Wednesday Waste, Government Public Relations

Wednesday Waste | November 28, 2012

According to a study conducted by the Washington Guardian and Medill News Service, federal agencies have awarded more than 190,000 contracts and spent an average of about $1.5 billion per year on outside advertising, marketing, and public relations. That adds up to more than $16 billion over the last decade alone. This amount doesn’t include the millions of dollars agencies already spend on their fulltime press and media operations annually. The biggest spenders among the federal agencies were the departments of the Treasury, Health and Human Services and the Pentagon. After reviewing federal spending records from the fiscal years 2002 through 2012, the Washington Guardian found that at least 30 percent of the contracts were awarded without full and open competition. Some funding even went to foreign contractors, whose names the government has refused to reveal.

Is this extra spending to promote programs and policies really the best use of taxpayer dollars? Federal agencies argue that extra advertising and marketing help their mission; congressional budget-cutters disagree. “At a time when we’re facing a $16 trillion debt and the impending bankruptcy of safety-net programs like Medicare and Social Security, spending $16 billion on advertising consultants raises troubling questions,” said Sen. Tom Coburn. “Congress has an obligation to find out who made these decisions, and for what purpose, and then hold agencies accountable for any misuse of taxpayer funds.”

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