Obamaganda: Campaigning on Your Tax Dollars

Chris Field
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Posted: Nov 17, 2010 2:36 PM
Below is an excerpt from an investigative report of the Obama administration's taxpayer-funded propaganda. The full report, "Obamaganda," can be read in the November issue of Townhall Magazine.



The Obama administration is propagandizing like it was still 2008, but this time using tax dollars like campaign donations in a way that may not be legal.

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This can’t be true. Could Sheriff Andy have been corrupted?

The Department of Health and Human Services spent $700,000 on a TV commercial featuring the 84-year-old Andy Griffith, explaining to seniors why the Democrats’ health care overhaul was good for them and their Medicare.

In the ad, the star of the “Andy Griffith Show” says, “This year, as always, we’ll have our guaranteed benefits. And with the new health care law, more good things are coming.”

The government bought airtime on CNN, the Weather Channel, Hallmark and Lifetime, considered the most popular networks for seniors.

He ends the ad saying, “I think you’re gonna like it,” in the folksy Andy Griffith way.

The core problem with the ad is that it’s not true.

The non-partisan FactCheck.org pointed out that some 10 million Medicare Advantage recipients will see their benefits cut by about $43 a month.

“Currently, about one in every four beneficiaries is enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan,” FactCheck.org said. “For many of them, the words in this ad ring hollow, and the promise that ‘benefits will remain the same’ is just as fictional as the town of Mayberry was when Griffith played the local sheriff.”

It might be too much to say Griffith was corrupted. He was just an actor reading his lines. The culprits would be the Obama administration that spent tax dollars on a misleading ad. Besides being misleading, it might even be illegal. After running a near flawless presidential campaign, President Barack Obama and his band of bureaucrats are still in campaign mindset and apparently haven’t figured out that you don’t spend taxpayer dollars on self-promotion the way you spend campaign contributions.

The bulk of these legally dubious efforts have been touting the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, better known as the stimulus law, and the $1 trillion health care overhaul. But propaganda has spread throughout federal agencies, notably the National Endowment for the Arts, where a bona fide scandal led to the sacking of the communications director in 2009.

“What this is about is whether your taxpayer dollars should be used to promote propaganda,” Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., the ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform committee told me. “In our case, we have federal laws that clearly prohibit propaganda, and that’s clearly what this is.” . . .

One reason the Justice Department might be loathe to probe taxpayer-subsidized propaganda by other departments is that such an investigation would inevitably lead to its own doorstep.

The DOJ hired Tracy Russo, who did blog outreach for the John Edwards presidential campaign, as a department blogger. Russo was not content just to blog. Rather, she sought out websites critical of the Obama administration and posted anonymous comments in the administration’s defense. Blogging and campaign communities call this “astroturfing.”

In October 2009, Reps. Issa and Lamar Smith of Texas, the top Republicans on the Oversight and Judiciary Committees respectively, wrote Attorney General Eric Holder to request information about the activity of the public affairs employees at Justice but got no response.

“The GAO has frequently ruled that covert propaganda violates federal law and appropriations riders,” the House oversight report said. The Hatch Act “prohibits the use of publicity experts unless specifically appropriated for the purpose. Additionally, the Justice Department is held to an even higher standard of conduct than other agencies as it is tasked with enforcing the nation’s laws in an objective, non-partisan and nonpolitical manner.”

But even without a Justice Department to investigate, Congress could soon look into this Obamaganda with a new Republican majority in the House.

“It fits into the growth of this tendency in government, which is a growth in propaganda,” Issa said. “The only reason that it’s not a scandal per se is the president’s predecessor did it, not as much. President Clinton did it, not as much. President Reagan probably did it, not as much. The point that we are trying to make is that it’s time for this to come to an end.”

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