Big Government's PR Problem

Public relations consultants have a line they like to trot out - that Bill Gates once said “If I was down to my last dollar, I’d spend it on public relations.”  That might not be a bad idea, business-wise, but in the case of the federal government, our last dollar went out the door a long time ago.  So it’s unclear why we’re spending money we don’t have on public relations campaigns we don’t need.

That’s right, while many American families continue to struggle financially and avoid unnecessary expenditures; our federal government is spending millions on public relations. From the “We’re paying for this??” files come stories of how big government is spending your tax dollars on misguided, unnecessary public relations campaigns.

Last week reported:

The Health and Human Services Department has signed a $20 million contract with a public-relations firm to highlight part of the Affordable Care Act.

The article goes on to say that it is international public relations firm Porter Novelli who won the contract to promote the benefits of ObamaCare  and waste taxpayer dollars - a firm responsible for both the old and new USDA Food Pyramids and climate change awareness campaigns.  also points out a connection between the Administration and a member of the Porter Novelli leadership team:

The public relations firm hired to conduct the PR campaign, Porter Novelli, is a global firm whose leadership team features former Obama campaign surrogate and Democratic operative Catherine "Kiki" McLean.

McLean appeared on television on behalf of the Obama campaign in 2008. She also worked as a senior adviser to Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign as well as the presidential campaigns of former Vice President Al Gore and Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.).

It’s almost as if the Administration was expecting to need some good PR to elevate the unpopular  Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The funding was called for in Section 4004 of the legislation.

Still, that’s not the only source of taxpayer funds to spin the President’s health care bill. Senator Jim DeMint  brings to light additional spending on ObamaCare marketing, this time paid for with stimulus funds:

The Obama Administration awarded Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide two contracts worth $26.5 million in 2010 for the purpose of creating a “publicity center” that would, according to the contract, “market and promote comparative effectiveness” products developed by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, which is part of the Department of Health and Human Services.

Another bad PR (in every sense) move that surfaced last week involved the government sponsored enterprise (GSE) formerly known as the Corporation for Travel Promotion, now Brand USA. reports:

The government-appointed board behind an aggressive overseas advertising campaign to promote tourism to the U.S. is little more than a corporate welfare program and a slush fund for wealthy Democratic donors, critics say.

Brand USA, formerly known as the Corporation for Travel Promotion, is a public-private partnership established by Congress to promote the United States abroad. It is governed by an 11-member board. John Connor, director of the Office of White House Liaison at the United States Department of Commerce, appointed the board members.

All of the board members Connor has appointed have donated to Democrats and Democratic organizations almost exclusively, if they have donated at all.

It’s helpful to think of Brand USA as the Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im) of tourism. Like Ex-Im, Brand USA is a cunning mix of politically well-connected rent-seekers who use the government’s power to tax those traveling to the U.S. (the very travel they claim they want to promote) to subsidize private companies.  The article continues:

Andy Roth, the vice president for government affairs at the Club for Growth, also said the government has no business subsidizing corporations’ travel advertising.

“If this is such a good idea, then the companies should be doing it on their own, even if it’s not costing the taxpayers money,” Roth said in an interview with the Free Beacon. “The government should be creating conditions to allow the private sector to flourish, but it shouldn’t be involved.”

On top of that, the burden of paying for this corporate welfare isn’t the jet-setters Brand USA board members imagine will come to their casinos and resorts, the most frequent visitors to the U.S. are coming to visit family members, who are getting taxed for the “privilege.”

I’m so glad that as our economy struggles to recover, the deficit continues to swell, and entitlements hurtle towards bankruptcy, we’re spending money on the things that really matter: growing government, protecting unpopular bills, and tourism.  As many Americans continue to make financial sacrifices, it’s nice to know that thanks to the taxes you paid, those at Porter Novelli, Ogilvy, and Brand USA won’t have to do the same.