Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Payola For Everybody!

You knew it wouldn't take long. Media Putz Howie Kurtz makes rare good use of his position at The Post and uncovers another right-wing hack on the administration payroll.

In 2002, syndicated columnist Maggie Gallagher repeatedly defended President Bush's push for a $300 million initiative encouraging marriage as a way of strengthening families.

"The Bush marriage initiative would emphasize the importance of marriage to poor couples" and "educate teens on the value of delaying childbearing until marriage," she wrote in National Review Online, for example, adding that this could "carry big payoffs down the road for taxpayers and children."

But Gallagher failed to mention that she had a $21,500 contract with the Department of Health and Human Services to help promote the president's proposal. Her work under the contract, which ran from January through October 2002, included drafting a magazine article for the HHS official overseeing the initiative, writing brochures for the program and conducting a briefing for department officials.

Josh Marshall makes the best point.

It seems fair to say that the Gallagher arrangement wasn't as egregious as the Williams one. It's not clear -- at least from Kurtz's piece -- that she was paid to flack the policy, but rather to ghostwrite a few marriage policy articles, write a few brochures and do ... well, it's actually not totally clear what she was paid to do.

Which suggests a point. Were they really worried that Gallagher would come out for free love without the cash incentive? Neither she nor Williams is really known for their independent streak. In Gallagher's case -- and to some degree in Williams' too -- this seems less like a matter of payola than a Bush administration make-work program for third-tier GOP pundits.