A new report out today from House Oversight and Government Reform Republicans exposes unlawful use of taxpayer funding by the Obama administration for public relations and propaganda initiatives noting, “…the first year of this Administration, there was the appearance that the White House is using federal resources to run a four-year campaign for the presidency in 2012.”
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), top Republican on the committee, released “Analysis of the First Year of the Obama Administration: Public Relations and Propaganda Initiatives” and will request a formal Government Accountability Office (GAO) investigation.
Congress specifically prohibits spending appropriated funds for “publicity and propaganda,” unless expressly authorized by Congress. These limitations have appeared in the annual appropriations legislation for 50 years. One typical example of the legislative language cited in the report:
“No part of any funds appropriated in this or any other Act shall be used by an agency of the executive branch, other than for normal and recognized executive-legislative relationships, for publicity or propaganda purposes, and for the preparation, distribution or use of any kit, pamphlet, booklet, publication, radio, television or film presentation designed to support or defeat legislation pending before the Congress, except in presentation to the Congress itself.”
Federal law also specifically prohibits use of appropriated funds by executive branch agencies on activities that are directly or indirectly “intended or designed to influence in any manner a Member of Congress, to favor or oppose… any legislation or appropriation by Congress…”
Federal agencies are also restricted from using appropriated funds for publicity activities by federal code. Under 5 U.S.C. 3107 it is illegal to use such funds “to pay a publicity expert unless specifically appropriated for that purpose.”
In addition, 5 U.S.C. 7321 – 7326 (the “Hatch Act”) limits certain political activities of federal employees both on and off duty.
The report out today found the Obama White House is using two basic types of propaganda activities to promote and propagate Obama’s agenda:
• Misusing the resources of federal agencies to publicize the President’s agenda; and,
• Multiplying traffic to websites containing propaganda by capitalizing on the visibility of the President and pre-existing campaign relationships.
The 37-page report also details multiple administration public relations programs initiated since January 20, 2009, that violate various prohibitions on federally-financed propaganda, including:
• Justice Department hiring “New Media Specialist” to surf the web and anonymously post attacks on authors of unfavorable reports (page 13)
• Education Department deputy assistant secretary disseminating email outlining Obama’s government takeover of student loans directing recipients to “communicate the merits of the President’s proposal with your members and other audiences…” (page 13)
• Extensive coordination with the National Endowment of the Arts to create propaganda items to support Obama initiatives (page 10)
• Health and Human Services Department (HHS) hired health care economist (paid over $300,000) to advocate Obama programs in direct violation of appropriations restrictions and without media disclosures (page 17)
• Obama Health Reform Czar using White House “messages.whitehouse.gov” domain email this year to disseminate partisan Obamacare support e-mail imploring recipients in the federal workforce to “help raise awareness by sharing this e-mail with your friends, family and online networks.” (page 16)
(Because the e-mails were sent from an official White House email address, a CBS News report in March 2010 said several career federal employees at the U.S. Department of State received these e-mails and believed they required them to take some sort of action to further the President’s agenda)
• Unlawful HHS ads and website activity (pages 18-19)
• White House promotion of websites designed to disseminate propaganda including Recovery.gov and direct promotion of pro-Obamacare Democrat party websites (page 21)
• Spending millions of taxpayer dollars on “stimulus” project highway signs
The new report indicates multiple times Issa’s inquiries to agencies were ignored by Obama administration officials. Should Republicans win the majority in the House of Representatives in November, Issa would wield subpoena power.
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