WASHINGTON: In a move aimed at tightening anti-propaganda laws, the House of Representatives passed a bill prohibiting the administration from hiring journalists or PR firms to promote its policies for at least one year.
The Transportation, Treasury, HUD appropriations bill included an amendment introduced by Rep. Maurice Hinchey. (D-NY)
?No part of any appropriation contained in this or any other Act shall be used, directly or indirectly, including by private contractor, for publicity or propaganda purposes within the United States not heretofore authorized by the Congress," it reads.
The amendment does not ban all government PR contracts. But it does represent a growing movement by Democrats in Congress to enforce a higher level of disclosure by the Bush Administration in its PR efforts. The language of the amendment is virtually the same as existing appropriations bills, the only addition referring to outside contractors.
?[This administration has] been using the media to promote their point of view, but doing it surreptitiously,? Hinchley told PRWeek. ?It?s one thing to talk honestly about where you are on a particular issue, it?s another thing to hire individuals?to promote the administration?s policy but to couch that in a form that indicates objectivity.?
In January of this year, USA Today reported commentator/pundit Armstrong Williams had been paid $240,000 as part of a contract through Ketchum for the Department of Education. Parts of the payment were for Armstrong to endorse Bush?s No Child Left Behind act on the air.
Later that month, news broke that columnist Maggie Gallagher received $21,500 from the Department of Health and Human Services to work on President Bush?s marriage initiative.
Hinchey said that he is not opposed to the administration hiring PR firms. ?If the government is doing it, it has to be done honestly,? he added. ?[This amendment] is reinforcing the idea of transparency and emphasizing honesty on the part of the government.?