The Labor Department paid out hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal stimulus funds to a PR firm to run more than 100 commercials touting the Obama administration’s “green training” job efforts on two MSNBC cable shows, reported The Washington Times.
The commercials ran on Countdown With Keith Olbermann” and “The Rachel Maddow Show” in 2009, but the contract didn’t report any jobs created, according to the story.
Spending reports under the federal Recovery Act show $495,000 paid to McNeely Pigott & Fox Public Relations, which the Labor Department hired to raise awareness “among employers and influencers about the [Job Corps] program’s existing and new training initiatives in high growth and environmentally friendly career areas” as well as spreading the word to prospective Job Corps enrollees.
The firm ultimately negotiated ad buys for two approved spots airing 14 times per week for two months on Olbermann and Maddow, according to a project report, which listed the number zero under a section of the report asking how many jobs had been created through the stimulus contract.
David Williams, president of the nonprofit watchdog Taxpayers Protection Alliance, called the contract questionable because it created no jobs and because of the placement of the ads on shows viewed as friendly to the administration’s policies: “Hiring a PR firm does not create jobs, and this was obviously meant for selling a particular political agenda. The placement really reeks of a political ad rather than a job ad, and taxpayers see through this. Taxpayers would be a lot happier at the end of the day to see a completed road rather than a bunch of ads on cable television.”
The Labor Department officials defended the expenditures, saying the decision to place the ads on the network had nothing to do with politics.
In a joint email statement to The Times from two Labor Department spokesmen, David Roberts and Michael Volpe, officials said the money was used for outreach efforts to raise awareness among potential employers about the Job Corps’ green training in career areas, including automotive, advanced manufacturing and solar-panel installation.
They also said Labor Department research showed that ads would reach the target demographic of business owners and managers interested in hiring “green-trained” employees through a programming list that initially also included shows hosted by CNN’s Larry King and public television’s Jim Lehrer as well as the two MSNBC programs where the ads eventually appeared.
Officials gave no indication whether their research indicated if Fox News, ESPN or other cable outlets were considered for the Job Corps ads.
President Obama signed the $829 billion stimulus into law in February 2009 with the promise it would sustain 3.5 million jobs. But at its peak it likely was responsible for far fewer, according to estimates by the Congressional Budget Office.
Republicans argue that the price tag was too large and say much of the spending went to fund Obama’s political agenda, such as green energy programs, rather than to shovel-ready roads, bridges and other infrastructure projects.
RBR-TVBR observation: It’s a fine line. If the ads were politically motivated and meant to change people’s minds about the administration, Fox News should have been the place they ran. Airing them on MSNBC would be pretty much preaching to the choir, politically speaking. If the ads tooted Obama’s horn too much (even a little), then they are definitely taking advantage of the taxpayers’ dollar. Bottom line, stimulus money should be spent on putting people back to work, not much else. If the ads created any jobs at all, it may be a little different here.