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Pallone Says GAO Must Stop Bush Administration from Using Taxpayer Dollars to Fund Prescription Drug Ads

February 11, 2004
Press Release

"There's no doubt both Republicans here in the Congress and in the Bush administration are concerned that seniors aren't buying their new prescription drug law, but to use $22 million of the American taxpayers' money to try to change public opinion is outrageous. If the president wants to go on the airwaves and mislead American seniors as to how this new law will help them he should tap into some of the $150 million he's amassed in campaign contributions from the very groups that will actually benefit from this law.

"Now Republicans will claim they're just trying to inform seniors about the new prescription drug law. If that were the case, why did HHS decide to use the same media firm that is working on advertising for President Bush's reelection campaign? There are a lot of advertising agencies out there, but HHS just happened to choose National Media Inc. This is not a coincidence. The sole purpose of these ads is not to inform seniors about the new prescription drug law, but instead to try and convince them the law is not as bad as they think. Both the television ad and the two-page flyer are so oversimplified and distorted that they both clearly constitute propaganda.

"Let me give you just one example of HHS' distortion of the Medicare prescription drug law. In the ad an announcer states: 'It's the same Medicare you've always counted on, plus more benefits like prescription drug coverage.' Any viewer of this ad would assume the prescription drug benefits would be available through Medicare. The FACT is the supposed prescription drug benefit IS NOT included in Medicare. Instead, seniors have to go outside of Medicare, to either an HMO or PPO, to get their prescription drug coverage.

"It is simply wrong and unacceptable for the Bush administration to use the taxpayer's money for such a misleading and useless ad campaign. The law is clear----federal law bars the use of public funds for political or propaganda purposes. It's my hope that GAO will see these ads for what they are and conclude that taxpayer's dollars should not be used by the Bush administration in an attempt to sale its prescription drug bill."