The U.S. government spends $1.5 billion annually on public relations and advertising contracts, according to a new report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO).
Federal agencies spend approximately $1 billion annually on public relations and advertising, and some 5,000 federal employees collect nearly $500 million in salary annually from this activity, the GAO finds.
The median salary for government public relations agents is approximately $90,000. That is about $40,000 higher than the average salary for many Americans, with the average American salary at just over $51,000 a year.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the institution that slapped Wells Fargo with a $185 million dollar fine last month, spent the largest share of its annual budgets on public relations/advertising contracts over the past decade, the report finds.
Agencies with the highest percentage of public relations employees on staff were: the Federal Election Commission, the Small Business Administration (SBA), the Department of State, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the National Science Foundation.
Across 26 states, the SBA had a portfolio of bad loans totaling $24.2 billion dollars, according to Open The Books. In fact, in some years, nearly one-in-three SBA loans defaulted, leaving in excess of 1.3 million American workers displaced from failed businesses.
The largest percentage increase in public relations staff occurred in the Office of Veterans Affairs (VA), which nearly doubled during the decade under review from 144 to 286 employees, according to GAO. That rate of increase for the VA is almost 10 percent.