WASHINGTON (Oct. 28, 2016) – The federal government’s widespread use of advertising – a frequently ignored budget line-item – and other forms of communication carry significant implications for society and the separation of powers, according to a new R Street Institute policy study from Governance Project Director Kevin R. Kosar and John Maxwell Hamilton, a professor at Louisiana State University.

“The limited attention the topic receives is all the more striking when one realizes the immense scope of government communications,” Kosar and Hamilton write. “The federal government spent nearly $800 million on advertising and public-relations contracts with the private sector in 2015. This includes money spent on advertising in all forms of media, marketing research, opinion polling, message-crafting assistance and more. Over the past five years, such spending has totaled $3.8 billion.”

Particularly controversial are government efforts not merely to inform the public, but to sway public support in favor of particular legislation, such as the Department of Labor’s initiative promoting a higher minimum wage, while simultaneously claiming the potential of jobs being lost due to a minimum wage increase is a “myth.”

“It is not realistic to think that government propaganda can be stopped, but more realistic goals are attainable,” the authors conclude. “Congressional action is essential for this to happen. Clearer rules and oversight will help a good deal to reign in federal agencies.”

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