House Defeats Commentator Disclosure Bill

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The House Wednesday has voted down an amendment to a Vocational Ed bill that would have prevented use of those funds for paid commentators or video news releases (VNRs) unless both clearly disclosed they were on the government payrolls.

Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), ranking Democrat on the education and workforce subcommittee and one of the leading congressional opponents of unsourced VNRs, had proposed the amendment, saying “The Bush Administration has refused to end the deceptive, wasteful, and illegal practice of producing fake news," then, after the defeat, that the House failed to adopt a commonsense measure to do something about it.”

That and other congressional efforts to crack down on what they label "fake news," stem both from a dispute between Congress and the administration over whether essentially unsourced government press releases violate prohibitions on covert propaganda, and from revelations that conservative commentator Armstrong Williams was paid upwards of $250,000 to promote the Bush Administration's "no child left behind" policy, including talking about it in his broadcast commentaries.

A spokesman for Miller said he will take every opportunity to reintroduce the measure on subsequent spending bills.

The amendment differs from one adopted unanimously by the Senate, which prevents funds from being used for unsourced VNRs, but does not address the issue of paid commentators like Williams.

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