On Friday, it was reported by The Washington Times that the Chairman of the House Committee on Education & the Workforce is probing stimulus money spent not on creating jobs… but on ads touting the stimulus. The ads were placed on MSNBC to talk about the components of the stimulus that consist of green jobs. From the article:
The letter, signed by Reps. John Kline of Minnesota, chairman of the committee, and Phil Roe of Tennessee, who chairs the panel’s subcommittee on health, employment, labor and pension issues, seeks all documents and communications concerning the public relations contract, as well as a list of dates, attendees and topics for any meetings between Labor officials and the public relations firm concerning the “public relations strategy.”
The Tea Party Patriots often level harsh criticism at the congressional Republicans, and rightly so. However, praise should be given where it’s due, and both Rep. Kline and Rep. Roe deserve credit for holding the Administration and the federal bureaucracy accountable. While the stimulus failed to create enough jobs to make itself actually worth the nearly-trillion dollars spent on it, the money should have at least gone to companies with the intent to create jobs. Unfortunately, this was not the case with this set of funds:
But spending reports showed that no jobs were created through the contract. The Washington Times first reported on the contract earlier this month, quoting one taxpayer watchdog who questioned not only the lack of jobs but why the commercials aired only on MSNBC, considered the most liberal of the major cable news outlets.
To be fair, the Labor Department claims it tried to put the ads on CNN and public television to get to a larger audience, but that shouldn’t really matter – the stimulus was for jobs, not for making the Administration look good or to market the stimulus.
In an earlier statement to The Times, Labor Department officials said there was nothing political about the placement of the ads. They said research showed the advertisements would reach the target demographic of business owners and managers interested in hiring “green-trained” employees through a programming list that initially also included shows hosted by CNN’s Larry King and public television’s Jim Lehrer.
Public television was eliminated because advertising rates were too high, officials said, and Mr. King’s show was dropped because MSNBC, since renamed NBCNews.com, held the potential to reach more viewers.
Unfortunately, public relations spending is not new in this Administration. The Times reports that public relations dollars were spent under President Bush as well:
The use of tax dollars on media and advertising services also came under scrutiny from Democratic lawmakers during the George W. Bush administration. In 2006, a Government Accountability Office (GAO) study requested by Democrats found more than $1.6 billion in public relations and media spending by the Bush administration during a two-year span.
While one wishes Congress would do better oversight with federal spending – $500 million is not a large amount of money compared to the estimated $125.4 billion in improper payments the federal government made in 2010, or the inefficient spending often found in the Defense Department – every dollar investigated is a dollar that will hopefully not be spent badly in the future. This should be another lesson to those who think large government spending will effectively create jobs, rather than help the politically well-connected employed at the expense of the rest of us. Again, kudos to Representatives Kline and Roe.