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The use of tax dollars to promote administration programs and policies is hardly new. The practice came under scrutiny from Democratic lawmakers who were upset about advertising during the George W. Bush administration.

In 2006, a Government Accountability Office (GAO) study requested by Democrats found more than $1.6 billion in public relations and media spending by the Bush administration during a two-year span.

A search of GAO reports in recent years doesn’t reveal any comparable studies reviewing public relations and media expenditures during the Obama administration. But federal purchasing records available online show thousands of contract actions since the change in administrations under specific purchasing codes both for advertising and public relations services.

Stephen Dinan contributed to this report.