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GAO finds Bush administration payments for favorable education news illegal

[JURIST] The General Counsel of the US Government Accountability Office [official website] issued a scathing opinion letter [PDF text] Friday criticizing the Bush administration's use of news media and commentators to promote education policies like the No Child Left Behind initiative [official website] as "covert propaganda" prohibited by law. GAO auditors also said that hiring public relations firm Ketchum Inc. [corporate website] to analyze news favorable to the Republican party and paying conservative commentator Armstrong Williams [Wikipedia profile; JURIST report] for favorable newspaper columns and television appearances was wrong. Democratic Senators Edward Kennedy (D-MA) [official profile] and Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) [official profile] requested the GAO investigation. Federal law requires that the GAO report the administration's violations to the White House and Congress, though no penalty accompanies the actual report. Then-incoming US Education Secretary Margaret Spellings took senior departmental administrators to task for the initiatives [JURIST report] this spring. The New York Times has more.

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