Congressional Record: February 2, 2005 (Senate)
Page S895-S898


      By Mr. LAUTENBERG (for himself, Mr. Kennedy, Mr. Durbin, Mr.
        Corzine, Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Dorgan, Mrs. Murray, Mr. Johnson,
        Mr. Reed, Mr. Lieberman, and Mr. Leahy):
  S. 266. A bill to stop taxpayer funded Government propaganda; to the
Committee on the Judiciary.
  Mr. LAUTENBERG. Mr. President, I rise to introduce legislation to put
an end to the spate of propaganda we are seeing across our government.
In my view, it is a practice that is inconsistent with democracy, and
we have to put a stop to it.
  That is why Senator Kennedy and I have drafted the ``Stop Government
Propaganda Act'' which we are introducing today, along with our
cosponsors, Senators Durbin, Corzine, Clinton, Dorgan, Murray, Johnson,
Jack Reed, Lieberman and Leahy.

[[Page S896]]

  Our bill will shut down the Administration's propaganda mill once and
for all.
  Propaganda had its place in Saddam's Iraq. Propaganda was a staple of
the old Soviet Union. But covert government propaganda has no place in
the United States Government.
  In the last few weeks, we have seen revelations that a number of
conservative columnists are actually on the Bush Administration's
payroll to push the President's agenda.
  Armstrong Williams was paid to improve the image of President Bush's
education programs, and the columnists Maggie Gallagher and Mike
McManus were paid to promote the President's ``marriage initiative.''
  Some have called it the ``pundit payola'' scandal. But this scandal
goes well beyond these particular payments to journalists.
  In fact, these secret payments are only the latest in a series of
covert propaganda activities conducted by this Administration.
  Last year, we discovered that the Administration was paying a public
relations firm to creat fake television news stories. These fake news
stories touting the new Medicare law made their way onto local news
shows on forty television stations across the country.
  These fake news stories even featured a fake reporter--Karen Ryan
``reporting from Washington.'' While Karen Ryan does exist, she's not a
reporter. She is a public relations consultant based here in
  Worse, the viewers who watched these fake news stories thought they
were hearing real news. But what they were watching was Government-
produced propaganda.
  The Government Accountability Office investigated the legality of
these fake news stories and came back with a clear decision: it was
illegal propaganda. The GAO also said that the Administration must
officially report the misspent funds to Congress.
  But the Bush Administration simply ignored GAO's legal ruling. The
Administration said that because of the separation of powers, the GAO
can't tell them what to do.
  So, in other words, the Administration has said that they will ignore
the current law on the books. That is why we are introducing new
legislation today that will put real teeth in the anti-propaganda law.
  Our bill, the Stop Government Propaganda Act, does two major things:
  First, it makes the Anti-Propaganda law permanent.
  Right now, the anti-propaganda law is passed year to year as a
``rider'' in our appropriations bills. Making the law permanent will
show that we are serious about it and want it obeyed.
  Also, our bill has real consequences for violations by the
Administration. The current law is enforced by GAO, and the
Administration is obviously ignoring their rulings. That has to change.
  Our bill calls for the Justice Department to pursue these violations.
But in cases where DOJ fails to act, our bill authorizes citizen
lawsuits to enforce the law.
  And we also give added power to the GAO. Right now, the
Administration ignores the GAO's legal decisions. But our bill will
make it downright painful for the Administration to ignore the GAO.
  When the GAO finds that taxpayer funds are misspent for propaganda
purposes, and the agency fails to follow the GAO's ordered actions, our
bill would call for the head of that agency's salary to be withheld.
  Our bill establishes a point of order against any appropriations bill
that fails to enforce the salary reduction.
  Last week, President Bush said he agrees that it is wrong to pay
journalists and that the practice must stop. But at the same time, the
Bush Administration continues to ignore GAO's rulings on their
propaganda violations.
  And while the attention was on Armstrong Williams, the Administration
has been ramping up propaganda efforts at the Social Security
Administration. In fact, last week, the Democratic Policy Committee
heard testimony from two Social Security employees who revealed how
they are being forced to push the White House agenda on the public.
  Rather than concentrate on getting benefits out or servicing people
on Social Security, the White House is using SSA employees to spread
its false propaganda message of a ``crisis'' in Social Security.
  That is why we must act now to put a stop to all of these practices.
I urge my colleagues to support our bill, the Stop Government
Propaganda Act.
  As we seek to establish democracy in Iraq, let's first remove this
taint from our own democracy.
  I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be printed in the
  There being no objection, the bill was ordered to be printed in the
Record, as follows:

