Public Relations and Propaganda: Restrictions on Executive Agency Activities
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS WASHINGTON DC CONGRESSIONAL RESEARCH SERVICE
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Controversies recently have arisen over certain executive branch agencies expenditures of appropriated funds on public relations activities, some of which have been characterized as propagandistic. Generally speaking, there are two legal restrictions on agency public relations activities and propaganda. 5 U.S.C. 3107 prohibits the use of appropriated funds to hire publicity experts. Appropriations law publicity and propaganda clauses restrict the use of funds for puffery of an agency, purely partisan communications, and covert propaganda. No federal agency monitors federal public relations activities, but a Member or Committee of Congress may ask the Government Accountability Office GAO to examine an agencys expenditures on public relations activities with a view to their legality. Any effort to reform current statutory restrictions 011 agency public relations activities will face three challenges tracking public relations activities by agencies, defining propaganda, and enforcing laws against agency use of funds for publicity experts and propaganda.
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