- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 22, 2006

The Justice Department has reached a settlement with conservative commentator Armstrong Williams, closing a yearlong investigation into his promotion of Bush administration education reforms.

The final eight-page agreement among Mr. Williams, the Education Department and its subcontractor, Ketchum Communications, was reached Thursday.

The carefully worded settlement papers, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Times, state that Mr. Williams is not guilty of any criminal violations, but must repay a portion of his fee to the federal government. According to the documents, Mr. Williams will have to pay $34,000 to settle the case.

“It’s a complete and absolute vindication for me as far as my involvement in this. I did not break the law,” Mr. Williams said.

He became the central figure last year in a brouhaha in which the Education Department contracted with several radio, television and print commentators to promote the No Child Left Behind Act.

House Democrats and Republicans denounced the public relations deal as an illegal propaganda campaign using taxpayers’ dollars.

Mr. Williams’ contract with Ketchum required that he create two television and two radio advertisements regarding the effectiveness of No Child Left Behind, which settlement papers state he performed.

It also called for Mr. Williams to “actively promote” the law to minorities as part of a six-month outreach program, but he said he refused to honor that portion of the contract.

“If I had done that, it would have been unethical and illegal,” he said. “So basically, I have to pay them $34,000 back for not breaking the law.”

The incident damaged the reputations of many journalists because the public viewed many of the people used to promote the education law as journalists, not as opinion writers and pundits on television and radio talk shows.

“The one thing I do regret, and I have always said this, is not disclosing this contract and my duties to my media clients who run my columns and broadcast commentaries,” Mr. Williams said.

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