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Chaffetz seeks data on use of stimulus cash for job ads

- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, Utah Republican and a member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, plans to push Obama administration officials for more information on why the Labor Department spent a half-million dollars in federal stimulus money for more than 100 commercials that ran on MSNBC.

The ads ran on the "Rachel Maddow Show" and "Countdown With Keith Olbermann" in 2009, but government reports showed the contract created no jobs. The money was paid out through a public relations firm to raise awareness about "green training" efforts through the Job Corps program.

The Washington Times first reported on the contract Tuesday, quoting a taxpayer watchdog who said the arrangement raised questions not only about the lack of jobs but about why the administration was running ads on shows viewed as friendly to the Obama White House.

M.J. Henshaw, Mr. Chaffetz's press secretary, said Wednesday that the lawmaker plans to write a letter to the Labor Department seeking more details about the arrangement.

"If stimulus dollars were spent and it didn't create any jobs, he wants to get to the bottom of what's going on," Ms. Henshaw said.

Spending reports through the Recovery Act show $495,000 paid to McNeely Pigott & Fox Public Relations LLC, which the Labor Department hired to raise awareness "among employers and influencers about the [Job Corps] program's existing and new training initiatives in high growth and environmentally friendly career areas."

A project report on the contract listed the number zero under a section asking how many jobs had been created.

Labor Department officials defended the contract, though the public relations firm did not respond to inquiries from The Times.

In a joint email statement to The Times from two Labor Department spokesmen, David Roberts and Michael Volpe, the officials said research showed that advertisements would reach the target demographic of business owners and managers interested in hiring "green-trained" employees through a programming list that initially also included shows hosted by CNN's Larry King and public television's Jim Lehrer.

Public television was eliminated because advertising rates were too high, officials said, and Mr. King's show was dropped because MSNBC held the potential to reach more viewers.

The use of tax dollars on media and advertising services isn't new. The practice came under scrutiny from Democratic lawmakers during the George W. Bush administration.

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