                                 S. 266

       Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of
     the United States of America in Congress assembled,


       This Act may be cited as the ``Stop Government Propaganda

     SEC. 2. FINDINGS.

       Congress makes the following findings:
       (1) Since 1951, the following prohibition on the use of
     appropriated funds for propaganda purposes has been enacted
     annually: ``No part of any appropriation contained in this or
     any other Act shall be used for publicity or propaganda
     purposes within the United States not heretofore authorized
     by Congress.''.
       (2) On May 19, 2004, the Government Accountability Office
     (GAO) ruled that the Department of Health and Human Services
     violated the publicity and propaganda prohibitions by
     creating fake television new stories for distribution to
     broadcast stations across the country.
       (3) On January 4, 2005, the GAO ruled that the Office of
     National drug Control Policy violated the publicity and
     propaganda prohibitions by distributing fake television news
     stories to broadcast stations from 2002 to 2004.
       (4) In 2003, the Department of Education violated publicity
     and propaganda prohibitions by using of taxpayer funds to
     create fake television news stories promoting the ``No Child
     Left Behind'' program violated the propaganda prohibition.
       (5) An analysis of individual journalists, paid for by the
     Department of Education in 2003, which ranked reporters on
     how positive their articles portrayed the Administration and
     the Republican Party, constituted a gross violation of the
     law prohibiting propaganda and the use of taxpayer funds for
     partisan purposes.
       (6) The payment of taxpayer funds to journalist Armstrong
     Williams in 2003 to promote Administration education policies
     violated the ban on covert propaganda.
       (7) The payment of taxpayer funds to journalist Maggie
     Gallagher in 2002 to promote Administration welfare and
     family policies violated the ban on covert propaganda.
       (8) Payment for and construction of 8 little red
     schoolhouse facades at the entranceways to the Department of
     Education headquarters in Washington, DC to boost the image
     of the ``No Child Left Behind'' program was an inappropriate
     use of taxpayer dollars.
       (9) Messages inserted into Social Security Administration
     materials in 2004 and 2005 intended to further grassroots
     lobbying efforts in favor of President Bush's Social Security
     privatization plan is an inappropriate use of taxpayer funds.
       (10) The Department of Health and Human Services ignored
     the Government Accountability Office's legal decision of May
     19, 2004, and failed to follow the GAO's directive to report
     its Anti-Deficiency Act violation to Congress and the
     President, as provided by section 1351 of title 31, United
     States Code.
       (11) Despite numerous violations of the propaganda law, the
     Department of Justice has not acted to enforce the law or
     follow the requirements of the Anti-Deficiency Act.
       (12) In order to protect taxpayer funds, stronger measures
     must be enacted into law to require actual enforcement of the
     ban on the use of taxpayer funds for propaganda purposes.


       In this Act, the term ``publicity'' or ``propaganda''
       (1) a news release or other publication that does not
     clearly identify the Government agency directly or indirectly
     (through a contractor) financially responsible for the
       (2) any audio or visual presentation that does not
     continuously and clearly identify the Government agency
     directly or indirectly financially responsible for the
       (3) an Internet message that does not continuously and
     clearly identify the Government agency directly or indirectly
     financially responsible for the message;
       (4) any attempt to manipulate the news media by payment to
     any journalist, reporter, columnist, commentator, editor, or
     news organization;
       (5) any message designed to aid a political party or
       (6) any message with the purpose of self-aggrandizement or
     puffery of the Administration, agency, Executive branch
     programs or policies, or pending congressional legislation;
       (7) a message of a nature tending to emphasize the
     importance of the agency or its activities;
       (8) a message that is so misleading or inaccurate that it
     constitutes propaganda; and

[[Page S897]]

       (9) the preparation, distribution, or use of any kit,
     pamphlet, booklet, publication, radio, television, or video
     presentation designed to support or defeat legislation
     pending before Congress or any State legislature, except in
     presentation to Congress or any State legislature itself.


