HRC: Investigate 'pay-to-sway' columnist for possible legal violations


HRC News Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, Thursday, Jan. 27, 2005
Contact: Steven Fisher
Contact: Mark Shields

WASHINGTON - The Human Rights Campaign reiterated its call for an investigation into possible legal violations following reports that columnist Maggie Gallagher, having received more than $40,000 in federal grants to promote President Bush's marriage initiatives, failed to disclose her federal funding to Congress.

"The public deserves to know if there are other 'pay-to-sway' columnists and opinion leaders on the Bush Administration payroll," said HRC Communications Director Steven Fisher.

In a letter to the Acting Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services, HRC Political Director Winnie 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 journalist 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. ... 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, Wall Street Journal, National Review and 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."

The Human Rights Campaign is the largest national lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender political organization with members throughout the country. It effectively lobbies Congress, provides campaign support and educates the public to ensure that LGBT Americans can be open, honest and safe at home, at work and in the community.


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