By: Dave Astor
The Government Accountability Office will investigate whether the Department of Health and Human Services violated the law by awarding a $21,500 contract to Universal Press Syndicate columnist Maggie Gallagher for marriage-themed writing projects, according to a story in today’s Washington Post by Howard Kurtz.
When reached this morning by E&P, Gallagher said: “This is the first I’ve heard of it [the probe]. I can’t comment right now because I need to get fuller information.”
Kathie Kerr, Universal’s director of communications, added: “We’ll wait until after the investigation is completed before issuing any kind of statement.”
Gallagher, who didn’t disclose receiving the money before press reports revealed it in January, has said the contract didn’t influence what she wrote in her column.
The GAO inquiry was requested by Sens. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.). Kennedy said that “the president should put in place sound policies that benefit all Americans rather than pay the press to promote bad policies,” Kurtz reported. Lautenberg added that “the Bush propaganda mill has violated the trust of the American people.”
Kerr said Gallagher’s client list — about 75 newspapers — has remained at the level it was in January.