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PR Pros Defend Government Contracts

PR companies fearing a derailment of the gravy train have weighed in on a proposed Senate investigation into government "public-relations contracts."

The investigation was prompted by the discovery that conservative TV and radio commentator and columnist Armstrong Williams had been paid $240,000 to promote the Bush administration's No Child Left Behind education policy in his commentaries.

In a statement, the Public Relations Society of America said it, too, was "disheartened" by the news of the pay-for-play deal, but took pains to try and distance it from government PR contracts in general.

"We are confident that this effort will find what we know to be the truth, that the daily practice of ethical public relations by government employees and the public relations agencies they work with represents a critical government function that serves both the government and its citizens by encouraging the free flow of information," said the PRSA in a statement.

Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) has called for an investigation into whether the Williams contract was illegal or unethical and whether there have been other contracts that resulted in overt propaganda. Separately, Senator Tom Harkin wants to introduce a bill requiring federal agencies to show thier ad budgets to Congress and to include notification in those ads that they are paid for with taxpayer dollars.