The Bush administration has promoted its education law with a video that comes across as a news story but fails to make clear the reporter involved was paid with taxpayer money.
The government used a similar approach this year in promoting the new Medicare law and drew a rebuke from the investigative arm of Congress, which found the videos amounted to propaganda in violation of federal law.
The Education Department also has paid for rankings of newspaper coverage of the No Child Left Behind law, a centerpiece of the president's domestic agenda. Points are awarded for stories that say President Bush and the Republican Party are strong on education, among other factors.
The news ratings also rank individual reporters on how they cover the law, based on the points system set up by Ketchum, a public relations firm hired by the government.
The video and documents emerged through a Freedom of Information Act request by People for the American Way, a liberal group that contends the department is spending public money on a political agenda. The group sought details on a $700,000 contract Ketchum received in 2003 from the Education Department.
One service the company provided was a video news release geared for television stations. The video includes a news story that features Education Secretary Rod Paige and promotes tutoring now offered under law.
The story ends with the voice of a woman saying, "In Washington, I'm Karen Ryan reporting."
It does not identify the government as the source of the report. It also fails to make clear the person purporting to be a reporter was someone hired for the promotional video.
This level of fakery is far worse than anything Dan Rather found on his fax machine, which, if forged, at least had the benefit of being true.
If you're an American paying taxes, you're paying to be lied to just like in the movie Brazil, where citizens are invoiced for their own wrongful arrest. You're contributing part of your income for the active demolition of your own rights.
The people who work for Ketchum should do us all a favor and just commit mass suicide.