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Pallone Introduces Legislation Requiring Bush Campaign to Pay Back Cost of Illegal Medicare Video News Stories

May 21, 2004
Press Release

Washington, D.C. --- In response to a U.S. Government Accounting Office (GAO) ruling that "video news releases" (VNRs) produced by the Bush administration violated the law, U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) and 27 of his Democratic colleagues yesterday introduced legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives requiring President Bush's campaign to repay the full cost of the VNRs. Pallone's legislation is identical to a Senate bill introduced yesterday by U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ).

"GAO's findings prove the Bush administration illegally took money away from seniors' Medicare accounts in order to pay for political operations," Pallone, a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said. "Not only did the Bush administration plant fake news stories at local television stations across the country, but they illegally diverted Medicare funds to do it. President Bush should admit his mistake and have his campaign reimburse America's seniors."

The VNRs included no disclaimers identifying that they were produced by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and many television news programs across the country ran these VNRs as straight news segments.

In March, Pallone was one of nine House Democrats that requested the HHS Inspector General investigate the use of taxpayer funds to produce the VNRs. Pallone and his colleagues are still waiting for a response to that request. However, earlier this week, the GAO released a report concluding the Bush administration had, in fact, illegally spent taxpayer money from the Medicare Trust Fund for the VNRs by violating two federal laws, one of which bars the use of government funds for "publicity or propaganda."

Pallone's legislation requires that the Bush-Cheney campaign reimburse HHS and the Medicare Trust fund for the estimated $43,000 cost of the VNRs.

The 27 original cosponsors of the bill include the following: U.S. Reps. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Charles Rangel (D-NY), John Dingell (D-MI), Henry Waxman (D-CA), Pete Stark (D-CA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Robert Matsui (D-CA), Janice Schakowsky (D-IL), Jim McDermott (D-WA), Richard Neal (D-MA), Max Sandlin (D-TX), Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-OH), William Pascrell (D-NJ), Marion Berry (D-AR), Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), Jim Davis (D-FL), Benjamin Cardin (D-MD), Tom Allen (D-ME), Bart Stupak (D-MI), Hilda Solis (D-CA), Ted Strickland (D-OH), Bobby Rush (D-VA), Karen McCarthy (D-MO), Albert Wynn (D-MD), Lois Capps (D-CA), and Gene Green (D-TX).