GAO Asked To Repudiate VNR Smackdown

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The chairman of the house government reform committee wants the Government Accountability Office to withdraw and repudiate its conclusion that administration anti-drug video news releases were illegal.

In a Jan. 4 letter, GAO General counsel Anthony Gamboa concluded that new media use of VNR's without attribution violated the ban on use of government money for propaganda.

Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), disagrees, arguing that the government did not deliberately conceal anything. "Every new organization had the opportunity to review the VNRs before broadcast, knowing there were the product of ONDCP, and decide for themselves whether they were willing to adopt the information and views expressed," he said in a letter to Comptroller General David Walker.

Davis argues that GAO's reasoning means that "every communication with a news organization" used in a broadcast must include a disclosure. "It is not hard to imagine a long interview with a government official that results in an editorial on the subjects discussed. Must the government official insist on disclosure of the contacts with the journalist? We do not think so."

Davis also wants the GAO to reconsider its "entire mode of analysis in this area."

GAO is being asked to do quite a lot of analysis in that area in the wake of disclosures of pay-for-promo contracts with commentators Armstrong Williams and Maggie Gallagher. A group of house Democrats has asked it to look into a wide range of PR policies on everything from homeland security to energy.

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