Third Columnist Implicated with Payola Charges

By: E&P Staff Michael McManus, whose syndicated column, "Ethics & Religion," appears in 50 newspapers, was hired as a subcontractor by the Department of Health and Human Services to promote an administration marriage initiative, according to an article posted yesterday by, the online magazine.

Senior writer Eric Boehlert wrote that Salon had confirmed that McManus ?championed the plan in his columns without disclosing to readers he was being paid to help it succeed.?

This report emerged one day after President Bush ordered his Cabinet secretaries to stop hiring commentators to help promote administration initiatives, after revelations surrounding commentators Armstrong Williams and Maggie Gallagher.

According to Salon, Dr. Wade Horn, assistant secretary for children and families at HHS, had responded to the latest report by announcing that HHS would institute a new policy that forbids the agency from hiring any outside expert or consultant who has any working affiliation with the media. "I needed to draw this bright line," Horn told Salon. "The policy is being implemented and we're moving forward."

McManus could not be reached for comment.

Horn told Salon that McManus was paid approximately $10,000 for his work as a subcontractor to the Lewin Group, which was hired by HHS to implement the Community Healthy Marriage Initiative. McManus provided training during two-day conferences in Chattanooga, Tenn., and also made presentations at HHS-sponsored conferences.

Horn said he first learned about the payment on Thursday.

?In the wake of the Gallagher story,? Boehlert wrote, ?he asked his staff to review all outside contracts and determine if there were any other columnists being paid by HHS. They informed him about McManus. Horn says the review for similar contracts continues.?

Horn said HHS was not paying Gallagher and McManus to write about Bush administration initiatives but for their expertise as marriage advocates. "We live in a complicated world and people wear many different hats," he told Salon. "People who have expertise might also be writing columns. The line has become increasingly blurred between who's a member of the media and who is not. Thirty years ago if you were a columnist, then you were a full-time employee of a newspaper. Columnists today are different."

In 1996, McManus co-founded Marriage Savers, which, among other things, asks clergy not to conduct marriage ceremonies unless the couple has had lengthy counseling first.


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