- The Washington Times - Monday, May 9, 2005

The $82 billion supplemental spending bill for the war on terror in Iraq and Afghanistan is laden with hundreds of items that have nothing to do with the war, including a directive that would make the White House label the “prepackaged news stories” it provides to television stations.

The White House came under criticism in March for producing video press releases that television stations — mostly local affiliates — would use during their news broadcasts.

Although the practice was common during the Clinton administration, Democrats and many reporters complained that the release amounted to propaganda.

The provision will force the White House to label the video releases for a year, but Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg, New Jersey Democrat, promises to bring up a bill this year to make the requirement permanent.

“This is a good first step, but it is only a temporary measure,” he said. “We need a permanent solution. … We need to shut down the administration’s propaganda mill once and for all.”

The White House has implied that it is the responsibility of the news organizations that use the video releases to inform their audiences of their source, but the administration does not object to the labels.

“The White House was aware of the provision and is comfortable with it the way it was structured,” said White House spokesman Trent Duffy.

The bill also allows an independent counsel that has been investigating Clinton administration Housing and Urban Development Secretary Henry Cisneros for 10 years to continue until he finishes his final report.

David M. Barrett has spent $21 million since 1995 when he began looking into charges that Mr. Cisneros lied to the FBI about payments that he made to his mistress while serving as HUD secretary in President Clinton’s first term.

Senate negotiators tried to remove Mr. Barrett’s extension from the war bill, but House Republicans argued that the money spent on the probe would have been wasted unless the independent counsel was allowed to finish.

House conferees also included a provision that keeps the USS Kennedy from being retired until at least early next year. The White House and the Pentagon want to decommission one of the oldest aircraft carriers in the U.S. fleet.

The government watchdog group Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) said the supplemental bill is stuffed with projects that have little or nothing to do with the military or national security.

Included in the bill is $20 million for a road project in Mississippi, $5 million for the Fort Peck Fish Hatchery in Montana, $2 million for an upgrade of chemistry laboratories at Drew University in New Jersey, and $1 million for the Woody Island and historic structures in Philadelphia.

“Congress should be ashamed of itself for loading up the [bill] with unrequested money and unnecessary pork,” said CAGW Vice President David Williams. “Congress has once again failed the American taxpayer.”