Rod Paige should learn to keep his mouth shut. Bush’s Secretary of Education, who once called the NEA a “terrorist organization” and has a history of fraud, is now defending his agency’s decision to violate federal law by entering into a contract to illegally distribute government propaganda through the mouth of Armstrong Williams.
Education Secretary Roderick R. Paige yesterday defended payments to a conservative black commentator to promote the No Child Left Behind law as a standard “outreach effort” to minority groups who stand to benefit most from the Bush administration’s showcase education program.
Paige, the nation’s first African American education secretary, said in a statement that he was deeply disturbed by the publicity surrounding the $240,000 contract. He announced an investigation by the Department of Education’s inspector general to clear up any unresolved issues so as not to “sully the fine people and good name of this department.”
The ranking Democrat on the House Education and Workforce Committee, Rep. George Miller of California, criticized Paige for not apologizing or pledging to put an end to “covert propaganda efforts.”
In his statement, Paige said the money paid Williams’s company, the Graham Williams Group, “went exclusively” to the production of advertisements promoting the No Child Left Behind law.
“The funds covered those costs alone and nothing more. All this has been reviewed and is legal,” Paige said.
In a letter to Paige, senior Republican and Democrat Appropriations lawmakers asked him to provide a list of money spent by the Education Department on public relations activities between 2002 and 2004. The department has acknowledged paying the public relations firm Ketchum Inc. $700,000 to rate journalists on how positively or negatively they report on No Child Left Behind, and to produce a video on the law that was used by some television stations as if it were real news.
Not-So-Hot Rod says that your tax dollars “went exclusively” to the production of advertisements promoting NCLB, eh? That’s not what the contract his department signed with public relations firm Ketchum Inc. says.
Check out these deliverables from page 5 of the contract:
Ketchum shall arrange for Mr. Williams to regularly comment on NCLB during the course of his broadcasts.
Secretary Paige and other Department officials shall have the option of appearing from time to time as studio guests to discuss NCLB and other important education reform issues.
Mr. Williams shall utilize his long term working relationship with America’s Black Forum, where he appears as a guest commentator, to encourage the producers to periodically address the No Child Left Behind Act.
The contract does specifically list various advertisements for NCLB as well, but you’d have to stretch the definition of “advertising” to the breaking point and beyond for the three items listed above to fit within its confines.