Public Funding for Propaganda?

Okay, folks.  I know I’m slacking off, but my new J-O-B (imagine that, a job created!) has made it extremely difficult to put entire pieces of writing together during the day.  Therefore, the majority of the material needs to be done at night for now, when time for America’s Right is being split with time for an enormously time-consuming project that could actually–no hyperbole here–make a slight but still tangible difference in the 2012 election should it come to fruition, and should I actually get it done right.

In this case, it’s a story that’s already two days old.  It centers around a congressional report released on Monday by California Republican Congressman Darrell Issa, ranking member on the House Oversight Committee, detailing the Obama administration’s improper–and likely illegal–use of taxpayer funds for various public relations and propaganda initiatives meant to force the administration’s agenda onto the American people.  Here’s an excerpt from the executive summary:

Since the beginning of the Obama Administration on January 20, 2009, ordinary Americans have financed and been exposed to an unprecedented number of public relations and propaganda efforts. Federal spending for public relations contracts rose to historically-high levels during the Bush Administration. Under one-party rule in 2009, the White House used the machinery of the Obama campaign to tout the President’s agenda through inappropriate and sometimes unlawful public relations and propaganda initiatives. Congress buoyed the Administration’s propaganda efforts by increasing federal spending on public relations for the first time since 2005.

The Obama Administration frequently used federal resources to promote the President’s agenda. In many cases, the Administration relied on the reach and resources of federal agencies and their personnel to promote certain of the President’s favorite programs. The White House also leveraged ties to the arts and entertainment community to embed propaganda in the content of television programming and artwork. These propaganda efforts violated appropriations riders and federal law prohibiting the use of appropriated funds for publicity or propaganda purposes.

Some of you may have seen it before.  HotAir was on it right away, for example, putting together a fantastic synopsis early on Monday while I was at work, drafting complaints and proposed orders and answering phones and fetching coffee.  (Some people get to have all the fun.)  Nevertheless, I thought it was extremely important to include here as well.  It’s long, for sure, but it can be found in PDF form HERE and at thirty-someodd pages is definitely worth the read.

Despite the time crunch and the work I did into the wee hours on Monday night on my still undisclosed project, I did manage to read through the report yesterday evening after work–I’ll never assign reading that I haven’t done myself–and can say that the contents of Issa’s work are as useful as they are explosive.  Some choice excerpts:

Instead of facilitating openness, the public relations and propaganda activities of the White House have had precisely the opposite effect. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has historically deemed activities involving “covert propaganda” to be unlawful. In those cases, the source of the public relations or propaganda materials did not disclose his or her identity as a federal employee or contractor. Many of the Obama Administration’s propaganda activities are unlawful because they are covert. Furthermore, several programs closely resemble those decried by Democrats and ruled unlawful by GAO during the Bush Administration.

The worst abuse of propaganda is directly connected to the White House. BarackObama.com, run by the Democratic National Committee, has been featured during the president’s speeches. It has been used by the administration and the DNC as a mechanism to lobby Congress, again apparently illegally, and to use the president’s high profile to solicit funds for the DNC as part of what has been mocked by some as the president’s “permanent campaign.” Additional efforts by First Lady Michelle Obama, detailed in the report’s reporting on the “iParticipate” initiative, find that the administration skirted the Hatch Act and and federal anti-lobbying laws by using Mrs. Obama to support the presidents social and health care agendas with $240 million worth of free advertising.

