President Obama’s consummate campaign skills just might cost him. According to a report released by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), ranking member of the House Oversight Committee, Obama has orchestrated more propaganda activities to promote his agenda than any modern president — and he’s used federal funds to do it.
“In 2009, the White House used the machinery of the Obama campaign to tout the President’s agenda through inappropriate and sometimes unlawful public relations and propaganda initiatives,” the House Oversight Committee staff writes. “The Obama administration’s propaganda is covert and expensive to taxpayers.”
According to the report, members of the administration — including Yosi Sergant, formerly of the National Endowment of the Arts, and Tracy Russo of the Department of Justice — have misused federal agency resources to promote the president’s agenda.
Sergant, the former communications director for the NEA, used his position — and, by extension, the powerful incentive of NEA grant money — to formally encourage artists to utilize their artistic abilities to promote presidential issues. Russo, a new media specialist in the Department of Justice, posted fake and anonymous comments on message boards and blogs to attack bloggers critical of the president’s agenda. The two are part of a wider pattern, according to the report.
“The President’s right to sell his policy recommendations to Congress and the public is not disputed,” the report states. “[H]owever, using the resources of the federal government to activate a sophisticated propaganda and lobbying campaign is an abuse of office.”
Obama is hardly the first president to use questionable propaganda techniques to promote his policies — and the report traces mistakes made by Presidents Reagan, Clinton and George W. Bush, too. But Obama happens to be the president who pledged to create “an unprecedented level of openness in government.”
“Covert and expensive” propaganda hardly seems compatible with that pledge.
“The [report’s] charges … if substantiated would create a big problem for President Obama — assuming Congress wants to take this up as an issue,” wrote Ed Morrissey on Hot Air.
Morrissey is right. As Bob Owens of Pajamas Media put it, “The … report contains enough information to warrant an official investigation of inappropriate and sometimes unlawful use of propaganda by the administration.”
And, in fact, Issa has requested just such an investigation. He asked the Government Accountability Office to investigate the legality of Obama’s propaganda efforts. The GAO has investigated similar behavior in the past and found it unlawful.
“The Obama Administration’s use of taxpayer dollars to engage in covert propaganda is disconcerting,” Issa said in a statement. “This new report and a GAO investigation are needed to help shed light on how taxpayer dollars are being spent to illegally further a political agenda.”