Unlike the Washington bigwigs he has made a career of talking about, Armstrong Williams fesses up when caught red- handed. "My judgment was not the best," the conservative pundit admitted after USA Today uncovered a Department of Education contract paying him $240,000 to promote President Bush's No Child Left Behind law on his talk show, The Right Side, and in other TV appearances. The contract required him to "regularly comment on NCLB during the course of his broadcasts" and to encourage other journalists to talk up the law.
Williams is paying for his journalistic sins. His weekly syndicated newspaper column was terminated last Friday. But the Bush Administration appears unfazed. Education Department officials called the contract "a permissible use of taxpayer funds." This despite two recent Government Accountability Office rulings that the Administration broke antipropaganda laws when it disguised promotional spots--on federal drug policy and the new Medicare prescription-drug law-- as TV-news segments. --By Perry Bacon Jr