Bush Administration Spent Over $1.6 Billion on
Advertising and Public Relations Contracts Since 2003, GAO Finds
From the Office of Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi
February 13, 2006
Washington, D.C. - Congressman Henry A. Waxman, House
Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Congressmen George Miller and
Elijah E. Cummings, and other senior Democrats released a new
Government Accountability Office (GAO) report today finding that
the Bush Administration spent more than $1.6 billion in public
relations and media contracts in a two and a half year span.
"The government is spending over a billion dollars per year
on PR and advertising," said Congressman Waxman. "Careful
oversight of this spending is essential given the track record
of the Bush Administration, which has used taxpayer dollars to
fund covert propaganda within the United States."
"No amount of money will successfully sell the Bush Administration's
failed policies, from the war in Iraq, to its disastrous energy
policy, to its confusing Medicare prescription drug benefits,"
said House Democratic Leader Pelosi. "The American people
know the Bush Administration is on the wrong track and the White
House PR machine won't change that fact."
"The extent of the Bush Administration's propaganda effort
is unprecedented and disturbing," said Congressman Miller.
"The fact is that after all the spin, the American people
are stuck with high prescription drug prices, high gas prices,
and high college costs. This report raises serious questions about
this Administration's priorities for the country and I would hope
that my colleagues on both sides of the aisle would agree that
changes need to be made to reign in the President's propaganda
"It is unbelievable that the Administration, on several
occasions, has used limited taxpayer dollars to secretly promote
initiatives such as No Child Left Behind, while underfunding money
for our schools, books, technology, and after school programs,"
said Congressman Cummings.
Democrats requested that GAO conduct the study after evidence
emerged last year that the Bush Administration had commissioned
"covert propaganda" from public relations firms. Several
federal departments had hired firms to develop "video new
releases" to promote department initiatives which appeared
to television viewers to be independent newscasts. Other revelations
that triggered the GAO report included the disclosure that the
Department of Education paid conservative commentator Armstrong
Williams to promote the No Child Left Behind Act on the radio
and in his columns.
To conduct its study, GAO obtained information from seven federal
departments on all public relations, advertising, and media contracts
during 2003, 2004, and the first two quarters of 2005. GAO found
that during that time:
· The Administration spent $1.6 billion on contracts with
advertising agencies ($1.4 billion), public relations firms ($197
million), and media organizations and individual members of the
media ($15 million).
· The Department of Defense spent the most on media contracts,
with contracts worth $1.1 billion. The Department of Health and
Human Services spent more than $300 million on these contracts,
the Department of Treasury spent $152 million, and the Department
of Homeland Security spent $24 million during this period.
The Administration's public relations and advertising contracts
spanned a wide range of issues, including Administration priorities
like "marriage-related research initiatives," message
development presenting "the Army's strategic perspective
in the Global War on Terrorism," and an FDA contract to warn
the public of the consequences and potential danger of importing
prescription drugs from other nations.
The detailed list of contracts provided by the Air Force demonstrates
the wide range of public relations and advertising contracting
entered into by the federal government. This list included $179
million for a recruitment advertising campaign, more than $35,000
for promotional materials for a golf program, including "golf
towel with embroidered design and golf tees with imprint,"
and $10,212 for "prize giveaways, such as cruises to Mediterranean
and to Canada/New England."
GAO's accounting of the Bush Administration's public relations
and advertising contracts is limited. GAO surveyed only seven
of the 15 cabinet-level departments, relied on self-reported information
from the agencies, and did not include subcontracts, task orders
on existing contracts, or public relations work done by government
For a fact sheet on the GAO report and the report itself, visit