Public Relations and Propaganda: Restrictions on Executive Agency Activities [Updated May 24, 2005] [open pdf - 83KB]
"Controversies recently have arisen over certain executive branch agencies' expenditures of appropriated funds on public relations activities, some of which have been characterized as propagandistic. Generally speaking, there are two legal restrictions on agency public relations activities and propaganda. 5 U.S.C. 3107 prohibits the use of appropriated funds to hire publicity experts. Appropriations law 'publicity and propaganda' clauses restrict the use of funds for puffery of an agency, purely partisan communications, and covert propaganda. No federal agency monitors federal public relations activities, but a Member or Committee of Congress may ask the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to examine an agency's expenditures on public relations activities with a view to their legality. Any effort to reform current statutory restrictions on agency public relations activities will face three challenges: tracking public relations activities by agencies, defining 'propaganda,' and enforcing laws against agency use of funds for publicity experts and propaganda."
CRS Report for Congress, RL32750