"The Bush administration violated the law by buying favorable news coverage of President Bush's education policies, by making payments to the conservative commentator Armstrong Williams and by hiring a public relations company to analyze media perceptions of the Republican Party," ruled the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office. The GAO report, "the first definitive ruling on the legality of the activities," found that the Department of Education contract with the Ketchum PR firm violated the ban on "covert propaganda." Objectionable activities include a video news release where PR flack Karen Ryan says the Bush tutoring program "gets an A-plus"; news monitoring to determine whether stories agree that "the Bush administration / the G.O.P. is committed to education"; and Armstrong Williams' newspaper columns and television spots praising the No Child Left Behind Act, without disclosing that he was paid by the Education Department. The GAO doesn't have enforcement powers, but reports to the White House and Congress.
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