Red Flags Ignored in Williams Case

The report by the Education Department's inspector general on Armstrong Williams, a pundit paid $240,000 to advertise and advocate for the No Child Left Behind Act, notes that the White House "was told about potential problems," but that did not "prevent the contract from being renewed." The report found no evidence that President Bush or senior staff knew about Williams, but "a midlevel White House aide received calls from Education officials concerned about the contract's cost, its effectiveness and Williams' dual role as journalist and government public relations man." This finding contradicts Bush's January 2005 statement that "we didn't know about this in the White House." Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, who "declined to be interviewed" for the report, said she would "immediately adopt the report's recommendations for improvements in contract oversight." Whether the contract "breached federal rules prohibiting the use of taxpayer funds to 'covertly distribute propaganda'" is being investigated separately.