Guest Editorial: Like Mad Men, government-style
Our federal government is a master of self-promotion, comprising the second-largest public relations firm in the world, according to a new report from Open the Books, a project of the nonprofit group American Transparency, which has developed an app to track federal and state spending.
From fiscal years 2007-14, the federal government spent $4.37 billion on public relations efforts, according to the study. This sum includes more than $2.3 billion for 3,092 in-house public affairs officers – 60 percent of whom make at least $100,000 a year in base salary – across more than 200 federal agencies and $2 billion spent by 139 agencies on outside PR vendors. During this period, the number of government PR positions has increased by 15 percent, and outside PR consulting expenditures have increased 47 percent under the Obama administration, compared to the last two years of George W. Bush’s administration.
The money has gone to fund projects such as the Environmental Protection Agency’s “I Choose Clean Water” social media campaign to tout its massive expansion of authority under its Waters of the United States rulemaking. The Government Accountability Office just determined that this constituted “covert propaganda” and violated federal lobbying laws.
Other expenditures included $36.5 million for polling on foreigners’ opinions of the United States, $630,000 to convince people to “like” the State Department on Facebook, $4.5 million to monitor the media, $62,098 for “cooking videos promoting U.S. agriculture products overseas” and spending on focus groups of older motorcyclists ($93,487) and adult bicyclists ($101,104).
While government agencies are to be commended for making information available, agencies “are not charged with using taxpayer funds to engage in thinly veiled propaganda campaigns that are primarily designed to protect their budgets and hype outcomes,” the report contends. “After $4.5 billion in federal public relations spending over the past eight years, have we reached a point where the people’s consent is being manufactured by our government?”
It is bad enough that our government wastes so many of our tax dollars on things of which we disapprove. It is a double slap in the face that it spends even more on propaganda to pat itself on the back for its extravagance and try to convince us that this is all done for the greater good, when it is really nothing more than a meek attempt to justify unnecessary bureaucrats’ existence.