Federal Probe: Pundit Hire Not Unethical

From the federal investigation into the admin’s hiring of conservative pundit Armstrong Williams to promote their education agenda:

The Bush administration’s hiring of a pundit to tout its education agenda was not illegal or unethical, but it was a poor decision and continued even after concerns were raised to the White House, an internal investigation found.

The report by the Education Department’s inspector general cited a pattern of blunders that led to the $240,000 contract with conservative commentator Armstrong Williams.

Senior officials showed poor management, information didn’t get to the right people and the agency paid for work that was poorly produced, Inspector General Jack Higgins said.

The department approved $240,000 for Williams, a commentator with newspaper, television and radio audiences, to promote President Bush’s No Child Left Behind law. The deal was part of a $1.3 million contract the department had with Ketchum, a public relations firm.

Williams, who is black, was hired to inform minorities about Bush’s law by producing ads with then-Education Secretary Rod Paige. Yet, records show Williams also was hired to provide media time to Paige and to persuade other blacks in the media to talk about the law.

Education Secretary Margaret Spellings acknowledged “serious lapses in judgment by senior department officials” but said those directly responsible are no longer at the agency. She pledged to adopt the report’s recommendations and restore credibility to the department.


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