The Bush Administration has hired Ketchum Inc. to oversee its advertising campaign for its new Medicare prescription drug benefit plan.
Under the $25 million Health & Human Services contract, Ketchum will produce radio, television, magazine and newspaper advertising. Enrollment for the new benefit begins Nov. 15.
It's nice to have friends in high places.
Ketchum, you may remember, was hired last year by Health & Human Services to produce undocumented propaganda — a series of undocumented video news releases featuring actors posing as journalists. Separately, Ketchum was hired by the Department of Education to produce similar undocumented video news releases touting No Child Left Behind. Ketchum also arranged a subcontract with Graham Williams Group, headed by conservative pundit Armstrong Williams, to talk up the administration program.
The non-partisan Government Accountability Office earlier this month found that the various efforts were "covert propaganda," and in violation of "governmentwide" anti-propaganda rules.
In other words, Ketchum was the administration's accomplice in trying to trick the American people into supporting Bush Administration policies. Its video news release for HHS, supplied to some 40 television stations' news departments, wasn't identified as government-produced. Neither was its video news release for Education. Armstrong Williams didn't identify himself as a paid governemnt spokesman.
Perhaps the administration is rewarding Ketchum, after the firm got entangled in its propaganda efforts. In its ruling, the GAO suggested it was the administration's decision to created undocumented propaganda — albeit with Ketchum as a willing accomplice.
We know that Education asked Ketchum to "create a localized video news feed that features a spokesperson with a localized ‘message’ for each of the 30-target markets." HHS asked Ketchum to do similar work. We know that the Education asked Ketchum to subcontract to Williams.
We also know that the Justice Department justified its propaganda because it was, as President Bush put it, "based upon facts, not advocacy" — as if his administration would pay a journalist or create a video news release to oppose the administration.