Executive Branch Public Advocacy Transparency Act


This model policy would require state agencies to label their ads and media as having been government produced, whether or not they are part of a federal grant and to provide a source for any claims made.

Executive Branch Public Advocacy Transparency Act

Model Policy

Section 1. Preamble:

WHEREAS, the Framers established, and the States ratified, the United States Constitution for purposes of protecting our rights and ensuring that citizens direct the course of government; and

WHEREAS, in order to preserve liberty, the constitutional structure rests on a system of dual sovereign governments; and

WHEREAS, under that structure, the federal government is intended to have limited powers, with the broader, residual powers being reserved for the states or the people; and

WHEREAS, the state constitution vests authority to control state taxation and appropriations and to establish laws governing state programs and policies in the state legislature; and

WHEREAS, federal funding to a state in the form of grants requires the state to surrender powers to the federal government and conform its policies and programs to those preferred by the federal government; and

WHEREAS, the Government Accountability Office reported that the federal government spends about $1.5 billion per year on public relations activities and advertising in part to promote and advance such policies; and

WHEREAS, in connection with federal grants, the federal government may finance, and may encourage or require state executive agencies to finance or participate in such public-relations; and

WHEREAS, state executive agencies may be charged with providing information to the public, they are not charged with using federal or state tax dollars to engage in campaigns to influence state law-making by swaying public opinion in favor of federal policies required as a condition of accepting federal grants; and

WHEREAS, the public should have full information about the advantages and disadvantages of such policies and the motivations of state executive agencies in proposing or supporting them.

THEREFORE, the legislature establishes the following requirements that executive branch agencies must follow in communications with the public and policy makers.

Section 2. Definitions:

For purposes of this statute, “public relations communication” means a communication for advertising or educational purposes sent to a broad audience and includes mass mailings, emails, social media accounts, and text messages; print messages on billboards and in newspapers, magazines, pamphlets, or other instruments of general dissemination; and verbal messages disseminated through television, radio, Internet advertising, and phone campaigns. It excludes emergency messages and messages that solely provide information as to the status of government services (e.g., road or school closings), and advertisements for employment opportunities.

Section 3. Requirements:

I               Any public relations communication disseminated by a state executive agency, or a contractor, vendor, or instrumentality thereof, funded in whole or in part by federal or state funds, shall include a disclaimer that clearly states: (1) in the case of a printed communication, a written statement that the communication is printed or published by a government agency, or, in the case of a verbal message, that the communication is produced or disseminated by a government agency; (2) the name of the government agency sponsoring the communication; and (3) the sources of the funding for the communication, including, but not limited to, the federal and/or state agencies providing the funding.

II             Any public relations communication disseminated by a state executive agency, or a contractor, vendor, or instrumentality thereof, funded by user fees or by dedicated fines or penalties or by sources other than or in addition to federal and state funds, shall include a disclaimer clearly stating that the communication is paid for through such funding along with the name of the sponsoring agency or entity.

III            Any printed or otherwise visually represented disclaimer described in subsections (I) or (II) shall: (1) be of sufficient size to be clearly readable; and (2) to the extent feasible, be contained in a printed box set apart from the other contents of the communication and be printed with a reasonable degree of color contrast between the background and the printed statement.

IV            Any disclaimer required for verbal communications described in subsections (I) or (II) shall be made in a format that is audible and understandable to its intended audience.

V             Any executive branch agency communication described in subsections (I) or (II) shall reference a source, including, but not limited to, research studies or analyses, or provide a webpage address containing such sources, for any statement of fact contained in such communication and supporting the policy or program that is the subject of the communication.

VI            Any executive branch agency communication described in subsections (I) or (II) that advocates for a policy which is required as a condition of receiving a federal grant shall include a statement that the policy is required by the federal grant. Such statement shall be subject to the requirements of subsections (III) and (IV).