June 13, 2012
Portman Pushes Amendment To Force President Obama's Department of Health and Human Services To Answer Bipartisan Investigation Into Taxpayer-Funded Spin
Portman: "HHS should stop stonewalling on this bipartisan oversight inquiry into the tens of millions of dollars spent over the past three years on taxpayer-funded P.R."
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) urged the Senate Appropriations Committee to approve legislation to force the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to respond to a February 28th bipartisan oversight request sent by Portman and Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) concerning spending on public relations and advertising. The amendment will be offered by Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) at the Thursday afternoon mark-up of the Labor/HHS Appropriations bill.
“This Administration has spent tens of millions of taxpayer dollars to advertise the President’s unpopular health care spending law,” Portman said. “HHS should stop stonewalling on this bipartisan oversight inquiry, and just tell us how the money was spent.” Portman added: “With Washington nearly $16 trillion in debt, American taxpayers should not be asked to fund ad campaigns defending a law that only deepens the spending hole we’re in.”
In February, in their role as ranking member and chair of the Senate’s 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.
Today, Portman’s office released new information indicating that, according to the Federal Procurement Data System, HHS appears to have obligated as much as $183 million over the past three years on contracts coded as “advertising,” “market research and public opinion,” “media representatives,” and “public relations.” But this data cannot be confirmed without a complete response from HHS, which has not been forthcoming.
Last month, 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!”
The Heritage Foundation provides additional background on the contract and the history of the Administration’s taxpayer-funded PR push to sell the President’s health care law.