The Senate's unanimous decision Thursday to ban federal funding for "video news releases" broadcast the image of a federal government deeply concerned about the dangers of manipulating the public with propaganda. The FCC also announced a crackdown this week, instating new rules for disclosure.
But the Bush White House hasn't been so forthcoming on the issue. On Wednesday, Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., announced that the White House has not been cooperating with a probe he requested into the Armstrong Williams payola case. In January, reporters revealed that the conservative commentator had been awarded $240,000 worth of Department of Education funding to promote the administration's No Child Left Behind initiative. At Miller's behest, the Department of Education's inspector general, Jack Higgins, launched an internal investigation. According to a press release from Miller's office, Higgins told Miller that the White House "had refused to allow them to interview White House officials who may have knowledge of the Williams contract" -- and that Education Secretary Margaret Spellings is considering requiring Higgins to delete certain information he had originally included in his draft report.
Nor has the administration cooperated with requests made by twenty-one Democratic lawmakers back in January for copies of all documents pertaining to "secret publicity campaigns to promote administration priorities."
President Bush must have a unique definition of due diligence. In January, he himself declared: "All of us, the Cabinet, needs to take a good look and make sure this kind of thing doesn't happen again." But it's pretty hard for investigators to take a good look when the doors keep slamming shut in front of them.