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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