July 31, 2012
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), lead Republican on the Senate Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight, today filed an amendment to S. 3414, the Cybersecurity bill, that orders the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to comply with the bipartisan oversight request sent by Portman and Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) in February concerning spending on public relations and advertising.
“Back in February, I asked HHS and other federal agencies to disclose their taxpayer-funded PR spending to the Senate Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight, and since February, HHS is the only agency that has failed to respond to us,” Senator Portman said. “There is reason to believe they’re worried about public scrutiny of their wasteful PR spending of tens of millions of taxpayer dollars to tout the President’s unpopular health care law. Americans deserve better from their government during this time of record debt and anemic economic growth; they should not be asked to foot the bill for ad campaigns promoting flawed policy that is unaffordable for our families, our small businesses, and our government.”
According to the federal procurement database, the Department of Health and Human Services has spent at least $183 million on public relations and media expenses. And according to the Los Angeles Times, HHS is footing the bill for 60 percent of all spending to promote the health-care bill.
But this data cannot be confirmed without a complete response from HHS, which continues to stonewall this bipartisan request to give the American people a complete account of how their taxpayer dollars are being spent.
In February, as ranking member and chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight, Portman and McCaskill sent HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and 10 other federal agencies a request for information on contracts for the acquisition of public relations, publicity, advertising, communications, or similar services for 2009 to present. Every agency but HHS has responded to the inquiry.
In May, Portman followed up with a letter to Sebelius demanding specific information concerning a new reported $20 million taxpayer-funded ad campaign to promote the President’s health care spending law.
One well-known example of the kind of advertising HHS has been engaged is 2010 television commercials starring Andy Griffith, which claimed “that new health care law sure sounds good for all of us on Medicare!”