Department of Education--No Child Left Behind Act Video News Release and Media Analysis
B-304228: Sep 30, 2005
- Full Report:
Congress requested GAO's opinion on the Department of Education's use of appropriated funds to hire Ketchum, Inc., to conduct a media analysis and to produce and distribute a video news release regarding programs available under the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. Congress asked whether these activities violated the governmentwide prohibition against using appropriated funds for publicity or propaganda not authorized by Congress.
Consistent with prior case law, we conclude that the Department of Education's (Department) use of appropriated funds to produce and distribute a prepackaged news story regarding programs under the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, Pub. L. No. 107-110, 115 Stat. 1425 (Jan. 8, 2002), violated the publicity or propaganda prohibition, see, e.g., Pub. L. No. 108-199, div. F, title, VI, 624, 118 Stat. 3, 356 (Jan. 23, 2004). We disagree with the Department's contention that the prepackaged new story is not covert propaganda because it contained only factual information. To constitute legitimate information dissemination activity, the Department must inform the viewing public that the government is the source of the information dissemination. There are no appropriated funds available for the Department to conduct a media analysis that gathers information regarding the media and public's perception of the Republican Party's (or any other political party's) commitment to education. Because the Department incurred little if any expense by including this purely partisan factor in an otherwise acceptable media analysis, we find that the Department did not violate the publicity or propaganda prohibition. However, we caution that if the Department conducts future media analyses, it should be more diligent in its efforts to ensure that such analyses are free from explicit partisan content.