When a Lobbyist "Forgets" to Disclose an Advocacy Relationship
In an op-ed by Andrew Rotherham called "No Pundit Left Behind," The New York Times called it "a stunningly inefficient use of public dollars - every bit as redundant as paying football fans to watch the Super Bowl." The nation's newspaper of record is referring to the news that conservative commentator Armstrong Williams was paid $240,000 to promote the No Child Left Behind Act--and promote it he did, but without revealing it was earning him a paycheck.
And because I write about business ethics, I find this story--which combines the public and private spheres in yet another act of blatant corruption--particularly instructive. First, Williams should clearly have reveled he was a paid lobbyist. Organizations such as Public Relations Society of America are very clear that failure to disclose a financial interest is a definite no-no for PR folks. If Williams hadn't stumbled across the PRSA Code of Ethics, surely his own common sense would tell him that when you shill for a special interest, the relationship ought to be disclosed.
Of course, those of us who have followed the various scandals and mismanagement accusations connected with the Bush administration shouldn't be surprised. The more they play the values card in public pronouncements, the more dirt shows up with a little scraping. I can't remember an administration as obsessed with having everyone follow the party line, regardless of the consequences, and so quick to apply double standards on matters of truth, special interest relationships, and their own accountability.
I'm not being partisan, here. The current group is amplifying a trend that can certainly be traced at least as far back as the LBJ administration--but Johnson and Nixon and Clinton were amateurs. As a populace, we need to demand accountability, and not spin--not only from any presidential administration, but from the media that supposedly have the job of keeping them honest.
This story is breaking all over the mainstream press--but so many others are either buried on page 46 or left to the likes of the highly partisan Internet news organizations of the left and the right.
personally, I think America would have just as much appetite for substantive news as it does for the latest celebrity trial or "reality" TV show (sure doesn't look like *my* reality!)