Michael Krieger | Posted Thursday Dec 17, 2015 at 11:02 pm
Open the Books
is a nonpartisan, non-profit organization focused on providing transparency in government. I’ve highlighted their work in the past, most recently related to how the EPA wasted $92.5 million of taxpayer money
on high-end, luxury furniture over the past decade. Their latest report is even more disturbing.
It relates to the amount of money the U.S. government spends on PR, which in total amounts to nearly $4.5 billion over the past eight years. Open the Books split this spending up into two main categories. The first is $2.347 billion in salary and bonus payments to federal employees, and the other is $2.02 billion spent on outside contractors.
The organization released a 40 page report with their findings, which can be read in full here
If you’re pressed for time, I’ve provided some highlights below.
At OpenTheBooks.com we’re constantly pushing agencies at all levels of government – state, local and federal – to disclose their spending. Our motivation is clear, simple and straightforward. Taxpayers have a right to know how their money is being spent.
Federal agencies, however, not only resist transparency but often pretend to be transparent when, in reality, they are engaged in self-promotion. Too often, they use their charge to disclose information as a cover for public relations campaigns that are designed to advance their interests (i.e. their desire for more funding and higher salaries) rather than the public interest.
After $4.5 billion in federal public relations spending over the past eight years, have we reached a point where the people’s consent is being manufactured by our government?
Today, government public relations are thriving at the federal, state and level levels. In fact, using public data released by the 2006 "Google Your Government Act" (Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act), for this report, we quantified $4.37 billion in federal government public relations (PR) expenditures since 2007.
Federal PR spending is comprised of $2.347 billion in salary and bonus payments to federal employees with the job title of "Public Affairs Officers," plus, $2.02 billion spent on outside contractors for additional services (FY2007-FY2014).
Top 10 Takeaways –
The Department of Self-Promotion
- The federal government spent $4.34 billion on public relations in the last seven years.
- U.S. Government ranked 2nd largest Public Relations Firm in the World (based on the number of PR employees).Click here for a ranking of the largest private PR firms in the world.
- 3,092 federal ‘Public Affairs Officers’ are employed by over 200 federal agencies in FY2014.
- 1,858 ‘Public Affairs Officers’ made at least $100,000 in base salary compensation in FY2014.
- Salaries totaling $2.337 billion and ‘performance bonuses’ totaling $10.929 million flowed to public affairs officers (FY2007-FY2014). The highest bonus was $35,940 to John T. Burklow at Department of Health and Human Services in 2012 .
- Since 2007, PR positions increased in the federal government by 15 percent – an addition of 402 positions – from 2,688 to 3,092. Total PR salary spending by year increased by 22.4 percent despite a long period of freeze and sequester in federal hiring.
- $2.02 billion spent by 139 federal agencies with 2,403 outside PR vendors on 16,249 individual transactions since 2007 – despite 3,092 federal PR employees.
- 47 percent increase in outside PR consulting expenditures under the Obama administration vs. the last two years under the Bush administration.
- Top PR firms in the world reaped millions of dollars: Laughlin, Marinaccio & Owens, Inc. ($87.98M), Young & Rubicam Inc. ($57.5M), Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide Inc. ($47.93M), Fleishman-Hillard, Inc ($42.4M), Gallup ($42.0M), and many more.
- $183,581 (per year) billing by Ketchum ($88/hour, $15,298/month) for ‘Intern.’ $1.192 million (per year) billing by Boos Allen Hamilton ($525.67/hour, $91,107/month) for ‘Executive Manager’ – examples of billing rates per their respective federal advertising contracts.
Part 1: Federal Public Relations Contracts to Outside Firms: $2.02 Billion (FY2007-FY2014)
Despite spending $2.3 billion on 3,092 public affairs salaries and bonuses since 2007, the federal agencies also spent another $2 billion with outside consulting firms.
Over the past 7 years, the federal government has engaged in 16,249 transactions amounting to $2.02 billion, averaging between $186.3 million to $309.4 million per year in PR contracts. The federal government contracted with 2,403 individual entities for outside PR work since 2007.
PR services were procured by 139 federal agencies including: Centers for Disease Control ($412.7 million), Department of the Army ($254.9 million), Substance Abuse and Mental Health ($163.0 million), Federal Emergency Management Agency ($96.6 million), National Institutes of Health ($82.2 million), State Department ($79.9 million), Bureau of Engraving and Printing ($67.2 million), Veterans Affairs ($38.4 million), National Highway Safety Administration ($35.5 million), and many more… (See TOP 50 Federal Agencies with Public Relations Contracts, in this section).
