Commentary and information about public safety and security, intelligence and counterintelligence, open government and secrecy, and other issues in northern Idaho and eastern Washington.

Location: Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, United States

Raised in Palouse, WA. Graduated from Washington State University. US Army (Counterintelligence). US Secret Service (Technical Security Division) in Fantasyland-on-the-Potomac and Los Angeles. Now living in north Idaho.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Report: Public Relations and Propaganda - Restrictions on Executive Agency Activities

Recently there have been controversies arise over the executive branch's expenditure of appropriated funds for public relations activities. The most notable example was the hiring of columnist and commentator Armstrong Williams by the Department of Education to promote the No Child Left Behind Act on his television program.

The issue is whether that use of funds and the messages sponsored amount to illegal propaganda. Title 5 USC 3107 prohibits the use of appropriated funds to hire publicity experts. Appropriations law "publicity and propaganda" clauses restrict the use of funds for puffery of an agency, purely partisan communications, and covert propaganda.

On February 2, 2005, The Library of Congress, Congressional Research Service released a report entitled Public Relations and Propaganda: Restrictions on Executive Agency Actitivies. It notes that no federal agency currently monitors federal public relations activities, but any Member or Committee of Congress may ask the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to examine an agency's publicity expenditures to determine their legality. Reforming the existing law will face two challenges: (1) defining propaganda and (2) tracking public relations activities by agencies.


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