The government has spent more than $16 billion over the past decade on outside advertising, marketing and public relations contractors, feeding a cottage industry of inside-the-Beltway and Madison Avenue firms that help federal agencies burnish their images and tailor their messages, an investigation by the Washington Guardian and Northwestern University’s Medill News Service has found.
Many of the contracts are awarded without full competition, and some of the funding goes to foreign contractors whose names the government refuses to disclose, the review of federal spending records from fiscal years 2002 through 2012 found.
The money is above and beyond the millions of dollars a year that agencies already spend on their full-time press, communications and media operations, and it has gone to pay for projects as varied as NASCAR and sports sponsorships, recruitment efforts for the military services, veterans benefits, welfare aid, and programs that help multibillion-dollar multinational corporations pitch their products to overseas customers, the records show.
Those on the front lines of the work say federal agencies’ reliance on advertising, PR and media firms is just one of the many signs of how much the era of instant 24/7 Internet and TV access has transformed the government’s job of communicating to Americans.
A few decades ago, the government’s main advertising business focused on pitching public service announcements, such as the U.S. Forest Service’s Smokey Bear fire-prevention commercials.
Read More at The Washington Times . By Phillip Swarts and John Solomon.
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