Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio) today released the following statement in a monthly series highlighting Washington’s wasteful spending during a time of record debt and deficits:

A new audit by the U.S. Department of State’s Inspector General (IG) discovered that the Department spent $630,000 persuading 2 million people to “like” its Facebook page. 

“With Washington running budget deficits of more than $1 trillion – or $10,000 per household – the Administration should not be wasting taxpayer dollars on frivolous items such as attempting to buy Facebook fans,” said Portman.  “This is further evidence that our government has grown too big, too sprawling, and far outside of the Constitutional duties the Founders intended.  The Obama Administration has no right to demand higher taxes on American workers so long as wasteful spending like this continues.  While $630,000 may not be much money in an increasingly out-of-touch Washington, it represents an entire year’s worth of federal income taxes for about 60 families.”

While the Facebook advertisements purchased by the State Department were ultimately successful in securing 2 million “likes,” the IG could not determine if this did anything to  help the State Department further its goals of enhancing global security and diplomacy.  The IG report points out that, “[E]ngagement is a means, not an end… these measures do not evaluate the usefulness of the engagement because many people post simple remarks, like ‘so nice pic,’ or comments on unrelated topics.” 

The IG report further elaborated on the absence of a direct correlation between effectively disseminating the State Department’s mission and increasing its number of Facebook fans, stating:

• “Many in the [State Department] bureau criticize the advertising campaigns as ‘buying fans’ who may have once clicked on an ad or ‘liked’ a photo but have no real interest in the topic and have never engaged further...

• “English-language Facebook pages had garnered more than 2.5 million fans each by mid-March 2013; the number actually engaging with each page was considerably smaller, with just over 2 percent ‘liking,’ sharing, or commenting on any item within the previous week.

• “Engagement on each posting varied, and most of that interaction was in the form of ‘likes.’  Many postings had fewer than 100 comments or shares; the most popular ones had several hundred.”