Saturday, January 08, 2005

The Tip of the Bushian Bribery Iceberg

Seems President Bush got caught yesterday bribing a journalist to say good things, ostensiby as "news," about Mr. Bush and his programs. The journalist admits it, so "allegedly" is a moot term. Conservative African-American broadcaster Armstrong Williams was paid $240,000 in taxpayer funds to promote the "No Child Left Behind" proposal before it was law. Mr. Williams did so by "interviewing" Education Secretary Rod Paige during TV and radio shows, and by passing favorable comments off as facts.

Leading pundit and blogger Eschaton did an exceptional job of capturing the story as it broke yesterday. He obtained a copy of the soup du jour in this controversy..... a blatant "cease and desist" letter dated January 7 from Senators Kennedy, Lautenberg and Reid. Definitely take time to read the six paragraph letter here.

Here are a few choice excerpts from the US Senators' letter to President George Bush, " We are writing to urge you to immediately terminate---and recover funds from---the contract between your administration and the journalist Armstrong Williams....

In addition to recovering these funds, we would urge you to disclose if any other journalists have been paid by your Administration to skew their media reports in favor of your initiatives, proposals or political messages. Fo example, have any journalists...been paid by your Administration to promote your Social Security privatization plan or otherwise promote the idea of a 'crisis' in Social Security?

...In addition to the illegality of these actions taken by your Administration, we believe that the act of bribing journaists to bias their news in favor of government policies undermines the integrity of our democracy....

Good government means that our citizens can trust that government policies put the public's interest first. We don't need 'payola' and public relations to educate our kids. We need good teachers, good schools and good standards."

It's a thrilling letter...Democratic leadership is finally venting its outrage and taking action. Finally. Democratic leadership is rising to its feet to lead us out of the Bush morass.

One question.....why are the liberals of this country ceding the moral high grounds to Bush and his arrogant cronies? They bribe, they torture and maim, they lie, they exploit and extort, and all without apology or regret. It's hard to think of a modern President...or any President... whose administration broke more of the Ten Commandments so revered by the evangelical Christian community than any Presidency in memory.

The one thing I've never understood....why are good Christians supporting these people?


Family and close friends know that I studied journalism and then writing (nonfiction film and news) as a UCLA undergraduate. I went the business school route in grad school, however, and served 2 decades in the corporate world, many as a longtime audit manager and audit instructor with pre-scandal, now-defunct Arthur Andersen. I even taught auditing at the university level.

Every "red flag" an auditor looks for when scanning for fraud, bribery and kickbacks is present in the Bush administration. The lack of transparency, the desperate drive for secrecy, the concentration of real power in one or a few individuals, lack of accountability and independent oversight, lack of desire for differing viewpoints. (Audit textbooks don't have chapters on extremist messianic zeal for one's own ideas, but perhaps they now will in the future.)

My educated and experienced guess is that this $240,000 bribe is merely a tiny, fractional tip of the Bushian bribery and kickback iceberg.

I've been writing a multi-part investigative series on Funding of Faith-Based Social Services. The remaining series parts will address expenditures of taxpayers' funds.....selection criteria and identity of recipients of taxpayers' funds; substance and intent of funded social services programs; and of course, how much did they get and for what? In other words, I'm following the oh-so-obscure money trail.

One preliminary observation....the money seems to have been awarded disproportionately to ultra-conservative Protestant-related programs aimed getting people back to work and off the public dole. Also, oddly enough, lots of the money was spent in ....election year swing states. (Does Des Moines, Iowa even have that many social service programs?)

It appears the phrase "faith-based" is a synonym for conservative Christian, and that US taxpayers' funds were allocated along narrowly-proscribed theocratic rather than democratic lines. (Is that legal under our Constitution? Is that permissible? Is that desirable?)

Bush bragged recently about giving $1 billion to faith-based groups in 2003. It boggles the imagination to ponder how much he gave away to his voter base in 2004 under the auspices of social services programming.

(I had planned for this series to be complete this coming week, but I'll now be delayed for two weeks, due to special project work. I will be posting periodically during these two weeks, and will return fulltime thereafter.)

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