Action News Jax, Washington, D.C. Tax dollars paying billions for high-paid public relations professional 50_PR_professionals

by: Justin Gray
WASHINGTON, D.C. — An average salary of more than a $100,000 a year can be found in the federal government.
Nondescript federal office buildings are where some of the biggest public relations dollars are being spent, your tax dollars.
More than 4.3 billion taxpayer dollars have been spent on public relations since 2007, according to the transparency watchdog group Open The Books. About half that goes to private sector public relation firms.
So what do your tax dollars pay for?
One global public relations firm, Ketchum, charges the federal government $88 an hour for the work of an intern. The company is not alone, as other firms bill more than $40, $50 and $60 an hour for interns.
About half the money spent on public relations goes to government salaries and public affairs officers.
The average public affairs officer salary is more than $100,000 a year. In fact, 1,858 public affairs officers earn six-figure salaries. It's a lot of money, but is that necessarily a bad thing?
"It may cost," said Max Stier at Partnership for Public Service. "But you have to look at the value you are receiving."
Stier said public affairs officers are a vital part of government.
"There are a lot of ways, in which, if the government doesn’t do a good job of putting information out in an interesting way then the public won’t really understand it," Stier said.
Reporter Justin Gray reached out to the ten government agencies that spend the most on public affairs for an on-camera interview, and received many written statements back. However, no one would speak on camera.
Those statements did highlight serious work to inform seniors about Social Security and veterans about their benefits.
The EPA said that Open the Books "cherry picks and falsely misrepresents the work." But Open The Book's Adam Andrzejewski said the shear amount of money being spent invites honest questions.
"We have taxpayer dollars being spent to convince taxpayers to spend more taxpayer dollars on the growth of government," Andrzejewski said.
It's spending that's growing. Money spent on outside public relation firms is up 47 percent during the Obama presidency.
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