Williams Settles Justice Department Complaint, Expresses Regret

Oct 23, 2006  •  Post A Comment

Conservative commentator Armstrong Williams said Monday he has learned his lesson about taking paid government public relations and advertising jobs while also engaging in media commentary about government actions.

As he settled the remaining legal battle over a $240,000 Education Department contract secretly that paid him to promote the Bush administration’s No Child Left Behind initiative through public relations and advertising at the same time he was publicly praising the initiative in columns and media appearances, Mr. Williams said he is happy the legal battle is behind him.

“I’m just glad it’s over,” he said. “I paid a price and learned from it.”

He said no one working in the media should work for the government at the same time.

According to documents obtained Monday, Mr. Williams reached an agreement with the Justice Department and the Department of Education’s Office of Inspector General to pay a $34,000 settlement in return for receiving $56,000 outstanding from the contracts with the Bush administration.

The settlement reflected a determination that Mr. Williams did produce most of the required contractual work, but that instead of producing two TV and two radio spots, he produced one of each. Mr. Williams was hired by public relations firm Ketchum at the insistence of the Education Department. Mr. Williams and his two companies denied any liability but agreed to pay to settle the case.

“I didn’t have a choice,” Mr. Williams said, adding he thought that the Justice Department had treated him fairly.

Democrats have been critical of the Williams contract and Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., among those most critical, was critical of the settlement, complained Monday that the administration officials who authorized it have yet to be penalized.

“The Bush Administration’s use of covert propaganda was alarming to Americans across the country, yet not one administration official has been held accountable for it,” he said. “Armstrong Williams is going to pay back $34,000 to the government for work he failed to deliver. But who’s going to pay the taxpayers for the rest of the quarter-million dollars Williams was paid for his propaganda services to the administration? And who is going to be held accountable for having hired Williams in the first place?”

Rep. Miller noted that in September 2005, the U.S. Government Accountability Office concluded that the Education Department’s contract with Williams violated laws prohibiting covert propaganda.