WASHINGTON: Department of Education secretary Rod Paige denied in a statement issued today that the payment made to Graham Williams Group included the PR activities that Armstrong Williams engaged in on behalf of the 'No Child Left Behind' program.
The statement was issued in response to negative publicity that erupted over the payment of $240,000 to commentator, and advertising firm owner, Armstrong Williams, through intermediately Ketchum.
In the statement, Paige said that the DoE wanted to make sure it had all facts available before making a public comment.
"The funds for the Graham Williams Group's services went exclusively toward the production and airtime of advertisements in which I described the law and encouraged viewers and listeners to call the Department's toll-free information line," Paige said. "The funds covered those costs alone and nothing more."
However, the contract stated: "Ketchum shall arrange for Mr. Williams to regularly comment on NCLB during the course of his broadcasts." Further, it said, "Mr. Williams shall utilize his long term working relationship with America's Black Forum, where he appears as a guest commentator, to encourage the producers to periodically address the No Child Left Behind Act."
Ketchum has maintained that it wished Williams had disclosed his relationship. Williams has talked to many media outlets accepting culpability for the controversy.
Several congressional Democrats are demanding an investigation into the contract, claiming the activities might have violated the Publicity & Propaganda Act, which forbids the government from releasing information or promotions without identifying it as the source.
Paige said all of the activities were legal, and expressed dismay that there were allegations of ethical lapses. The statement concluded with his asking for an investigation to address any remaining aspects of the issue.