Friday, March 18, 2005

Fighting Bush's State-Sponsored Propaganda Machine

It's the real deal now, folks. The Republican Party and the State have merged.

Pay attention specifically to the URL of the previous link, the title and obvious intent of the site, and the footer at the bottom of the site that reads "U.S. Department of the Treasury, Office of Public Affairs".

As Dave, from Seeing The Forest, puts it:

You might not realize it yet but what you're looking at on this web page is the scariest thing that has happened in America in a very long time. It's the government telling you to support The Party.
Let me make this as clear as possible. You are supporting the Bush agenda when it comes to demolishing Social Security, because your taxdollars are being used to fund this website and programs with the same goal.

Now, before you go clean up the shards of glass that used to be your coffee mug and hate me for ruining your Friday morning, take note of this legalese.

No part of any funds appropriated in this or any other Act shall be used by an agency of the executive branch, other than for normal and recognized purposes, for publicity or propaganda purposes, and for the preparation, distribution or use of any kit, pamphlet, booklet, publication, radio, television or film presentation designed to support or defeat legislation pending before the Congress, except in presentation to the Congress itself.
The above language is found in the Act known as the Consolidated Appropriations Act for 2005 (requires Adobe Acrobat). Specifically, this is Sec. 621 in Title VI (General Provisions) of Division H (Transportation, Treasury, Independent Agencies, General Gov't Appropriations) of the Act. Section 621 is found on page 470, Title VI begins on page 464, and Division H begins on page 391.

While this may seem to directly prohibit Bush's use of funds for his propaganda division, we need to remember that Bush's lawyers doubtlessly believe they have found ways to cover the administration's collective ass against what seems to clearly be a violation of the spirit of the law. One such loophole is that the terms of "publicity" and "propaganda" have never been clearly defined, and thus, the GAO currently interprets possible violations of similar "publicity and propaganda clauses" on a case-by-case basis.

Additionally, it could possibly be argued that this clause relates only legislation pending before Congress. Could this be the reason why Bush continues to state that he has not clearly defined a plan yet?

But he expressed astonishment that people constantly refer to "Bush's plan": "I haven't laid out a plan," he said. "I've laid out some ideas that I think ought to be considered for a plan, and that's what's important for people to know.
However, the language of Sec. 621 does seem to distinguish between "publicity and propaganda purposes" themselves and the "preparation [of media] designed to support or defeat legislation pending before the Congress". In the case of such an interpretation, the loophole mentioned above would likely not apply and hold up in court.

Regardless, it is obvious that Bush's efforts here run contrary to the spirit of the appropriations. With a Republican-controlled Congress and a media that refuses to cover any story requiring mental faculties above that of an average 6th grader to understand, it will be up to the blogosphere to press the issue and possibly convince the GAO to investigate. Its been done with other Bush propaganda efforts such as Armstrong Williams; it can be done again.

Thanks to reader and commenter maxcrat for pointing out this language to me and getting me started in the hunt to find it in the latest version of the Act that has been signed into law.