WASHINGTON: Republican leaders in the House are objecting to an RFP for a $10 million, five-year integrated campaign released late last month by the firm that oversees AmeriCorps.
The nine-page RFP describes a multifaceted effort to boost the image of the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) as an effective, fiscally responsible leader among volunteer service organizations.
House Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-MO) objected to the RFP last week, saying the money would be better spent on AmeriCorps' civic mission.
"AmeriCorps should be spending its taxpayer funds to help the needy," Blunt told PRWeek through a spokesman. "The good they can do for Americans in need with their $10 million PR budget will be its own 'positive message.'"
Stuart Roy, communications director for House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX), said, "Communicating is part of AmeriCorps' mission, and we want them to do that, but we fully believe that $10 million for outside communications help is unnecessary. They should be able to provide their own communications support internally through their volunteers."
Other programs under CNCS include Senior Corps, Learn and Save America, and the President's Volunteer Service Award - all of which promote volunteerism in America.
Launched under former President Clinton in 1993, AmeriCorps recently has come under fire from Congress for alleged mismanagement of funds. A punitive budget cut last year was reversed with a significant increase this year.
But House Republicans, led by DeLay, are now leading a charge to cut healthcare benefits afforded AmeriCorps volunteers, limit the amount of time a grantee organization could use AmeriCorps funds, and increase the group's dependence on private investment.
The RFP makes no mention of AmeriCorps' congressional obstacles, though it does list Congress first among its target audiences and "improving reputation for management and accountability" among its objectives. A CNCS contract specialist did not respond to inquiries.
Though federal agencies are technically not allowed to use taxpayer dollars to influence Congress, improving an agency's image with lawmakers through a PR campaign is a common practice.
Other recent PR problems for CNCS include a ruling last week by a US district court that it must stop placing volunteers in Catholic schools because it unconstitutionally breaches the separation of church and state.
The RFP, released June 29, calls for a $2 million-a-year campaign renewable for up to four additional years.