My favorite part, highlighted by the folks at HotAir, is this:

In October 2008, the Justice Department’s Office of Public Affairs (OPA) added Tracy Russo to direct the Department’s “new media efforts.” Russo, the Chief Blogger and Deputy Director of Online Communications for the John Edwards for President Campaign,58 was given the title “New Media Specialist.”59 Since October, Russo has served as the author of the Justice Department’s official blog.60

Shortly after Russo was hired, reports surfaced that indicated she was covertly attempting to shape public opinion by searching online for articles, blogs or other entries critical of the Administration and then anonymously, or through the use of a pseudonym, posting comments to those sites attacking the author or contents.61

The blogging and campaign communities refer to this propaganda tactic as “astroturfing.”62 Astroturfing is the action of using fake and anonymous postings on message boards and blogs to push a point of view or to create the appearance of grassroots support for a particular agenda.63

HotAir’s Ed Morrissey–who I may actually get the chance to meet at a blogger conference in Washington, D.C. next month–hit the nail on the head by calling it a “ridiculous exercise.” First of all, I could very easily trash obvious “astroturf” and effectively flush down the toilet a purported hard day’s work for Tracy Russo. (As it stands, though, I trash very few comments, and even then usually only those which are over-the-top obscene or, even more rarely, those which are obviously posted solely for the purpose of unnecessarily stirring up trouble. In fact, I think I probably reject more comments from right-leaning folks than left-leaners.)  That the administration is earmarking your money and my money to officially pay someone to post stupid stuff under a fake name at sites like America’s Right should be enough to boggle the mind.

Then again, though, Barack Obama famously told his supporters to “get in the face” of detractors, so we shouldn’t be surprised that this president has created a Trolling Czar.  Trolling … it’s like the online equivalent of getting roughed up by an SEIU thug at a town hall meeting.

As for my two cents on the entire report, for what it’s worth: I have no problem whatsoever with a president of the United States selling his worldview, perspective and policies to Congress and to the American people. That’s just fine and, frankly, is more than expected. In fact, the separation of powers inherent in the Constitution almost guarantees that a president will need to take certain limited PR-related steps — the problem, however, is when the campaign never ends, and public money has taken the place of voluntary campaign donations.

This president has never stopped being in campaign mode.  He bashes Republicans constantly, sleighting the other side more than I’ve seen any president do in recent memory.  And can you blame him?  Campaigning has been the only thing he’s been successful at.  Nevertheless, publicly funded politicking is wrong no matter who does it.

Of course, I highly doubt that Congress will make anything of Issa’s report.  At least not this Congress.  Issa, however, has more than proven himself to be an investigative thorn in this administration’s side, and for the sake of the nation I hope he continues his work.

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Comments

  1. Your morning must view says:

    Propaganda precedes… force, and coercion.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7wusgcG4rfo

  2. Boston Blackie Blackie says:

    “I know I’m slacking off, but my new J-O-B (imagine that, a job created!)”

    And we all know that your j-o-b was not created by any s-t-i-m-u-l-u-s money. This is just the latest example of the illegal shenanigans going on behind the scenes at the WH. Nothing will become of this except Issa will be dragged through the mud by the lame stream media, if they even pick it up at all. I still want someone to explain to me exactly why David Axelrod and Valerie Jarrett have secret service protection as taxpayers’ expense.

  3. The Volunteer state says:

    “an enormously time-consuming project that could actually–no hyperbole here–make a slight but still tangible difference in the 2012 election should it come to fruition, and should I actually get it done right.”

    DO IT RIGHT, and let us know if we can help!!!

  4. Blogger v. Blogger says:

    I wonder if whats_up feels the West Wing is paying him enough to put up with us.

  5. Sam says:

    I could see Abraham Lincoln ‘hanging out with’ and appreciating Ronald Reagan.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ARvt3wsy0w

    Appreciation of our passed Ronald… vs. superficial adoration of Obama.
    I’ll take a big slice of the former.

  6. Truth v. propaganda says:

    ‎”There are no constraints on the human mind,
    no walls around the human spirit,
    no barriers to our progress
    except those we ourselves erect.”
    -Ronald Reagan

  7. Dee says:

    Jeff, I agree that Congress will ignore Issa’s report. They have ignored everything else that has been brought up that appears to be wrong. As “the Volunteer state” expressed, let us know if we can help with your project.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Oh, if only Dan Rather would rise up and go over Barry Soetoro’s paper trail like he tried to (tho manufacturing it) on George W.