       (a) In General.--The senior official of an Executive branch
     agency who authorizes or directs funds appropriated to such
     Executive branch agency for publicity or propaganda purposes
     within the United States, unless authorized by law, is liable
     to the United States Government for a civil penalty of not
     less than $5,000 and not more than $10,000, plus 3 times the
     amount of funds appropriated.
       (b) Responsibilities of the Attorney General.--The Attorney
     General diligently shall investigate a violation of
     subsection (a). If the Attorney General finds that a person
     has violated or is violating subsection (a), the Attorney
     General may bring a civil action under this section against
     the person.
       (c) Actions by Private Persons.--
       (1) In general.--A person may bring a civil action for a
     violation of subsection (a) for the person and for the United
     States Government. The action shall be brought in the name of
     the Government. The action may be dismissed only if the court
     and the Attorney General give written consent to the
     dismissal and their reasons for consenting.
       (2) Notice.--A copy of the complaint and written disclosure
     of substantially all material evidence and information the
     person possesses shall be served on the Government pursuant
     to Rule 4(d)(4) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The
     complaint shall be filed in camera, shall remain under seal
     for at least 60 days, and shall not be served on the
     defendant until the court so orders. The Government may elect
     to intervene and proceed with the action within 60 days after
     it receives both the complaint and the material evidence and
       (3) Delay of notice.--The Government may, for good cause
     shown, move the court for extensions of the time during which
     the complaint remains under seal under paragraph (2). Any
     such motions may be supported by affidavits or other
     submissions in camera. The defendant shall not be required to
     respond to any complaint filed under this section until 20
     days after the complaint is unsealed and served upon the
     defendant pursuant to Rule 4 of the Federal Rules of Civil
       (4) Government action.--Before the expiration of the 60-day
     period or any extensions obtained under paragraph (3), the
     Government shall--
       (A) proceed with the action, in which case the action shall
     be conducted by the Government; or
       (B) notify the court that it declines to take over the
     action, in which case the person bringing the action shall
     have the right to conduct the action.
       (5) Limited intervention.--When a person brings an action
     under this subsection, no person other than the Government
     may intervene or bring a related action based on the facts
     underlying the pending action.
       (d) Rights of the Parties.--
       (1) Government action.--If the Government proceeds with the
     action, it shall have the primary responsibility for
     prosecuting the action, and shall not be bound by an act of
     the person bringing the action. Such person shall have the
     right to continue as a party to the action, subject to the
     limitations set forth in paragraph (2).
       (2) Limitations.--
       (A) Dismissal.--The Government may dismiss the action
     notwithstanding the objections of the person initiating the
     action if the person has been notified by the Government of
     the filing of the motion and the court has provided the
     person with an opportunity for a hearing on the motion.
       (B) Settlement.--The Government may settle the action with
     the defendant notwithstanding the objections of the person
     initiating the action if the court determines, after a
     hearing, that the proposed settlement is fair, adequate, and
     reasonable under all the circumstances. Upon a showing of
     good cause, such hearing may be held in camera.
       (C) Proceedings.--Upon a showing by the Government that
     unrestricted participation during the course of the
     litigation by the person initiating the action would
     interfere with or unduly delay the Government's prosecution
     of the case, or would be repetitious, irrelevant, or for
     purposes of harassment, the court may, in its discretion,
     impose limitations on the person's participation, such as--
       (i) limiting the number of witnesses the person may call;
       (ii) limiting the length of the testimony of such
       (iii) limiting the person's cross-examination of witnesses;
       (iv) otherwise limiting the participation by the person in
     the litigation.
       (D) Limit participation.--Upon a showing by the defendant
     that unrestricted participation during the course of the
     litigation by the person initiating the action would be for
     purposes of harassment or would cause the defendant undue
     burden or unnecessary expense, the court may limit the
     participation by the person in the litigation.
       (3) Action by person.--If the Government elects not to
     proceed with the action, the person who initiated the action
     shall have the right to conduct the action. If the Government
     so requests, it shall be served with copies of all pleadings
