Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Maggie Gallagher

Maggie Gallagher is a smiling marriage expert (well, she grins widely in the pictures I've seen). She writes a lot about the importance for all children to have two parents of different genders, and she is adamantly behind Bush's marriage initiative (the idea that marriage fixes all the ills of the poor). She also appears to have been paid by the government for her expertise in these matters:

In 2002, syndicated columnist Maggie Gallagher repeatedly defended President Bush's push for a $300 million initiative encouraging marriage as a way of strengthening families.

"The Bush marriage initiative would emphasize the importance of marriage to poor couples" and "educate teens on the value of delaying childbearing until marriage," she wrote in National Review Online, for example, adding that this could "carry big payoffs down the road for taxpayers and children."

But Gallagher failed to mention that she had a $21,500 contract with the Department of Health and Human Services to help promote the president's proposal. Her work under the contract, which ran from January through October 2002, included drafting a magazine article for the HHS official overseeing the initiative, writing brochures for the program and conducting a briefing for department officials.

"Did I violate journalistic ethics by not disclosing it?" Gallagher said yesterday. "I don't know. You tell me." She said she would have "been happy to tell anyone who called me" about the contract but that "frankly, it never occurred to me" to disclose it.

Later in the day, Gallagher filed a column in which she said that "I should have disclosed a government contract when I later wrote about the Bush marriage initiative. I would have, if I had remembered it. My apologies to my readers."

She received another $20,000 later

for writing a report, titled "Can Government Strengthen Marriage?", for a private organization called the National Fatherhood Initiative. That report, published last year, was funded by a Justice Department grant, said NFI spokesman Vincent DiCaro. Gallagher said she was "aware vaguely" that her work was federally funded.

In columns, television appearances and interviews with such newspapers as The Washington Post, Gallagher last year defended Bush's proposal for a constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriage.

Wade Horn, HHS assistant secretary for children and families, said his division hired Gallagher as "a well-known national expert," along with other specialists in the field, to help devise the president's healthy marriage initiative. "It's not unusual in the federal government to do that," he said.

Wade Horn is the wingnut who said that the foundation of the family is the father. Without a father, there is no family. These opinions are the reason why Horn is now an assistant secretary for children and families, of course. He's part of the payback to the fundamentalists.

Gallagher's case may not be similar to Armstrong Williams' case. Gallagher was paid to write reports, not to go on talkshows and spout propaganda. But she was spouting the propaganda already, of course, so it's not clear if the payment really was intended to cover nothing but the reports. I have more trouble with the assertion that Gallagher is a well-known national expert in the field of marriage, and therefore deserves to be hired with our tax money. She's a well-known partisan in the discussion of marriage, and that doesn't exactly guarantee objective expert statements from her.

But I have a lot more trouble with her writing style. Here's Maggie waxing poetical about fathers' rights in adoption cases:

Why has social work, as a profession, been so uniquely deaf to the cries of children hungering for absent fathers, or to the social science evidence that generally support intact marriages as important for child well-being?