Ed. Secretary Defends Payment to Armstrong Williams

By: Dave Astor Education Secretary Rod Paige is finally speaking publicly about the $240,000 in taxpayer money his department spent to promote the No Child Left Behind Act via Armstrong Williams' TV and radio shows.

In a statement e-mailed to E&P and other publications, Paige said: "I am sorry that there are perceptions and allegations of ethical lapses." But he defended the expenditure, saying it "went exclusively toward the production and airtime of advertisements in which I described the law and encouraged viewers and listeners to call the Department's toll-free information line. The funds covered those costs alone and nothing more. All of this has been reviewed and is legal."

But USA Today reported today that the Department of Education contract with Williams also called for him to "comment regularly on NCLB during the course of his broadcasts."

Paige also said in his statement: "Hiring outside experts to help communicate a complex issue is standard practice in all sectors of our society: local, state and the federal government; the private sector; and the non-profit sector. The work for which the Graham Williams Group was paid through Ketchum was part of a larger minority outreach effort by the Department because economically disadvantaged and minority students and families are most affected by the educational achievement gap that the law seeks to eradicate."

Tribune Media Services terminated Williams' contract a week ago after USA Today reported that he accepted the $240,000 and E&P reported that Williams mentioned NCLB at least four times last year in his newspaper column.


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