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Armstrong Williams Payments Illegal, Says GAO - Broadcasting & Cable

Armstrong Williams Payments Illegal, Says GAO

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The Government Accountability Office says Bush administration payments to broadcast commentator Armstrong Williams to promote its "No Child Left Behind" policy were illegal, according to Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), ranking member of the Education and Workforce Committee and one of the leading critics of the Department of Education's PR contract with Williams.

In a report requested by Sens. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), the GAO found that the payments--around $250,000--violated prohibitions on funding "covert propaganda."

The DOE's own investigation found no illegality in the awarding of the contracts, though it found problems with oversight that the department pledged to address, leaving it to GAO to rule on the legality of the practices cited.

GAO also found a Ketchum Communications media analysis of public attitudes toward the Bush administration and Republicans illegal, said Miller Friday.

“This latest report confirms that the Bush administration broke the law when it wasted taxpayer dollars to promote its own political agenda," said Miller in a statement. "This practice is corrupt and deceptive."

GAO and the Justice department, the administration's controlling legal authority, have not seen eye to eye on covert propaganda in the past, specifically on the issue of unidentified packaged video news releases. GAO says VNRs are illegal; Justice says the releases are not, so long as they are fact-based.

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