Your Tax Dollars at Work…for Obama

The American Spectator

Some include the words, “Barack Obama, President.” Most say “Putting America to Work.” All say “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.” Regardless, if you see another gaudy sign promoting the $862 billion stimulus package, Rep. Darrell Issa wants to know about it.

Issa, the ranking member on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has set up an e-mail address, stimulussigns@gmail.com, asking folks to send pictures of the signs with information. The California Republican also asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to explore whether the signs promoting the recovery act, and other actions he considers propaganda, are legal.

The Recovery Act Accountability and Transparency Board is expected to release a report about the cost of the signs this month. Congress did not make signs a part of the recovery act. Rather, the White House Office of Management and Budget issued a March 2009 directive for posting the signs.

“Projects funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) will bear a newly-designed emblem,” the OMB directive said. “The emblem is a symbol of President Obama’s commitment to the American People to invest their tax dollars wisely to put Americans back to work.”

The words “will bear” imply a mandate for all state and local governments or contractors getting stimulus money to post these advertisements. That’s not the case, at least not now. Some federal agencies required the posting of the signs, but scaled that back to “strongly encourage” the posting of signs, according to recent inspector general reports from the departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development. Meanwhile, the Department of Commerce still requires the posting, according to its IG report.

By far, the Department of Transportation has the strictest guidelines, regarding size and visibility of the signs and making no bones that the point of the signs was to “publicize” the recovery act.

“Despite eliminating requirements to post signs, Department of Transportation agencies are still improperly focused on pushing projects to display signs crediting President Obama and the so-called ‘stimulus’ for earmarked funding handouts,” Issa said in a statement. “The administration’s obsession with using taxpayer money to get political credit for projects adds unnecessary expenses and bureaucracy to a spending package that’s failing to spur promised job creation in the private sector.”

The Obama administration insists that the signs are just its way of being transparent.

“The Department of Transportation continues to believe that taxpayers have the right to know where their Recovery Act dollars are being spent,” DOT spokesman Bill Adams told CNSNews.com.

The DOT agency guidelines vary. But the Office of Inspector General reported that most agency say that signs “be placed where they can be easily identified with the corresponding projects.”

The Federal Aviation Administration guidelines said “the signs should be solely used to publicize ARRA funding of an airport project,” according to the IG report.

And state or local politicians should not even think about getting as much credit for the existence of the project as the Obama administration. The Federal Railroad Administration guidance states, “Grantees may elect to have a secondary project sign which identifies other project partners.” But it says, “Such secondary signs should be smaller and less prominent than ARRA Project Sign.”

The FRA also states the signs “should take the form of a decal, no smaller than 12 inches measured diagonally. For passenger rail cars, such decals should be placed so as to be visible to every passenger entering the car.”

Like other agencies, the FRA guidelines initially said, “The grantee shall post a sign at all fixed project locations at the most publicly accessible location and a plaque in all purchased or rehabilitated rail cars announcing that the project or equipment was funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Railroad Administration with funds provided through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.” This “shall” was dropped in favor of encouraging such posting.

The Federal Transit Administration’s first issued guidelines on April 7, 2009 that said the recipient “agrees” to post the emblem. But FTA officials told the IG they changed that policy to “encourage” on Aug. 14, 2009.

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