Because Really, Nothing Says "Limited Government" Like Paying a Journalist $21,500 to Help "Strengthen Marriage"

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Looks like there's another tool in the Armstrong Williams box: gay-marriage-basher Maggie Gallagher. I'd love to talk about the journalistic ethics of it all, but before that can someone here (or preferably at the National Review) please tell me just why the living puke I'm paying federal taxes?

Gallagher received an additional $20,000 from the Bush administration in 2002 and 2003 for writing a report, titled "Can Government Strengthen Marriage?", for a private organization called the National Fatherhood Initiative. That report, published last year, was funded by a Justice Department grant, said NFI spokesman Vincent DiCaro.

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  1. I could totally see shilling for $240k. For that kind of money I could rationalize just about anything. (“Well, those public schools will always be with us, and it’s simply not feasible to end federal involvement, so let’s at least introduce some accountability….”)

    But $20k to promote a new social engineering program? I don’t know about that. If I decline the money and then expose the offer with the help of a good publicist, I could probably get more than $20k for lecturing and writing (even after subtracting the publicist’s fee).

    My self-respect is far too important to be sacrified for anything less than 6 figures!

  2. Um, I think you got the figures wrong:

    “she had a $21,500 contract with the Department of Health and Human Services…[that] ran from January through October 2002”

    “Gallagher received an additional $20,000 from the Bush administration in 2002 and 2003 for writing a report… funded by a Justice Department grant”

    I make that $41,500 in total.

  3. My comments are still available for sale.

  4. The diff being that the government didn’t rent column space from her, unlike Williams. If hired her to write brochures and a report, and give a talk.

    Still a waste of money, but a different waste of money than with Williams. One with no real ethical dimension (except for the waste part).

  5. One might note that Maggie Gallagher co-authored
    a serious book length survey of the academic
    literature on marriage with noted sociology
    professor Linda Waite at Chicago. Thus, she
    is qualified to write the stuff for which she
    was paid. I do not agree with Gallagher on a
    lot of stuff (and I think the book would have
    been better if Waite had written it by herself)
    but I do not see the big ethical problem here.
    Seems to me that this is a very different
    case.

    One might also note that there were interesting
    stories around the book, called “The Case for
    Marriage”, which supposedly was going to be
    published by Harvard University Press but then
    was dropped by them because the book (correctly)
    summarizes the evidence in the literature as
    being relatively positive about marriage.

    Jeff

  6. This wasn’t just waste, it was propaganda. Just like that homosexual-who-denies-it Armstrong Williams was spreading, it’s the same big government fertilizer with a new label on the bag.
    not daniel

  7. If the federal government doesn’t take seriously its duty to protect and strengthen the institution of marriage, then the terrorists will have already won.

  8. The problem here is that once you eschew the idea of strictly enumerated powers, then anything is fair game. Government provides socialized education. Government provides socialized retirement funds. Government provides socialized healthcare. So, logically, how can you bitch about government promoting marriage? This is a teeny, tiny symptom of a massive disease. The government stole 21.4% of my money this year, and that’s not even counting the additional 5% that the Commonwealth of Virginia stole at the retail counters.

    Meanwhile, Bush is asking congress for yet another $80 billion dollars for his nationbuilding misadventures round the globe.

    We opened the floodgates a long time ago, when we forgot about enumeration of powers. This is just another drop in the flood.

  9. Interestingly, two Bush appointees (Don Eberly and Wade Horn) are former presidents of the National Fatherhood Initiative.

  10. so we’ll lampoon gallagher for her greed as we did williams.

    when do we get angry at the bush administration for handing out slices of pie to their ideological allies in return for undisclosed advocacy (read: propaganda)?

    i see mr williams point — but at least education, retirement and health insurance are tangible uses of tax funds.

    the “national fatherhood initiative”? what is that, exactly? eugenics?

  11. I always admired the ability of the republicans to set up a network of think tanks, radio, publishing, TV, etc., so that even C-list conservapundits could pay the bills. I didn’t imagine that they’d just cut to the chase and directly subsidize them with tax dollars . . . eternally naive I guess.

  12. Did Franklin ever say anything about the separation of “Press” and “State”?

  13. government will do via marriage engineering the same thing to unions between two individuals the same thing it did to art via the NEA.

    i love seeing which assholes will come out of the woodwork to defend this. what fucking tools. there’s always an excuse for those hypocrites.

  14. so we’ll lampoon gallagher for her greed as we did williams

    I’m not going to defend what she did, but since when does getting paid for doing work constitute “greed?”

  15. getting paid for doing work constitute “greed?”

    how about “always”? i work because i’m greedy. i want money. no shame in that.

    perhaps more to your point would be the question, “since when does compromising the ethical principles of journalism for a load of cash constitute irresponsible greed?”

    and to that, mr aaron, i would also answer, “always”.

  16. FYI: fatherhood is very big in policy circles
    these days. The current emphasis on fathers is
    a response (mostly from the right but also just
    due to the natural ebb and flow of academic
    fashion) to years of concentration of mothers
    via AFDC, child support enforcement policy and
    so on. The idea is that instead of marginalizing
    fathers when families split, it might make some
    sense to try to keep them around and active in
    the child’s life. A similar view holds in
    regard to the relations between fathers and
    children within marriage.

    So, while I am 100 percent agreement that this
    is not the government’s job, given that the
    government is doing this stuff, trying to
    modify policy to encourage rather than
    discourage child/father interaction is far
    from the stupidest thing ever to come out
    of DC.

