NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


March 9, 2005

Federal money for political advocacy is on the rise, says John Samples of the Cato Institute.

In light of recent news that columnist Armstrong Williams accepted $240,000 from the Bush Administration to promote the No Child Left Behind Act, the bigger picture, says Samples, is that the government is using taxpayer money to advocate its policies.

Several examples abound:

  • In Washington, D.C., taxpayer money is used to purchase billboards to encourage Metro riders to contact their representatives and demand more spending on the Metro.
  • A few years ago, Ohio's governor spent public money trying to defeat an initiative that would have allowed treatment instead of prison for first and second-time drug offenders.
  • The Bush administration spent $250 million in taxpayer money on public relations, some of it used to advocate for the Medicare drug benefit and new drug enforcement efforts.

Using government subsidies for political advocacy is nothing new, according to economists James Bennett and Thomas DiLorenzo. Twenty years ago, the economists began documenting ways taxpayers were forced to support political causes of the left and the right. Even then the subsidies ran into the hundreds of millions of dollars.

The 109th Congress should get government out of the business of funding political advocacy, and should eliminate subsidies to politically active groups, says Samples.

Source: John Samples, "Defund Everyone," Cato Institute, February 4, 2005.

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