Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif.
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., ranking member of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has called for a Government Accountability Office investigation into the legality of the Obama administration’s use of taxpayer funds to conduct “a propaganda effort” to promote the president’s partisan political agenda.
As WND reported Monday, Issa and the Republicans on the oversight committee released this week a scathing report charging that the White House has “used the machinery of the Obama campaign to tout the president’s agenda through inappropriate and sometimes unlawful public relations and propaganda initiatives.”
Issa’s Washington staff gave WND an advanced look at a video the congressional staff produced for the Internet, titled “Signs of a Failed Stimulus,” designed to highlight the Obama administration’s alleged abuses.
The Republican report included the following alleged abuses:
- Use of the National Endowment for the Arts as a strategic communication arm of the Obama administration. During an Aug. 10, 2009 conference call, the White House urged staff members of the arts and entertainment community to support Obama’s United We Serve campaign, citing as models art and music created to support then-candidate Obama’s presidential campaign. Three days after the call, 21 arts groups signed a press release endorsing the president’s health care plan;
- Use of the Department of Health and Human Services web resources to push citizens to lobby members of Congress to support the president’s health plan. An Internet link maintained by HHS asks visitors to sign a form letter to Obama stating their commitment to work with him and “our congressional leaders” to enact the president’s health care plan;
- Use of taxpayer money to post road signs touting both “stimulus” spending. Officials at the Federal Highway Administration “strongly encouraged” stimulus grant recipients to post Obama administration-approved promotional signs.
Issa rattles Democrats
The Huffington Post reported earlier this month that the Democrats intend to make a campaign issue of Issa, warning that if Republicans regain control of the House, Issa will have subpoena power. The Democrats fear that giving Issa the power to compel testimony could launch a Republican witch hunt against the Obama White House.
Speaking to left-wing Internet activists at the annual Netroots Nation convention in Las Vegas earlier this month, Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., sounded the theme.
“Darrell Issa is planning to double his staff,” Franken warned in his keynote address, “and embark on a witch hunt in hopes of bringing down the Obama administration.”
There is nothing unexpected in Franken’s warning, especially given that since 1995, the ratio of majority-to-minority staff on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has been two to one.
“Ranking member Issa and oversight Republicans take their constitutional oversight mandate very seriously,” Issa’s press secretary Seamus Kraft told WND, “especially under a regime that is not listening to the American people crying out for a smaller government that saves more than it spends.”
The Obama administration abuses charged by the Issa report can be summed up under the term “astroturfing,” a fraudulent political public relations activity in which the “the White House and the agency whose resources it is co-opting attempt to create the impression that grassroots support for a particular policy exists when in fact it has been fabricated using taxpayer dollars.”
Signaling that the question of Obama administration “astroturfing” is not going to go away easily, Kraft continued, “Working to bring strong accountability, vigorous oversight and real transparency to Washington may ruffle some feathers amongst the defenders of a bloated federal bureaucracy, but that’s the job of the Oversight Committee and that’s what need to be done to actually drain the swamp.”
Read in its entirety, the Issa report charges the Obama administration with the type of callous, unethical and possibly criminal public relations manipulation of public opinion reminiscent of Watergate and the illegal campaign activities engineered by Donald Segretti on behalf of the Committee to Re-Elect the President during Richard Nixon’s presidential election campaign of 1972. In 1974, Segretti pleaded guilty to three misdemeanor counts of distributing illegal campaign materials, for which he served in federal prison four months of a six-month term.
Pulling no punches, the Republican report directly charges the Obama White House with “violating federal law prohibiting the use of appropriated funds for publicity or propaganda purposes.”
“The White House has failed to transition from campaign-mode to leadership mode and is now inappropriately leveraging those campaign-trail relationships to unlawfully generate support for the President’s agenda,” the report concluded.