Senator wants federal government to open its books on PR spending

Senator Mike Enzi, the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, is asking the Government Accountability Office to assess how much the federal government is spending on PR services.

WASHINGTON: Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY) has directed the Government Accountability Office to study how much the federal government is spending on public relations activity.

Enzi, the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, sent a similar request for information on PR-related activities to the Office of Management and Budget four months ago, but he said that request has not been fulfilled.

The Budget Committee added in a statement that "oversight of agency spending on advertising, PR, and media relations is largely unknown." However, it noted that the Congressional Research Service found that nearly a billion dollars was spent on advertising and PR services contracts in fiscal year 2013, though that report did not quantify in-house agency spending.

Enzi, in the letter to Comptroller General Gene Dodaro, cited "increasing pressures on limited federal resources, limited available spending information, and the changing media landscape" in inquiring about PR spending. He asked for information on how much is spent by the federal government at large and which agencies are spending the most on PR activities. He noted that roughly $892.5 million in advertising contracts were doled out in 2013.

Charles Young, MD of public affairs at the GAO, told PRWeek the study should begin in March. He confirmed the office received the request, but did not comment further.

In December, nonprofit OpenTheBooks called out the federal government’s use of external PR support in its report, "The Department of Self-Promotion." It cited more than $2 billion in outside spending between 2007 and 2014, while federal PR staff increased by 15%.

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