Senators Launch an Investigation Into the White House’s PR, Advertising Activities

Today is the deadline for 11 government agencies to submit information about contracts they have with PR and advertising firms to the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management.

Democratic Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill and Republican Sen. Rob Portman (OH) have launched an investigation into how the White House has spent federal dollars on PR and advertising. Leaders of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, Housing and Urban Development, and the Departments of Energy and Labor were among the agency heads who received the request for details. They’ve been asked for information going back to October 2008.

According to Roll Call, there is precedent for this sort of investigation but the the two Senators here “concede that what the administration is doing likely is legal.” Makes sense right?

A $234,000 PR contract with Jane Mobley Associates following a chemical contamination issue spurred the inquiry. The two Senators say this is all a part of the usual oversight to make sure government is running effectively. Roll Call also notes that “McCaskill is locked in a tight race for re-election herself and has been attempting to distance herself from Obama and the Democratic Party.” Yes, makes sense.

The PRSA’s chair and CEO Gerard Corbett published an op-ed in Roll Call, expressing its concern that the PR industry is being singled out as a “punching bag” and doesn’t take into account the role that PR plays in maintaining “ethical, transparent, and honest communications” between the government and the people.

“Therefore, any investigation into the government’s use of PR firms should not be undertaken unilaterally. It must be met by an equally robust examination of how the government communicates with the public and how it can better use innovative PR firms and professionals to best reach and inform citizens,” it reads. The organization has also sent letters directly to the Senators.

[Top image: Sen. McCaskill. Bottom image: Sen. Portman]