It looks like Darryl Issa’s been busy during his break from Congress.
Rep. Darryl Issa (R-CA) is the ranking Republican on the House Oversight Committee and he’s released a report outlining how the White House has been using taxpayer funds to illegally create propaganda aimed at propping up President Obama’s agenda. Before you go saying “All presidents have done that,” Issa also examined the activities of past presidents and found that Obama has outdone all modern administrations by far.
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.
The White House also used its inherent visibility advantages to multiply the effectiveness of websites containing misleading and controversial information. The White House used its resources to push visitors to websites that urge grassroots activism based on false and misleading information. The President’s right to sell his policy recommendations to Congress and the public is not disputed; however, using the resources of the federal government to activate a sophisticated propaganda and lobbying campaign is an abuse of office and a betrayal of the President’s pledge to create “an unprecedented level of openness in Government.”
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.
This report examines several of the most visible public relations and propaganda efforts during the first year of the Obama Administration. Viewed collectively, these activities reveal an Administration better suited to campaign-style self-promotion than to providing transparent and honest leadership.
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.
Owens wonders whether or not the media will pick up on this report. Maybe they won’t today, but if Republicans take control of Congress in November Issa will chair the Oversight Committee and then the media may not have a choice but to cover it.