Department of Health and Human Services--Contract with Maggie Gallagher
B-304716: Sep 30, 2005
- Full Report:
The Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families' (ACF) use of appropriated funds to pay for the services of an expert consultant did not violate the applicable publicity or propaganda prohibition. Treasury and General Government Appropriations Act, 2002, Pub. L. No. 107-67, 626, 115 Stat. 514, 552 (Nov. 12, 2001). The services provided included the drafting of several brochures, a presentation to ACF managers, and the production and dissemination of an article signed by the Assistant Secretary. The contract did not violate the publicity or propaganda prohibition because the services provided were not covert, self-aggrandizing, or purely partisan.
B-304716, Department of Health and Human Services--Contract with Maggie Gallagher, September 30, 2005
The Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families' (ACF) use of appropriated funds to pay for the services of an expert consultant did not violate the applicable publicity or propaganda prohibition. Treasury and General Government Appropriations Act, 2002, Pub. L. No. 107-67, sect. 626, 115 Stat. 514, 552 (
In January 2005, newspapers reported on a contract between the Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families (ACF) and syndicated columnist Maggie Gallagher. The articles stated that ACF hired Ms. Gallagher to serve as an expert consultant on marriage-related issues and paid her over $20,000 for her services over a 9 month period. The reports also stated that after signing a contract with ACF, Ms. Gallagher publicly praised President Bush's Healthy Marriage Initiative on many occasions.
Because we received numerous inquiries, and in light of the widespread congressional interest surrounding publicity or propaganda issues, the Comptroller General decided to examine the ACF/Gallagher contract pursuant to his authority to investigate the use of public money, 31 U.S.C. sect. 712(1), and to settle the accounts of the government, 31 U.S.C. sect. 3526.
As is our usual practice, we contacted the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to request factual information and its legal justification for using its appropriation to obtain the services provided by Ms. Gallagher. Letter from Gary L. Kepplinger, Deputy General Counsel, GAO, to Alex M. Azar, General Counsel, HHS, Mar. 24, 2005. HHS responded by letter dated
The Healthy Marriage Initiative
In 1996, Congress passed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, which, among other things, amended the Social Security Act by authorizing funding for block grants to states for temporary assistance for needy families (TANF). Pub. L. No. 104-193, title I, 110 Stat. 2105 (
In 2001, President Bush announced the Healthy Marriage Initiative, the purpose of which was to help low-income couples who choose marriage to develop the skills and knowledge to form and sustain healthy marriages. To support this Initiative, and in coordination with many marriage-supporting public, faith-based, and community-based organizations, ACF sponsors marriage education programs, conducts research on the benefits of healthy marriages, and relays to the public the goals of the Healthy Marriage Initiative. From fiscal year 2002 to fiscal year 2004, ACF awarded over 100 grants, totaling over $25 million, for the development and implementation of marriage-related services, and, during this same period, committed over $17 million for contracts to conduct research on healthy marriage issues. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Healthy Marriage Initiative Activities and Accomplishments 2002—2004, available at http://www.acf.hhs.gov/healthymarriage/index.html.
ACF/Maggie Gallagher Contract
ACF entered into a 9 month contract with syndicated columnist Maggie Gallagher on
As stated in the contract, ACF was pursuing research on the dynamics of marriages among low-income populations, as well as potential strategies for states to use in strengthening marriage. ACF Letter, Tab A. ACF explained in its letter that the contract with Ms. Gallagher would help ACF achieve three of the four goals under the TANF program. ACF Letter. ACF stated in the contract that it needed additional expertise to accomplish the goals listed above and told us that it contracted with Ms. Gallagher because she is a nationally recognized expert of long standing on research related to the benefits of marriage for children and families.
The Statement of Work in the contract directed Ms. Gallagher to consult with and assist ACF in ongoing work related to strengthening marriage, and provide assistance advice on development of new research activities in this area. ACF Letter, Tab A. Also, Ms. Gallagher was to provide ACF with information on programs to strengthen marriage, advise on dissemination of materials, and participate in meetings and workshops.
ACF told us that this contract was awarded pursuant to section 1110 of the Social Security Act.
In total, ACF paid Ms. Gallagher $21,500 under the contract for the work she performed.
Of the six activities listed in the invoice, one—the article drafted by Ms. Gallagher and ACF staff—was published in Crisis Magazine under the signature of Assistant Secretary Wade Horn. ACF Letter, Tab D. ACF has not disseminated any of the brochures drafted by Ms. Gallagher. ACF Letter. The presentation Ms. Gallagher prepared was made to HHS managers in February 2002.