     filed in the action and shall be supplied with copies of all
     deposition transcripts (at the Government's expense). When a
     person proceeds with the action, the court, without limiting
     the status and rights of the person initiating the action,
     may nevertheless permit the Government to intervene at a
     later date upon a showing of good cause.
       (4) Interference.--Whether or not the Government proceeds
     with the action, upon a showing by the Government that
     certain actions of discovery by the person initiating the
     action would interfere with the Government's investigation or
     prosecution of a criminal or civil matter arising out of the
     same facts, the court may stay such discovery for a period of
     not more than 60 days. Such a showing shall be conducted in
     camera. The court may extend the 60-day period upon a further
     showing in camera that the Government has pursued the
     criminal or civil investigation or proceedings with
     reasonable diligence and any proposed discovery in the civil
     action will interfere with the ongoing criminal or civil
     investigation or proceedings.
       (5) Government action.--Notwithstanding subsection (b), the
     Government may elect to pursue its claim through any
     alternate remedy available to the Government, including any
     administrative proceeding to determine a civil money penalty.
     If any such alternate remedy is pursued in another
     proceeding, the person initiating the action shall have the
     same rights in such proceeding as such person would have had
     if the action had continued under this section. Any finding
     of fact or conclusion of law made in such other proceeding
     that has become final shall be conclusive on all parties to
     an action under this section. For purposes of the preceding
     sentence, a finding or conclusion is final if it has been
     finally determined on appeal to the appropriate court of the
     United States, if all time for filing such an appeal with
     respect to the finding or conclusion has expired, or if the
     finding or conclusion is not subject to judicial review.
       (e) Award to Private Plaintiff.--
       (1) Government action.--If the Government proceeds with an
     action brought by a person under subsection (c), such person
     shall, subject to the second sentence of this paragraph,
     receive at least 15 percent but not more than 25 percent of
     the proceeds of the action or settlement of the claim,
     depending upon the extent to which the person substantially
     contributed to the prosecution of the action.
       (2) No government action.--If the Government does not
     proceed with an action under this section, the person
     bringing the action or settling the claim shall receive an
     amount which the court decides is reasonable for collecting
     the civil penalty and damages. The amount shall be not less
     than 25 percent and not more than 30 percent of the proceeds
     of the action or settlement and shall be paid out of such
     proceeds. Such person shall also receive an amount for
     reasonable expenses which the court finds to have been
     necessarily incurred, plus reasonable attorneys' fees and
     costs. All such expenses, fees, and costs shall be awarded
     against the defendant.
       (3) Frivolous claim.--If the Government does not proceed
     with the action and the person bringing the action conducts
     the action, the court may award to the defendant its
     reasonable attorneys' fees and expenses if the defendant
     prevails in the action and the court finds that the claim of
     the person bringing the action was clearly frivolous, clearly
     vexatious, or brought primarily for purposes of harassment.
       (f) Government Not Liable for Certain Expenses.--The
     Government is not liable for expenses which a person incurs
     in bringing an action under this section.
       (g) Fees and Expenses to Prevailing Defendant.--In civil
     actions brought under this section by the United States, the
     provisions of section 2412 (d) of title 28 shall apply.
       (h) Whistleblower Protection.--
       (1) In general.--Any employee who is discharged, demoted,
     suspended, threatened, harassed, or in any other manner
     discriminated against in the terms and conditions of
     employment by his or her employer because of lawful acts done
     by the employee on behalf of the employee or others in
     furtherance of an action under this section, including
     investigation for, initiation of, testimony for, or
     assistance in an action filed or to be filed under this
     section, shall be entitled to all relief necessary to make
     the employee whole.
       (2) Relief.--Relief under this subsection shall include
     reinstatement with the same seniority status such employee
     would have had but for the discrimination, 2 times the amount
     of back pay, interest on the back pay, and compensation for
     any special damages sustained as a result of the
     discrimination, including litigation costs and reasonable
     attorneys' fees. An employee may bring an action in the
     appropriate district court of the United States for the
     relief provided in this subsection.