The number, scope and size of federal surveying is substantial – as nearly every federal agency is employing polling and survey contractors. The IRS alone has commissioned hundreds of polls since 2007. Furthermore, we identified that the survey and polling companies such as Gallup, Ketchum, ABT Associates, and American Institute for Research have very lucrative federal contracts for up to 20 years in length.
The State Department spent $36.5 million on International survey contracting since 2007. $34.3 million of the total dollars were ‘disclosed’ by State only to ‘miscellaneous foreign vendors.’ State Dept claimed in the Washington Times that true disclosure of a foreign contractor without a DUNS number is not required under the law. We feel that disclosure of foreign contractors is vital to public oversight.
"The most transparent administration ever."
We found that State contracted with Associated Press ($36,168, FY2011). This is either a massive conflict of interest, or an accounting error.
As exposed by the New York Times in 2015, EPA PR spending may be crossing the line and conflicting with federal anti- lobbying laws. Did the EPA manufacture overwhelming support through an extraordinary social media campaign?
The EPA proposed a rule and then immediately embarked on a media campaign. To enact a regulation, federal agencies typically propose a rule, allow the public to comment on that proposal and then alter its final regulation based on those comments. But, in 2014, the EPA unveiled a proposed regulation to expand its authority under the Clean Water Act. Then, it launched a social media campaign to draw public support.
Booz, Allen, Hamilton has a five-year contract with a five year extension with the U.S. General Services Administration. Booz is contracted to provide 1. Advertising services, 2. Public relations services, 3. Market Research and analysis services, 4. Video/film production services, 5. Exhibit design and implementation services, and 6. Integrated marketing services.
The Booz billing rate of $525.62 per hour for an ‘executive managers’ position equates to a weekly pay of $21,025, monthly pay of $91,107, and an annual salary of $1,093,290.
Ah yes, good ol’ Booz Allen Hamilton. This "private" company earns 99% of its revenue from the U.S. government.
Under this contract, Booz did projects for Consumer Protection Agency and Bureau of the Public Debt. The U.S. Army is also a client, but under a separate GSA contract with Booz.
PART 2: Public Affairs Salary and Bonus Study $2.37 Billion
United States Government ranked 2nd largest Public Relations Firm in the World (based on the number of PR employees). Click here for a ranking of the largest private PR firms in the world.
The public affairs officer position inside the federal government is a lucrative position with more than half of the 3,092 public affairs positions making over $100,000 per year while also eligible for performance bonuses.
The data posted at OpenTheBooks.com shows that 3,092 ‘public affairs officers’ are employed by over 200 federal agencies in FY2014. The salaries totaled $2.337 billion since 2007 with ‘performance bonuses totaling $10.929 million (FY2007-FY2014).
In FY2014, 1,858/ 3,092 federal PR officers made nearly $100,000 in base salary compensation..
The average federal PR employee made 77.7 percent more than the private sector equivalent position (FY2014). Federal ‘public affairs officers’ made $98,979 vs. the private sector equivalent job title of ‘public relations specialist’ who earns an average of $55,680 per year according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Since 2007, PR positions increased in the federal government by 15 percent – an addition of 402 positions – from 2,688 to 3,092. Total PR salary spending by year increased by 22.4 percent despite a long period of freeze and sequester in federal hiring.
- Federal PR salaries out-paced CPI inflation since 2007 36.19 percent since 2007.Total annual salary spend is up 21.22 percent since FY2007, while inflation is up 15.58 percent.
- 1,858 federal PR employees have salaries over $100,000 – 60 percent of the entire staff. More than 576 PR staffers earn over $125,000 per year.
Ladies and gentleman, your tax dollars at work.
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Open the book is a nonpartisan, non-profit organization and a partner of Liberty Blitzkrieg. It describes its work in the following way:
Our mission is to post online "every dime" taxed and spent by federal, state and local units of government across America. Currently, we display 2.3 billion lines of government spending and are the largest publicly accessible database of government spending in the world. We use the latest in technology to display the spending, including the first-to-market mobile app – Open The Books – which hyper-localized all disclosed United States Government checkbook spending since 2000.