While under contract with ACF, Ms. Gallagher wrote several articles praising President Bush's Healthy Marriage Initiative and other government programs which encourage traditional marriage values. ACF states that it did not pay Ms. Gallagher to promote the Healthy Marriage Initiative in any media forum. ACF Letter. ACF notes that the contract with Ms. Gallagher was for consulting, research, and drafting services only, and told us that the contract never called for Ms. Gallagher to write additional articles published under her name.
At issue here is whether ACF's use of appropriated funds to contract with Maggie Gallagher violated the applicable publicity or propaganda prohibition. The language of this prohibition states that [n]o part of any appropriation contained in this or any other Act shall be used for publicity or propaganda purposes within the
In the past, we have generally found violations of the publicity or propaganda prohibition when disseminated materials are self-aggrandizing, covert as to their source, or purely partisan in nature. E.g., B-302992,
The Statement of Work under the ACF/Gallagher contract directed Ms. Gallagher to consult and assist with ongoing marriage-related work, provide advice on the development of research activities in this area, provide information on the programs to strengthen marriage, advise on the dissemination of materials, participate in meetings and workshops, and perform a variety of other activities as needed. ACF Letter, Tab A. Nothing within the Statement of Work suggested that ACF and Ms. Gallagher considered her work for ACF to include the promotion of President Bush's Healthy Marriage Initiative. All of the requirements under the contract were for internal consultation and research. Therefore, the ACF/Gallagher contract does not violate the publicity or propaganda prohibition.
We also examined the six activities for which Ms. Gallagher billed ACF. The article that was published in Crisis Magazine and the draft brochures are informational products which mention ACF as a resource of additional marriage-related information but do not emphasize the importance of ACF as an agency and therefore are not self-aggrandizing. See ACF Letter, Tabs C and D. Also, these products are not covert propaganda. In order for us to find that materials constitute covert propaganda, the source of the materials must be concealed from the target audience. See B-302710,
Also, none of these products constitute partisan materials in violation of the publicity or propaganda prohibition. While it may be difficult at times to identify the lines separating the nonpolitical from the political, B-302992,
Finally, as stated above, while Ms. Gallagher was under contract with ACF, she wrote articles, published under her own name, praising the President's Healthy Marriage Initiative. In a companion decision of today's date, B-305368, we determined that the Department of Education violated the publicity or propaganda prohibition when Armstrong Williams favorably commented to the public on the No Child Left Behind Act while under contract with the Department of Education. However, in that situation, the Department of Education contracted with Mr. Williams to publicly promote the No Child Left Behind Act without requiring Mr. Williams to disclose to the viewing public that he was acting on behalf of the Department and in return for payment of public funds. We determined that commentary obtained as a result of the Education/Williams contract was covert propaganda. In the case currently before us, ACF did not contract with Ms. Gallagher to publish favorable articles about President Bush's Healthy Marriage Initiative. See ACF Letter. Ms. Gallagher chose, on her own, to perform these activities. Accordingly, none of the activities performed by Ms. Gallagher under the contract with ACF violate the publicity or propaganda prohibition.
The drafting of brochures, the presentation of marriage-related issues to ACF managers, and the production and dissemination of an article signed by Assistant Secretary Wade Horn did not violate the publicity or propaganda prohibition of the Treasury and General Government Appropriations Act, 2002, Pub. L. No. 107-67, sect. 626, 115 Stat. 514, 552 (
Anthony H. Gamboa
 See, e.g., Howard Kurtz, Writer Backing Bush Plan Had Gotten Federal Contract, Wash. Post,
 The publicity or propaganda prohibition is a governmentwide prohibition in appropriations acts restricting the use of appropriated funds for publicity and propaganda purposes without the consent of Congress. See, e.g., Treasury and General Government Appropriations Act, 2002, Pub. L. No. 107-67, sect. 626, 115 Stat. 514, 552 (
 Pub. L. No. 107-67, sect. 626.
 ACF modified the contract with Ms. Gallagher to extend the performance date from
 In this decision, we take no position on Maggie Gallagher's credentials as an expert in marriage nor do we examine the overall economy of ACF's contract with Ms. Gallagher to provide marriage-related research.
 ACF told us that funding for the contract came from HHS's fiscal year 2002 appropriation. ACF Letter. Specifically, under a section titled Children and Families Services Programs, Congress appropriated money to HHS for, among other things, carrying out section 1110 of the Social Security Act. Pub. L. No. 107-116, 115 Stat. 2177, 2196 (
 See, e.g., Maggie Gallagher, Marriage: what can government do?, TownHall.com, at www.townhall.com/columnists/maggiegallagher/mg20020416.shtml (Apr. 16, 2002); Maggie Gallagher, Marriage Matters: Even if conservatives don't realize it, National Review Online, at http://www.nationalreview.com/comment/comment-gallagher050302.asp (May 3, 2002).
 Pub. L. No. 107-67, sect. 626.