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Armstrong Williams believes in the No Child Left Behind Act so much, it took $240,000 from the Bush administration to get him to say so (over and over again, apparently) on his talk show.

From the USA Today: “The campaign, part of an effort to promote No Child Left Behind (NCLB), required commentator Armstrong Williams ‘to regularly comment on NCLB during the course of his broadcasts,’ and to interview Education Secretary Rod Paige for TV and radio spots that aired during the show in 2004. Williams said Thursday he understands that critics could find the arrangement unethical, but ‘I wanted to do it because it’s something I believe in.’”

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“The top Democrat on the House Education Committee, Rep. George Miller of California, called the contract ‘a very questionable use of taxpayers’ money’ that is ‘probably illegal.’ He said he will ask his Republican counterpart to join him in requesting an investigation.”

This isn’t the first time the Bush administration has produced such propaganda — last year, the GAO slapped the administration for making bogus “video news releases” featuring fake TV reporters singing the praises of the GOP Medicare prescription drug plan (the one the pharmaceutical industry loves so much). Similar fake news stories were produced promoting No Child Left Behind. The GAO called those news releases an illegal use of taxpayers’ dollars.

The deal that padded Armstrong Williams’ pockets so long as he lauds the much-maligned education law was part of a deal with the same firm behind those bogus “news stories,” Ketchum public relations. The Armstrong set-up is probably illegal, too, Melanie Sloan of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, told the USA Today. “Congress has prohibited propaganda,” she said. “And it’s propaganda.”

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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