Columnist resigns after taking money from lobbyist Jack Abramoff

WASHINGTON: Columnist Doug Bandow’s resignation from the Cato Institute and Copley News Service has once again dredged up the name of Armstrong Williams.

WASHINGTON: Columnist Doug Bandow’s resignation from the Cato Institute and Copley News Service has once again dredged up the name of Armstrong Williams.

Bandow resigned for accepting as much as $2,000 from lobbyist Jack Abramoff for each favorable Op-Ed he wrote about one of the lobbyist's clients. 

Many news services associate Bandow's troubles, arising from his not having disclosed that he was on Abramoff's payroll, with the controversy surrounding Williams, who was paid $240,000 by the Department of Education to write favorably about the Bush administration's "No Child Left Behind" law.

"As with the Armstrong Williams issue, basically it all amounts to disclosure," said David Rickey, chairman of the board of ethics of the Public Relations Society of America and VP of PR for Alfa Insurance. "If someone advocates a position but fails to disclose either a real or perceived conflict of interest then that is clearly contrary to our code of ethics."

In 2005, two other syndicated columnists – Maggie Gallagher and Michael McManus – were found to have received money to promote Bush administration initiatives without disclosing the funding.

In response to the Bandow revelation, officials with the Washington Post Writers Group (WPWG) issued a statement, noting that all of the syndicate's columnists are former journalists. "Their journalistic integrity is your best protection of your journalistic integrity," said Alan Shearer, WPWG editorial director, and James Hill, WPWG managing editor, in a joint statement.

Shearer and Hill invited the syndicate's clients to contact them if they wanted to discuss the integrity of its group of columnists and editorial cartoonists. "More than anything, we want to protect our brand – and yours," they wrote.

Rickey noted that anytime this type of issue "pops up, hopefully it's a good solid reminder that we owe it to ourselves and those that we represent to always act in a responsible and obviously ethical manner. If there's an unintended positive consequence, it is that people are more tuned in to ethical issues."

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