The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes
Thursday, January 27, 2005
A cui bono for outing Armstrong Williams
So far as I can tell - I've not looked hard - Williams' little arrangement with Ketchum saw the light of day through an FOIA request from USA Today.
Whether the rag was tipped off to look at Williams in particular, or fingered him as part of a general trawl, isn't clear to me. (I've not being paying over-much attention to the story.)
But - if only to illustrate the dangers of the cui bono method - let me consider a possible explanation
The Bush administration's general approach (as I've discussed before) is to integrate public and private in a sort of neo-corporatism, along the lines of the defence industry. The pay-off is to produce streams of private money from public activity: private money from which they (or their campaigns, PACs and the like) can get the skimmings.
Post-Williams, they can go to beneficiaries (pharma and insurance, off the top of the head) of new programmes and say, If USG does the promotion, it gets hassle from the GAO and all sorts of liberal busybodies; we need you to take care of it. At least, the covert side.
And they can be subtle about it: there's all sorts of consultancy work and speaking engagements and think-tank fellowships (for example) by which private sector payola can be laundered.
The giveaways are so enormous - the prescription drug benefit is worth billions to Big Pharma - that a few million in the sweaty palms of the likes of Williams is not much to ask in order to ensure a quiet life for everyone.
That's the hypothesis, at least.
[The total administration PR spend for the first Bush term ran to around $250 million, it seems - against $128 million for Clinton's second. Chicken feed beside that Bush deficit - $427 billion for 2005, at the last count.]
Bush, quoted by Howie Kurtz:
All our Cabinet secretaries must realize that we will not be paying, you know, commentators to advance our agenda. Our agenda ought to be able to stand on its own two feet.
With a little help from his friends, perhaps?
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