Public Relations--A Public Fraud in Federal Agencies

Lurita Doan

3/19/2012 12:01:00 AM - Lurita Doan

President Obama may lack chops in many areas—job creation, growing the economy, managing the cost of fuel and food—but, he is a master at political strategy and excels in the art of misdirection.

Obama has used controversies such as the birth-control/insurance mandate in February to divert attention away from a Bureau of Labor Statistics’ report which showed that there are approximately 16 million unemployed Americans, 30% of whom have been unemployed for over two years. And, Obama’s recent defense of his so-called energy policy seems intended to distract Americans from the fact that gas prices are rising even as the economy groans under the Administration’s spending spree causing $1.3 trillion dollars annually in deficits along with a ballooning of the public debt to $15.5 trillion dollars.

It is nothing short of breathtaking that Team Obama continues to pile on more debt, continues the false promises to supporters that continued government subsidies and entitlements can be maintained, and delays any honest reform. And most startling of all, as our nation moves ever closer to a Greece-style default, Barack Obama employs his considerable political skills to masquerade his disastrous economic policies to try and fool American voters.

Americans might be used to politicians spinning reality to help them get re-elected, but we have rarely seen as sophisticated a public relations campaign as that which has now mobilized the full federal government.

Many Americans may be unaware that federal agencies have robust public relations departments comprised of both career federal employees and supplemented by one or more outside public relations’ firms. These PR employees and contractors do more than just manage federal agencies’ websites, they also orchestrate elaborate public relations’ strategies designed to highlight political appointees’ supposed accomplishments and promote the illusion of positive advances in the Obama Administration’s plans.

Taxpayer costs exceed $1 billion. Worse yet, Team Obama seems intent on pouring even more taxpayer resources into official government propaganda.

Consider that even in an era of supposedly tight federal spending levels, and even with Congressional pressure growing to eliminate wasteful and redundant programs, business is good within the world of government’s Public Affairs.

Federal agencies have been hiring even more Public Affairs and media experts, even as they face hiring freezes in other departments. Within many Federal Agencies, expensive “buy-out” policies are being implemented to reduce the bloated bureaucracy. Yet, within the Public Affairs’ divisions of the federal government, the hiring goes on and on.

Ever wonder why government agencies are spending so much on advertising and public affairs?

Public Affairs officers have been elevated to senior positions within federal agencies. Agencies are spending billions of dollars on advertising, telling other agencies and “spinning” Americans on their “good news stories”, and what a great job they are doing with the taxpayer dollars.

Government trade magazines feature large, online and in-print advertisements from federal agencies, and, in return, those trade magazines and newspapers feature puff pieces on agency executives.

Federal agencies are also mandated to sell their goods and services to one another. Yet, many agencies spend millions of dollars, annually, in conferences, in commercial publications and in promotional materials and tschotkes to market one another.

Of course, these agencies also spend millions of dollars to market the “successes” of the agencies’ leaders, often paving the way for prestigious, revolving-door, jobs after leaving office, such as the recent Jake Siewert (counselor and former press secretary) transition from Obama Administration official to Goldman Sachs executive.

Never before has a president marshaled so many public relations pieces in an orchestrated propaganda campaign, seemingly designed solely to effect his reelection. The public funds which the Obama Administration is spending on public relations is a misuse of taxpayer money and congress ought to get tough with the Administration.

Of course, these expenditures are not easily identified since they show up in a variety of places under various line items in an agency’s budget. These expenditures tend to be buried in the PC&B (Payroll, Compensation and Benefits) budget lines, or are buried in other “contractor” costs and ODC (Other Direct Costs) lines in the agencies’ budgets.

A carefully worded request from congress, itemizing queries for costs for web site development, website “presence”, online “subscription” services and contractor paid “promotional” costs and conference fees would also reveal that the widespread PR efforts of the Obama Administration runs into the billions of dollars.

A recent news report analyzed the stupendous effort the Obama presidential campaign is investing in online marketing efforts utilizing personal data collected via internet sites and mobile devices. But, when combined with the phenomenal growth in the ‘spin” people and resources employed in federal agencies, it becomes clear that Obama is managing, below the surface of public attention, to mobilize enormous assets within the federal government to support his campaign re-election strategy.

It is also important to remember that Team Obama is not bound, as other businesses are, by the same “truth in advertising” laws, designed to protect consumers. Nor is Team Obama required to “substantiate its claims”. So, instead they spend lots of time in self-serving puffery, telling Americans how wonderful the Obama Administration is and what a great job they are doing.

How much better for all of us if Obama would spend time tackling the real and pressing problems of the day—unemployment, rising deficits, rising energy prices, reduced trade and reduced manufacturing growth.

The sad part of all of this is that, given the choice, the Obama Administration has shown they would rather spend their time (along with a healthy dose of taxpayer money) spinning the story rather than solving the problems that Obama was elected to solve.

Obama has told us he has studied Abraham Lincoln and is familiar with Lincoln’s wisdom that “you can fool some of the people, all of the time”. Pity that the president’s Lincoln scholarship ended prematurely and he did understand the rest of Lincoln’s wisdom, that “You can’t fool all the people all the time”.

Barack Obama clearly thinks he can.