams' contract was part of a $1 million deal with Ketchum that produced "video news releases" designed to look like news reports. The Bush administration used similar releases last year to promote its Medicare prescription drug plan, prompting a scolding from the Government Accountability Office, which called them an illegal use of taxpayers' dollars.
Forget the ethical problems involved here. This is precisely the kind of trouble you can expect to get into when you aren't careful about the multiple hats you wear. Williams deserves to be scolded, if for no other reason than for being stupid about how things will look under public scrutiny.