  9. Ben says:

    I’ve been reading this site for years now, even prior to the redesign, and have never posted anything, but I couldn’t help but feel like this link is appropriate given the nature of this article.

    http://www.fastcodesign.com/1662135/could-a-dollar-bill-featuring-obama-repair-the-uss-image-abroad

    Thank you for all the great articles.

  10. whats_up says:

    @Blogger vs Blogger.

    My friend no one has hired me to do anything. I speak up on issues that I find important.

  11. whats_up says:

    To Boston Blackie:

    I would be curious to know if you think that what the Bush administration did with PR money was illegal as well?

  12. whats_up says:

    I do find it a little ironic that Rep. Issa waited until a Democrat was in office if he has a problem with Presidents using public money for propoganda purposes. After all he was on the same committee in 2005 when Bush spent a record number of dollars on PR, and yet not a word from him until a Democrat takes office. Perhaps my Conservative friends on this board can shed some light on why he would do this?

  13. Anonymous says:

    @ whats_up

    “Perhaps my Conservative friends on this board can shed some light on why he would do this?”

    WHY? you never answer the simplest of questions anyway.
    Be like Gore, conserve some bandwith and troll elsewhere, really.

    You, with this post, have defined, (how did you put it?) PATHETIC.

  14. Anonymous says:

    propaganda, for whats_not and the like… it’s all relative, isn’t it?

    http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/washington/2010/08/george-bush-laura-bush-uso.html

  15. Jeff Schreiber says:

    Folks, I know what STFU means. Trying to cleverly conceal it likely won’t work, and if those here continue to try to do so, I just won’t post their comments. And I hate doing that.

    Listen … the standard I try to keep here is simple. Think about how you would conduct yourself if you were gathering in a bar after work (presuming that the liberals here work — HA!) with the other commenters. If you’re gonna assert something, back it up. If you let a few cuss words fly, it’s not the end of the world so long as you don’t abuse it and become the drunk asshole nobody wants to be around because every other word would make a sailor cringe. So, think “bar.” If you wouldn’t tell someone you just met to “shut the fuck up” over a couple of cold ones after work, don’t do it here. Okay? Make sense?

    Jeff

    PS — Don’t think “bar” too much. I can’t afford to buy everyone here a round.

  16. whats_up says:

    @ Anon 11:55pm.

    What question have I declined to answer? I also take offense to the use of the term troll, i am not nor will be one. I offer a different viewpoint, evidently one that you dont want to hear as all you can do is call names. Surely your values cant be that weak that they cant be defended.

  17. R. B. says:

    Jeff;
    I respect the values that you have set for this site, but in light of this article concerning this admin misusing public monies and with comments made concerning same. This site has at least one who Slams and degrades others that make statements concerning this and past posts. This is a distraction from the posts and causes those that wish to make statements to rethink, delay & possibly not even post their thoughts. Perhaps its time to review some peoples posts and maybe edit those that only degrade others that try to add to that article posted.

  18. Sam says:

    Jeff,

    as long as we don’t have to dance with em, and we know beer just might make em attractive …. yuck.

  19. Anonymous says:

    Free to post, free to not read posts.

  20. Sam says:

    R.B.

    I have called for a wahbulance, not sure if Obamacare will pay for it.

  21. Boston Blackie says:

    whats_up,
    Obviously unlike you I DID read the report, you should take the time to do so as well. Your comeback on everything should stop being Bush did it too, stop living in the past. There is quite a difference between public service announcements paid for by the government (which we can all agree is a waste of our money) and the current admin using our money for a trolling czar or to fund NEA to prefend they are impartial and to push Obeyme’s unpopular agendas.
    BTW, if you even scanned the article you would have found out that this is not something new that started with W. FDR’s fireside chats were funded by our money. During Reagan and Bush 41 the funding was 2MM, Clinton 9MM and Bush 43 spent a shocking 161MM in 2003 (could it have had something to do with the affects of 9/11 and two wars). In the last two years of Bush it dropped to 59MM and in the first year of Obeyme it increased to 66MM, the first time since 2005.
    The report states that several programs resemble those already ruled unlawful by the GAO during the Bush admin. The one that disturbs me the most is that federal employees and contractors failed to disclose their employment status while participating in public relations activites.
    Again, please take the time to read the report and let me know your feeling then.

