From The Advocate:

When President-elect Donald Trump enters office this month, he’ll have a billion-dollar public information machine at his disposal — an eye-popping asset even for someone of Trump’s means. And, it will all be paid for with tax dollars, as an LSU professor recently reminded readers in a New York Times oped.

Jack Hamilton, a former dean of LSU’s Manship School of Mass Communication who remains on the school’s faculty, joined with fellow scholar Kevin R. Kosar to write the commentary, which focused on how presidential administrations throughout the years have used the government’s enormous public relations operation to their advantage.

The nonpartisan U.S. Government Accountability Office “estimates that the salaries for government public relations employees exceed $400 million per year. By our tally, executive agencies spent $800 million this past year on advertising and public relations contracts,” Hamilton and Kosar told readers in their Dec. 12 commentary. “Every federal agency has an internet presence. The Justice Department has a YouTube channel. The EPA has about two dozen Twitter accounts. President Obama established a White House Office of Digital Communications in 2009, some of whose occupants had used those skills to get him elected.”

Of course, using government resources to prevail in a political argument isn’t anything new. “The beginnings of such efforts date from the earliest days of the republic,” Hamilton and Kosar note. “Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton generated favorable government reports to promote his pro-industrial policies. But it wasn’t until World War I that the nation saw the beginnings of a systematic, pervasive program of government propaganda. The Committee on Public Information, which tried to drive support for the war, was headed by … the journalist George Creel, whose approach was emotion-laden and often coercive. ‘There was no part of the great war machinery that we did not touch,’ Creel said, ‘no medium of appeal that we did not employ.’ “

 Often, government agencies don’t merely distribute data about their work; they often shape that information to advance an agenda. Hamilton and Kosar cited Obama administration’s Department of Labor for running a PR campaign to pressure Congress to raise the minimum wage, labeling the arguments of critics as “a myth.”

Such practices are par for the course in both Democratic and Republican administrations, and Hamilton and Kosar offered few prescriptions for changing that. The biggest counterweight to government spin, we suspect, is a skeptical press — and an equally skeptical public.

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