From the article:
"The Bush administration acknowledged on Friday that it had paid a third conservative commentator, and at least two departments said they were conducting internal inquiries to see if other journalists were under government contract. The investigative arm of Congress also formally began an inquiry of its own."
From the Constitution, Article II, Section 4
"The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors."
Given that the president himself was not being bribed here, there may be some ambiguity. But participating in a bribe might qualify under "high Crimes and Misdemeanors."
The payola scandal (and it should be just that, a scandal, lest anyone forget, YOUR tax dollars were being used to pay pundits to tell YOU what to think) is not the worst thing the Bush administration has done. But it needs to be publicized, dissected and people need to be punished.
Add to this that the pundits in question were paid to promote specific policies- No Child Left Behind (Williams), the marriage initiative to give tax breaks to married people (Gallagher) and in this case, most disturbingly, to promote a gay marriage ban that it seems the president never had any real intention of realizing (McManus)- and you have a truly contemptible, if not impeachable, offense.
What makes it bearable is watching right-wing pundits scramble to try to rationalize the whole thing.
From National Review Online, David Frum's Diary:
Was it wrong for the Department of Health and Human Services to pay an outside expert to summarize the state of research about marriage or to present that research in accessible ways? I think we’d all agree that the answer to that question is no, it was not wrong – provided that the work genuinely needed to be done (as it did in this case) and that the pay was reasonable (as it was).
Okay, then, was it wrong for that expert to write books, articles, and columns on her subject after she had earned her freelance fee from HHS? Unless it’s asserted that Gallagher’s $21,400 was supposed to support her for the rest of her life, the answer to that question also has to be no.
Uh . . . the assumption of how long the $21K was supposed to last her is pretty irrelevant. The point remains that she recieved $21,400 (A year's salary for a teacher, in many places) to provide credibility to a policy. This wasn't consultant work. This was PR. She didn't come in and advise the president on good marriage policy. She created consumer deliverables and made public appearances in defense of a partisan policy. She was not paid as a contributor. She was paid to sell this policy, and to use her "expertise" (please) like a celebrity endorsement. To sum up: if you are a "marriage expert" and a guy gives you $21,400 to talk about marriage policies, are you going to write brochures and other PR deliverables that rip apart the policies of the administration that's paying you?
Yeah, me neither.
Oh, and the Armstrong Williams case?
Check this out. The Free Republic doesn't blame Armstrong, they blame the government.
From Joseph Farah:
What is government doing using taxpayer dollars to buy influence with media people? With all the laws Williams may have broken, didn't the government officials involved break any? If not, how could that be? Is it legal for government officials to hand out taxpayer dollars to their friends as favors or rewards? Just exactly who were the people responsible for this decision? Have there been other examples of this kind of abuse of taxpayer dollars in this administration and previous ones?
These are the questions I want to see answered. And, maybe I've missed it in all the coverage, but why isn't anyone even asking these questions?
Fair enough, but there is not a single mention of Dubya's name in this one. I think we on the Left have a fairly good idea of who was signing those checks.
And of course, you can't have anyone pointing fingers at the Bush administration without some conservative telling you that it is somehow Clinton's fault.
From the National Review "Corner":
"The Clinton administration was probably even more active than the Bush administration" in distributing news segments promoting its policies, said Laurence Moskowitz, chairman and chief executive of Medialink, a major producer of promotional news segments. After the Government Accountability Office decision last spring, he said, his firm began advising government clients to disclose each tape's nature in its script.
Once again, no proof needed, Bill lied about the fat chick (yeah, like what Republican has never lied about sleeping with a fat chick) so simply implicating him in the same crime that Bush and Co. are implicated in but with "probably even more" lies is all the Right needs to justify this kind of thing.
Off topic- my little foray onto the other side included a banner ad for "Other Singles," a personals site for conservatives. Wanna have some fun? Do a search for men 18 to 35 who are "very conservative" and consider themselves "very fashionable."
You might find a guy like "alphamale" who asks that you bear him an army of children.