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Columnists Paid While Promoting Bush’s Marriage Initiative

Two conservative columnists, Maggie Gallagher and Michael McManus, were paid by the Bush Administration while touting its “healthy marriage” initiative in their columns. These revelations come only weeks after the public learned that Armstrong Williams, a conservative African-American pundit, was paid $240,000 by the Bush Administration to promote the “No Child Left Behind” Act.

Gallagher was paid $41,500 in government contracts relating to the administration’s “healthy marriage” program. Gallagher argues that her contract with the Department of Health and Human Services was not to promote President Bush’s marriage agenda in her column, but to “consult with and assist [Administration for Children and Families] in ongoing work related to strengthening marriage,” according to her most recent column. She was paid for this work in 2002, and writes that “I should have disclosed a government contract when I later wrote about the Bush marriage initiative. I would have, if I had remembered it.” McManus, a columnist and founder and co-chair of Marriage Savers, was paid $10,000 to hold trainings and make presentations as part of the Community Healthy Marriage Initiative, according to Salon.com. His organization also received $49,000 in federal grants, according to the LA Times.

Wade Horn, the assistant secretary for children and families, told the Times that he was implementing a new policy to prevent any future contracts from going to columnists “in order to prevent even the appearance of a conflict of interest and to maintain an arm’s-length distance between the administration and the media.” President Bush has said that he and his staff were unaware of department contracts with columnists, according to the Times. The Bush Administration spent $250 million on public relations contracts during its first term, compared to $128 million spent by President Clinton in his second term, according to USA Today.

The “healthy marriage” initiative diverts funds from programs designed to support people, especially women and children, living in poverty, such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), to programs promoting marriage.

Sources:

Maggie Gallagher column 1/25/05; Salon 1/27/05; LA Times 1/27/05, 1/28/05; Washington Post 1/27/05