Some tiny creature, mad with wrath,

Is coming nearer on the path.

--Edward Gorey

Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S. Outlying Islands

Writer, lawyer, cyclist, rock climber, wanderer of dark residential streets, friend.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Your Tax Dollars at Work -- The White House Propaganda Machine

First, I just want to say this is absolutely positively my last overtly political post until I come up with something creative to write. Lest I set a bad habit, I need to impose some discipline.

In general, the story of the White House paying off supposedly independent commentators to shill for White House pet projects is getting sort of old. Frank Rich, however, points to why the story is still important, still very much alive, and how White House Press Gaggle Member and would-be gay prostitute "Jeff Gannon," about whom I've written before, is tied to the Armstrong Williams ($240K to shill for NCLB) and the others.

The money that paid for both the Ryan-Garcia news packages and the Armstrong Williams contract was siphoned through the same huge public relations firm, Ketchum Communications, which itself filtered the funds through subcontractors. A new report by Congressional Democrats finds that Ketchum has received $97 million of the administration's total $250 million PR kitty, of which the Williams and Ryan-Garcia scams would account for only a fraction. We have yet to learn precisely where the rest of it ended up.

I remind everyone that, in broad strokes, it is illegal to use federal funds to generate propaganda supporting government policies. And this administration has been reprimanded time and again for running afoul of the spirit, if not the leter, of the law (it has done both).

Remember that your tax dollars have been used to pay for one-sided commentary in support of the policies of a president who claims his win, by just a few percentage points, constitutes a true mandate. What if he hadn't had the federal treasury at his fingertips and had to find real newspeople to speak in favor of his most misguided policies? Think that might have erased his margin of victory? I certainly wonder.

And of course, the more incendiary question: which closeted White House staffer set up "Gannon," of all people, to be the Press Gaggle toady?

UPDATE: A propos my last question, 2PoliticalJunkies chimes in with "What Did The Hooker Know And When Did He Know It?," referencing DailyKos's discussion of evidence suggesting "Gannon" knew about, and leaked, "Shock and Awe" hours before it began. (I know, I know, but it's just an 'update.' I'm a lawyer. It's a loophole the size of a Ford Expedition.)

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