It's been more than a month since Salon and other news outlets reported that the Bush administration had paid not one, not two, but at least three media flacks posing as journalists to promote its domestic initiatives on the taxpayer dime.
Back on Jan. 27, President Bush announced that the practice would end. "We will not be paying commentators to advance our agenda," he said. He didn't say anything about a commitment to greater transparency.
But that was the mission of twenty-one ranking House Democrats, who sent a letter to President Bush decrying the use of "secret publicity campaigns to promote administration priorities." They pointed out that the Office of National Drug Control Policy and the Department of Health and Human Services had violated propaganda laws on two separate occasions: by distributing anti-drug and pro-Medicare videos to TV stations without disclosing their provenance. The lawmakers demanded to see all relevant contract information by March 1.
Needless to say, that deadline has come and gone. So what now?
"I am disappointed that the President has not responded to our request for public relations, media, and advertising contracts," Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., a ranking member of the Committee on Government Reform, told War Room in an email. "Recent revelations of covert propaganda campaigns have raised serious concerns about the inappropriate and illegal use of taxpayer dollars. Congress needs to review these contracts to determine if the campaigns were isolated incidents or part of a troubling new pattern."
Waxman and his colleagues say they are working with the General Accounting Office to pursue an investigation of several federal agencies' use of P.R. contracts. "The Bush administration has not been as cooperative as we would like," said Thomas Kiley, a spokesman for Rep. Georgr Miller, D-Calif. "We're going to use every tool at our disposal to discover the extent of this. Unfortunately, we don't have all the tools at our disposal that the majority [party] has. We can't hold hearings or issue subpoenas."