  22. Air America says:

    Aw yes, sweet liberal censorship, that’s the way to go.

  23. Boston Blackie says:

    Anon 12:33AM

    Now that’s what I call a Commander-in-Chief.

  24. Anonymous says:

    @ whats_up

    First – I did not call you a troll, my usage of the word was describing the ACT thereof. You sound like the Dr. Laura executioners. (pssst, seeing as you brought it up, take it from me, those who profess they’re not [fill in the blank] are usually in denial about the truth of what they truly suffer)

    Second – “Why the need to lie?” I have yet to read an answer. Again, you are always so quick to point out perceptions of wrong, have you ever stepped up when you’ve been proven to be wrong? I am more than willing to read a different viewpoint, but attacking the splitting of hairs with evidence that wreaks of the same faulty criticism, is just plain poor form.

    Your statements and posts are antagonistic, arrogant, judgmental, and childishly smug. I ponder if Jeff should allow you a featured commentary page. Maybe the readership could genuinely be enlightened to your insights which you feel are of value and vastly superior to the rest of the writers on AR. Who, by the way, try their best with little gratitude.

  25. Anonymous says:

    1:34 is quite offended by being called Gore at 11:55.
    ROTFLMAO

  26. Boston Blackie says:

    ” do find it a little ironic that Rep. Issa waited until a Democrat was in office if he has a problem with Presidents using public money for propoganda purposes. After all he was on the same committee in 2005 when Bush spent a record number of dollars on PR, and yet not a word from him until a Democrat takes office. Perhaps my Conservative friends on this board can shed some light on why he would do this? ”

    One last comment to whats-up on this subject-
    You don’t seem to understand the issue, it is not the amount of money spent, though that is also a problem to me. It is WHAT this admin is spending it on. BTW, why don’t you go to House Oversight Committee’s website and check out what they are investigated during the Bush years. Also Rep Issa only became the ranking minority member in 2008.

  27. Anonymous says:

    1:08, and a fine First Lady.

  28. whats_up says:

    To anon,

    Again what have I “lied” about. What did you think I had wrong and didnt admitt it, you still havent pointed that out. I have no problem saying that I am wrong, happens every day. However what specific subject are you talking about? What question have I not answered?

  29. whats_up says:

    @ Boston Blackie.

    I have read the report and actually agree with you. I do find this trend disturbing no matter who is in office, I was simply asking that if you think what Obama is doing is illegal, do you think it was illegal when Bush did the same thing? Consistency is key, too many times in todays political world Conservatives and Liberals only think something is illegal when the other guy does it but not ours. Simply trying to feel you out.

    As to Issa, what does becoming the ranking member have to do with anything? Can he not exercise his 1st amendment right to speak out against this type of behavior no matter if he is the ranking member or not. Granted I dont follow Issa all that much so perhaps he has, and if you can show me that he spoke out against what Bush was doing I will apologize for my cynicsim (sp?). I just found it ironic that he waited until a Dem was in office to do this.

  30. TNelson says:

    whats_up:
    The answer to your question is simple. Issa is a Republican, Bush is a Republican. It is the exact same reason you won’t see a democrat raising these allegations against Obama. It is unfortunate that our elected officials protect one of their own, as if they are some sort of club or gang member, but it is what it is. Simple.
    They look out for their “own” more than they look out for us. It happens on both sides of the aisle. I wish it were not true, there are a few who do not hold to the club mentality, but by and large that is what our elected officials do. We all know it, even though some here are unwilling to admit it.

  31. HonestAmerican says:
  32. Jeff Schreiber says:

    Saved myself a few bucks, it seems, eh Bob?

  33. .25 per word says:

    As long as they don’t tax us commentors, or make Us get a license.

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