Thursday, May 20, 2004
The General Accounting Office has concluded that the fake news segments produced by the Bush administration to tout their new Medicare law were illegal: (from "Medicare 'news report' videos violate law, GAO says", AP)
The Bush administration's promotion of the new Medicare law through videos made to look like news reports violated a prohibition against using public money for propaganda, Congress' General Accounting Office said Wednesday.
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The GAO report was issued just as the administration was trying to blunt criticism of the new law by trumpeting discounts for people who use Medicare-approved drug cards when filling their prescriptions.
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The story packages violated the law because the government "did not identify itself as the source of the news report," said the GAO, Congress' investigative arm.
The English version ends with a woman's voice saying, "In Washington, I'm Karen Ryan reporting." A man identifies himself as a reporter named Alberto Garcia in the Spanish-language version.
"The viewing audience does not know . . . that Karen Ryan and Alberto Garcia were paid with HHS funds for their work," congressional investigators said.
Sen. Frank Lautenberg, a New Jersey Democrat who asked for the GAO inquiry, said President Bush's re-election campaign should repay the government for the cost of the videos.
HHS has said it spent about $43,000 to produce the materials.