January 26, 2005
Investigate ‘Pay-to-Sway’ Columnist for Possible Legal Violations
'The public deserves to know if there are other 'pay-to-sway' columnists and opinion leaders on the Bush administration payroll,' said HRC Political Director Winnie Stachelberg.
WASHINGTON - In a letter to the Acting Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services, the Human Rights Campaign requested an investigation to determine whether columnist Maggie Gallagher, having received more than $40,000 in federal grants to promote President Bush's marriage initiatives, violated federal law by not disclosing the funding to the public or Congress. Gallagher testified in the Senate in support of the discriminatory constitutional amendment and wrote numerous syndicated columns on these issues.
"The public deserves to know if there are other 'pay-to-sway' columnists and opinion leaders on the Bush administration payroll," said HRC Political Director Winnie Stachelberg. In the letter, Stachelberg wrote, "The failure to disclose a financial conflict-of-interest seems to us to be a clear violation of the public's trust in journalistic integrity. We would like to know whether federal law or congressional rules were violated when Gallagher testified before Congress, testimony that to our knowledge was not preceded by disclosures of these financial contracts and interests. ﾃ In an era of pinched funding, where critical health care and social service programs are experiencing severe budget cuts, we find the use of government funds for political advocacy to be deeply troubling."
Gallagher appeared as a witness for the majority at the Senate hearings on the Federal Marriage Amendment (later renamed the Marriage Protection Amendment) on Sept. 4, 2003, and March 3, 2004. According to a Jan. 26, 2005, Washington Post article, Gallagher received more than $40,000 in federal funding. Gallagher's funding included a $21,500 contract with the Department of Health and Human Services to help promote the president's $300 million marriage promotion initiatives and an additional $20,000 in funding in 2002 and 2003 for writing the report "Can Government Strengthen Marriage?"
During the same period, Gallagher also wrote extensively on marriage issues in syndicated columns that appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The National Review and The Washington Post, as well as other publications. In a column Gallagher published Jan. 25 following an interview with Washington Post reporter Howard Kurtz, Gallagher wrote, "I should have disclosed a government contract when I later wrote about the Bush marriage initiative. I would have, if I had remembered it."
"I wonder how many of Gallagher's readers would believe anybody could have forgotten about a check for $400, let alone $40,000," added Stachelberg. "Gallagher seems deeply out-of-touch with most of the parents for whom she purports to advocate."