HRC: Investigate 'Pay-To-Sway' Columnist for Possible Legal Violations
'The Public Deserves to Know if There are Other 'Pay-To-Sway' Columnists
and Opinion Leaders on the Bush Administration Payroll,'
Said HRC Political Director Winnie Stachelberg
WASHINGTON, Jan. 26 /PRNewswire/ -- In a letter to the Acting Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services, the Human Rights Campaign requested an investigation to determine whether columnist Maggie Gallagher, having received more than $40,000 in federal grants to promote President Bush's marriage initiatives, violated federal law by not disclosing the funding to the public or Congress. Gallagher testified in the Senate in support of the discriminatory constitutional amendment and wrote numerous syndicated columns on these issues. "The public deserves to know if there are other 'pay-to-sway' columnists and opinion leaders on the Bush Administration payroll," said HRC Political Director Winnie Stachelberg. In the letter, Stachelberg wrote, "The failure to disclose a financial conflict-of-interest seems to us to be a clear violation of the public's trust in journalistic integrity. We would like to know whether federal law or congressional rules were violated when Gallagher testified before Congress, testimony that to our knowledge was not preceded by disclosures of these financial contracts and interests. ... In an era of pinched funding, where critical health care and social service programs are experiencing severe budget cuts, we find the use of government funds for political advocacy to be deeply troubling." Gallagher appeared as a witness for the majority at the Senate hearings on the Federal Marriage Amendment (later renamed the Marriage Protection Amendment) on Sept. 4, 2003, and March 3, 2004. According to a Jan. 26, 2005, Washington Post article Gallagher received more than $40,000 in federal funding. Gallagher's funding included a $21,500 contract with the Department of Health and Human Services to help promote the President's $300 million marriage promotion initiatives and an additional $20,000 in funding in 2002 and 2003 for writing the report "Can Government Strengthen Marriage?" During the same period, Gallagher also wrote extensively on marriage issues in syndicated columns that appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, National Review and Washington Post, as well as other publications. In a column Gallagher published Jan. 25 following an interview with Washington Post reporter Howard Kurtz, Gallagher wrote, "I should have disclosed a government contract when I later wrote about the Bush marriage initiative. I would have, if I had remembered it." "I wonder how many of Gallagher's readers would believe anybody could have forgotten about a check for $400, let alone $40,000," added Stachelberg. "Gallagher seems deeply out-of-touch with most of the parents for whom she purports to advocate." Text of the letter follows. Jan. 26, 2005 Daniel Levinson Acting Inspector General Department of Health and Human Services 330 Independence Avenue, S.W. Washington, DC 20201 Dear Mr. Levinson: The Human Rights Campaign, on behalf of its more than 600,000 members nationwide, writes to express dismay over recent information indicating that Maggie Gallagher was a recipient of federal government grants to promote Bush Administration family initiatives, but did not disclose these facts to the public or to Congress when she testified in the Senate on the Federal Marriage Amendment (later renamed the Marriage Protection Amendment) or when she wrote numerous syndicated columns on these and other family issues. This appears to us to be a clear violation of journalistic ethics and a possible violation of law, as well. We ask you to conduct a thorough investigation on this issue, as set forth more fully below. In an article in the January 26, 2005 Washington Post, it was reported that Maggie Gallagher had a $21,500 contract with the Department of Health and Human Services to help promote the President's $300 million marriage promotion initiative. In addition, Gallagher apparently had received an additional $20,000 through a United States Justice Department grant in 2002 and 2003 for writing a report, titled "Can Government Strengthen Marriage?." During this time, Gallagher wrote on family and marriage promotion issues extensively in her syndicated columns (Gallagher's articles have appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Weekly Standard, and the National Review, among other publications), without disclosing her contracts or funding to the publications or her readership. The failure to disclose a financial conflict- of-interest seems to us to be a clear violation of the public's trust in journalistic integrity. More troublingly, we would like to know whether federal law or congressional rules were violated when Gallagher testified before Congress, testimony that to our knowledge was not preceded by disclosures of these financial contracts and interests. Gallagher appeared as a witness for the majority at Senate hearings on the subject of the Federal Marriage Amendment (later renamed the Marriage Protection Amendment) on September 4, 2003 and March 3, 2004. Both times, Gallagher's testimony extensively involved and explored issues of the family and marriage. Yet to the best of our knowledge, Members of Congress, the public, and the media were not informed of Gallagher's financial interests in the subjects or the federal funds that she received. We do not believe that Members of Congress and the public can adequately and fully assess information when past or current financial interests (particularly government contracts) are not disclosed beforehand. Lastly, in the face of recent controversy about government contracts received by Armstrong Williams, we would like to sound a note of concern about the use of taxpayer dollars to fund advocacy efforts. We also would like to know if any of the other witnesses who testified before Congress on the Federal Marriage Amendment, the Marriage Protection Amendment, or marriage promotion efforts were recipients of government funding. In an era of pinched funding, when critical health care and social service programs are experiencing severe budget cuts, we find the use of government funds for political advocacy to be deeply troubling. We appreciate your attention to this matter and anticipate your response. If you have any questions or need more information, please contact the Legal Director of the Human Rights Campaign, Kevin Layton. Sincerely, Winnie Stachelberg Political Director The Human Rights Campaign is the largest national lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender political organization with members throughout the country. It effectively lobbies Congress, provides campaign support and educates the public to ensure that LGBT Americans can be open, honest and safe at home, at work and in the community.
SOURCE Human Rights Campaign
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