Education Dept. Clears Itself of Wrongdoing in Pundit Payola Case

Okay, nothing to see here, folks. Move along, move along :

Senior Education Department officials showed poor judgment in hiring conservative commentator Armstrong Williams to promote agency programs, a department investigation found Friday.

However, the department’s inspector general said there was no evidence of legal or ethical violations. (Empasis added.)

The department paid $240,000 to 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 conduct “minority outreach” about Bush’s law by producing ads with then-Education Secretary Rod Paige. Records show Williams was also hired to provide media time to Paige and to persuade other blacks in the media to talk about the law.

“We did find that department officials made some poor management decisions and exercised poor judgment and oversight,” the inspector general said. “As a result, the department paid for work that most likely did not reach its intended audience and paid for deliverables that were never received.”

The fact this story broke on a Friday afternoon is a major clue that there’s more here than meets the eye. It is illegal for the government to create propaganda, for one thing.

What is unsaid about the scandalousness of this payout is that Armstrong Williams, who is nothing but a tool of the Republican Party, was paid nearly a quarter million dollars in taxpayer funds to do and say things he would have done and said without being paid.

Bottom line is, this investigation accomplished nothing – except to demonstrate the skill and remorselessness with which this administration tells its lies. The cost of this purported investigation by the Education Dept. – and no doubt it’s in the millions – should be added to Armstrong’s $240,000 when the costs to the taxpayers in the scandal are aggregated.


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