Extensive quotations, as this is from the NY Times and will quickly fall into paid archive hell...
Audit Assails the White House for Public Relations Spending
By ROBERT PEAR
Published: September 30, 2005
WASHINGTON, Sept. 30 - Federal auditors said today that the Bush administration had violated the law by purchasing favorable news coverage of President Bush's education policies, by making payments to the conservative commentator Armstrong Williams and by hiring a public relations company to analyze media perceptions of the Republican Party.
In a blistering report, the investigators, from the Government Accountability Office, said the administration had disseminated "covert propaganda" inside the United States, in violation of a longstanding, explicit statutory ban.
The contract with Mr. Williams and the general contours of the administration's public relations campaign had been known for months. The report today provided the first definitive ruling on the legality of the activities.
Lawyers from the G.A.O., an independent nonpartisan arm of Congress, found that the Bush administration had systematically analyzed news articles to see if they carried the message, "The Bush administration/the G.O.P. is committed to education."
The auditors declared: "We see no use for such information except for partisan political purposes. Engaging in a purely political activity such as this is not a proper use of appropriated funds."
The G.A.O. also assailed the Education Department for telling Ketchum Inc., a large public relations company, to pay Mr. Williams for newspaper columns and television appearances praising Mr. Bush's education initiative, the No Child Left Behind Act.
When that arrangement became publicly known, it set off widespread criticism. At a news conference in January, Mr. Bush said: "We will not be paying commentators to advance our agenda. Our agenda ought to be able to stand on its own two feet."
But more recently the Education Department defended its payments to Mr. Williams, saying his commentaries were "no more than the legitimate dissemination of information to the public."
The G.A.O. said the Education Department had no money or authority to "procure favorable commentary in violation of the publicity or propaganda prohibition" in federal law.
In the course of its work, the accountability office discovered a previously undisclosed instance in which the Education Department had commissioned a newspaper article. The article, on the "declining science literacy of students," was distributed by the North American Precis Syndicate and appeared in numerous small newspapers around the country. Readers were not informed of the government's role in writing of the article.
The auditors also denounced a prepackaged television news story disseminated by the Education Department. The news segment, a "video news release" narrated by a woman named Karen Ryan, said that President Bush's program for providing remedial instruction and tutoring to children "gets an A-plus."
Ms. Ryan also narrated two videos praising the new Medicare drug benefit last year. In those segments, as in the education video, the narrator ended by saying, "In Washington, I'm Karen Ryan reporting."
So the GAO is continuing to hold the Bushies feet to the fire, as I've noted on this blog on occasion.