    Jeff

  17. Well, even if the amount is $41,500 instead of $20,000, I still refuse to shill for anything less than 6 figures.

    Loudmouth available for propaganda and shilling. Reasonable rates. Post responses on this forum with contact info and I will be in touch.

  18. Government waste is a zero-sum game. For every ham-fisted effort by Bush to promote marriage, there’s a publicly funded PBS hack slipping lesbian characters into an episode of Sesame Street.

  19. Maggie sez:

    My first instinct is to say, no, Howard, I had no special obligation to disclose this information. I’m a marriage expert.

    “Marriage expert”? Were all the “futurist” spots taken? Hey, Maggie, I’m married! How can I get one of these gigs?

  20. Yo, Tim – see my comment above. She did co-
    author a (pretty good) scholarly book on the
    subject, though it is not so clear that she
    is responsible for the good parts of the book.

    Jeff, who actually once thought of majoring
    in “future studies”. Ah, the follies of our
    youth.

  21. Not only am I married, but our marriage has survived the ravages inflicted on the institution by judges in Massachusettes and a mayor in San Francisco. I’m an expert on remaining married under adverse circumstances!

  22. I think people should be able to publish just about anything they want–UFO sightings by hicks, editorials by Bat Boy, anti-gay marriage propaganda written by hired guns, etc., but I feel sorry for people who are influenced by such things.

    …and I’m downright embarrassed for people who cite them.

  23. Note that the new Education Secretary (Margaret Spellings) is going apeshit over a PBS show (titled Buster) that includes a lesbian couple who live in Vermont.

  24. RE: going apeshit

    Man, I’m so sick of this administration. What better way to marginalize and stigmatize, than to keep the existence of faggots a dirty secret so your kids never have to learn how to treat an entire class of people with dignity. Very classy. Not that Kerry would have been much better.

  25. So, y’all are upset that a she was paid to freelance for the government? This situation is entirely different than the Williams situation in that she was paid to write very specific things–not as a journalist pushing positions in her columns, but as a writer writing copy for pamphlets and the like.

    I can see the waste issue: was this a good way to spend government funds? I dunno–what was the quality of the work and was the cost reasonable for the work she did?

    But the ethics issue is a non-starter–every government produced study or pamphlet or ad is propaganda. Where Williams took money to influence his public pronouncements in an open-ended way, Gallagher was paid for actual product that was distributed by government organizations. She was just acting as a freelance copywriter; what’s the big deal?

    While I won’t defend what she wrote–since I haven’t read it– but I will happily defend her right to, you know, work.

  26. “But the ethics issue is a non-starter–every government produced study or pamphlet or ad is propaganda. Where Williams took money to influence his public pronouncements in an open-ended way, Gallagher was paid for actual product that was distributed by government organizations.”

    You seem to be defending her actions, the same actions that were, apparently, sufficient to warrant an apology to her readers.

    Why did she apologize to her readers? For what did she apologize?

  27. Yes, I am defending her actions. If someone offered me to write the copy for their brochure or pamphlet, unless I was morally opposed to what I was writing about, I would happily take their money. If someone offered me money to write covertly about that same subject, via a syndicated column that was actually paid for and commissioned by a third party, I would not do it (even with the disclosure). From what I’ve read so far, she did the former, not the latter. If I’m wrong about that, then I would happily reconsider my position.

    As for her apology, I would rather she hadn’t apologized and I don’t think that the rest of what she wrote supports the need to apologize. For that matter, she sounds neither apologetic nor particularly concerned.

    Do you really see this as being the same situation as the Williams mini-scandal? I certainly don’t. I didn’t stand up for Williams because he took money to be a sort of stealth spokesman for the administration; Gallagher was paid to write copy, not shill for the program in her own columns.

    There’s a big difference.

  28. “As for her apology, I would rather she hadn’t apologized and I don’t think that the rest of what she wrote supports the need to apologize.”

    She thinks she did something wrong. She apologized to her readers for something. If you don’t think she did anything wrong, well, that seems like it’s beside the point.

    “Do you really see this as being the same situation as the Williams mini-scandal?”

    …And speaking of beside the point, I don’t know who Williams is, and I don’t know why I should want to know.

    ” For that matter, she sounds neither apologetic nor particularly concerned.”

    Please provide an example of someone sounding more apologetic than she does in the following quote:

    “I should have disclosed a government contract when I later wrote about the Bush marriage initiative. I would have, if I had remembered it. My apologies to my readers.”

  29. The question seems to distill to this: is a commentator ethically compelled to disclose every financial arrangement that could influence the content of her commentary?

    If you’re directly bribed like Williams, to make specific arguments it seems rather a lay-up. Lawyers get paid to make arguments for clients, columnists ordinarily don’t. Maggie’s case was more arguable: it seems one or more of her columns addressed the subject of her previous (paid) advocacy. (But does that mean Dershowitz can’t write a column about the death penalty? Ah, bue we already know he’s a lawyer).

    There are more subtle cases. Peggy Noonan “consulted” for the leftist West Wing. I suspect her recent column detecting “too much God” in the President’s psychotic inaugural speech was crafted to curry favour with her Hollywood paymasters. They should pay George Will a retainer; he might soften a position or two in future columns without so much as a hand signal.

    I would only accuse Williams of a breach of ethics. Maggie and Peggy are just responding rationally to market incentives.

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