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Chairman Krishnamoorthi, Chairwoman DeLauro, Chairwoman Maloney, and Whip Clyburn Introduce Legislation To Defund President Trump’s “Defeat Despair” Propaganda Campaign

October 7, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – Yesterday, Chairman Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL) of the Oversight Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy and Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education joined with Committee on Oversight and Reform Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY), and Whip James E. Clyburn (D-SC), Chairman of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, to introduce the Defeat Pandemic Propaganda Act of 2020, which will prohibit the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) from using federal funds to create campaign-style, political advertisements regarding COVID-19 in the run-up to the presidential election.

“With more than 200,000 Americans dead from COVID-19 and no end to the pandemic in sight, federally-funded advertisements meant to cast the situation in a positive light or suggest there is no longer a need to take public health precautions would be wholly unethical, especially in the weeks before a presidential election,” said Chairman Krishnamoorthi. “Our bill would ensure that the Department of Health and Human Services cannot be used to produce taxpayer-funded campaign propaganda that could endanger lives and mislead the electorate.”

“Spending hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars on a misleading propaganda campaign is dangerous and violates the Department of Health and Human Services’ mission,” said Chairwoman DeLauro. “This unrelenting deception of the American People as they continue to lose loved ones is unacceptable. The Defeat Pandemic Propaganda Act of 2020 would put an end to these types of taxpayer-funded campaign stunts and help ensure federal funding is being used to end this pandemic and save lives.”

“Taxpayer money should never be used for political propaganda or to manipulate and deceive the American people. This legislation would enact guardrails – ones that this Administration has proven we need - to protect our democracy and prevent the hijacking of public health communications for political purposes,” said Chairwoman Maloney.

“The mission of the Select Committee on the Coronavirus Crisis is to ensure that our response to this pandemic is effective, efficient, and equitable,” said Whip Clyburn. “HHS’s public relations ploy fails on all three counts and is an egregious misuse of taxpayer dollars.  This legislation will appropriately bar HHS from using public resources to protect the perceived political interests of the president.  Funds Congress has appropriated for HHS must be spent solely on protecting the health and well-being of the American people.”

In late August, HHS signed a $250 million contract for a public service advertising and announcement campaign intended to, in part, “defeat despair and inspire hope, sharing best practices for businesses to operate in the new normal and instill confidence to return to work and restart the economy.” The project, originally overseen by former Trump campaign aide and loyalist Michael Caputo, has the potential to produce taxpayer-funded propaganda that could benefit President Trump at the polls.

In response, Reps. Krishnamoorthi, Maloney, and Clyburn, as Chairs of House Committee Oversight and Reform panels, called on HHS to suspend the contract and provide related documents for review as part of an ongoing investigation.

View the text of the bill here.