       The courts of the United States shall take cognizance and
     notice of any legal decision of the Government Accountability
     Office interpreting the application of this Act.


       (a) In General.--
       (1) Reduction of salary.--It shall not be in order in the
     House of Representatives or the Senate to consider a bill,
     amendment, or resolution providing an appropriation for an
     agency that the Government Accountability

[[Page S898]]

     Office has found in violation of this Act unless the
     appropriations for salary and expenses for the head of the
     relevant agency contains a provision reducing the salary of
     the head by an amount equal to the illegal expenditure
     identified by the Government Accountability Office. If the
     illegal expenditure exceeds the annual salary of the agency
     head, then the point of order shall continue until the
     remaining amount is subtracted from the salary of the agency
       (2) Compliance.--Paragraph (1) shall not apply if the
     agency is complying with the decision of the Government
     Accountability Office.
       (b) Supermajority Waiver and Appeal.--This section may be
     waived or suspended in the Senate only by an affirmative vote
     of \3/5\ of the Members, duly chosen and sworn. An
     affirmative vote of \3/5\ of the Members of the Senate, duly
     chosen and sworn, shall be required in the Senate to sustain
     an appeal of the ruling of the Chair on a point of order
     raised under this section.

  Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, we have to stop right now all the
taxpayer-financed propaganda put out by our government to influence the
American people. We need to expedite the investigations, begin
congressional hearings, and pass specific new legislation to prevent
the administration from using persons paid to pose as legitimate
journalists to push for the Bush political agenda.
  Last week, we found out, according to the Washington Post, that
another commentator, Maggie Gallagher, was paid $21,500 by the
Department of Health and Human Services to promote the Bush
administration's marriage agenda--a fact she didn't disclose to her
readers while writing on the issue.
  As most of us now know, thanks to USA Today, the outgoing leadership
of the Education Department secretly, and still unapologetically, paid
$241,000 to commentator Armstrong Williams to influence his broadcasts.
Mr. Williams was paid to comment favorably on the President's No Child
Left Behind Act education reform plan, to conduct phony ``interviews''
with administration officials, and to encourage his colleagues in the
media to do the same.
  The Gallagher and Williams payments were part of a multimillion
dollar, taxpayer-funded public relations scheme to influence and
undermine America's free press. Journalists were ranked on the
favorability of their news coverage of President Bush on education.
Phony video reports and interviews about the President's Medicare
prescription drug law were broadcast as independent news on local
  All parties agree that this type of secret government paid journalism
is wrong. Yet Ms. Gallagher and Mr. Williams continue to retain their
$21,500 and $241,000 bribes.
  I am pleased to join Senator Lautenberg, who has been our leader on
this issue, in introducing legislation to permanently prohibit the use
of taxpayer funds for the type of manipulative payments that Ms.
Gallagher and Mr. Williams received. Our legislation will prohibit
agencies from issuing news releases, video news releases, and internet
messages that do not clearly identify the government as financially
responsible for the information.
  It will enforce these prohibitions by creating a mechanism to dock
the pay of any Cabinet Secretary or agency head responsible, and by
authorizing private citizens to bring a court action to recover
taxpayer funds.
  Propaganda by the Department of Health and Human Services, the
Department of Education, and the Office of Drug Control and Policy has
to stop now, before the infection spreads. We cannot sit still in
Congress while the administration corrupts the first amendment and
freedom of the press.