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Shortly after reports surfaced in January that Bush's Department of Education paid conservative pundit Armstrong Williams $241,000 to promote the president's education policies, the agency's inspector general announced he would launch an investigation into this and other contracts with the media.
The report is finally available and, confirming critics' fears, the department's "payola" problems went far beyond Armstrong Williams.
"Federal investigators probing the Education Department's public relations contracts have found a pattern of deals in which advocacy organizations received grants totaling nearly $4.7 million to promote Bush administration education priorities in newspaper columns and brochures, but didn't disclose that they received taxpayer funds, as required by law.
The department's inspector general says he detected no "covert propaganda," but he told administration officials to consider asking for some of their money back.
The report, released on the Education Department's Web site Thursday night, said the department needs to do a better job monitoring how millions of dollars in grants are spent. More than $1.7 million, for example, went to outside public relations contracts that officials said resulted in no visible media products."
In other words, on top of the non-disclosure problem, in at least some instances, the Department of Education used our money for p.r. purposes for which there was no p.r. And in at least two instances, the department awarded grants to a pro-voucher group (the Hispanic Council for Reform and Education Options) that hadn't even requested the money.