Dan Kennedy has dug out some of Armstrong Williams’ old columns to see whether the $240,000 he was taking from the Department of Education might have had just the teensiest effect on what he was writing. The results are, in a word, astounding.
Consider this column, in which Williams goes after the teachers’ union:
On a political front, the [union] is engaged in a full court legislative press. Last year, they lined the Democrats coffers with $20 million in donations, second only to the American Federation of State/City/municipal employees. Receiving a large part of your campaign money directly from the teacher’s unions means the Democrats are obliged to repay the debt in some form.
Unbelievable. Williams is shocked! shocked! to discover that Democrats have accepted contributions from teachers’ unions, which he concludes has made it impossible for Democrats to pursue policies that are in the best interests of schoolchildren, while never revealing that he was contractually obligated to praise No Child Left Behind (which he repeatedly does elsewhere in this and other columns – see Dan’s post for the links) in exchange for taxpayer money. Williams has claimed that he believed in No Child Left Behind anyway, but so what? Even if he didn’t, he was still under a legal obligation to praise it once he signed the contract. To his credit, it must be said, Williams has conceded that his entering into this agreement was a mistake, bad judgment, etc. But it apparently didn’t occur to him that it was a mistake until he got caught.
Dan, Josh Marshall, and others have been calling for full disclosure on crap like this, and I have to agree. The American people deserve to know how much of their money is being used to buy favorable commentary — and they deserve to know which of their supposedly "independent" commentators are actually on the take.