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Rep. Issa Asks: ‘How Much Are Taxpayers Being Charged for Stimulus Propaganda Signs?’

Is the government illegally requiring states to spend up to $10,000 for each road sign advertising stimulus projects? Why do private firms claim a sign should cost significantly less?

Patrick Richardson


June 28, 2010 - 9:43 am
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Rep. Issa’s complaint, however, was not just the cost of these signs, but the political nature of the signs, which he called “propaganda”:

Perhaps the most overtly political guidance on stimulus advertising comes from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which provided recipients a suggested sign template informing the public that projects have been “Funded By: American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Barack Obama, President.”

Many states have stopped placing the signs after complaints about taxpayer funds being used to pay for signs rather than road repairs. However, according to Issa:

The Federal Highway Administration continues to “strongly encourage” stimulus recipients to use taxpayer money for stimulus signs. The impact of DOT pressure on recipients’ decisions whether or not to post signs advertising the use of stimulus funds on road projects is unclear but raises troubling questions about Administration pressure on state and local governments.

In addition, according to Issa, there is evidence HUD may early on have forced recipients of  block grant program funds designated for Native Americans to sign contracts obligating them “to post these politicized signs as a prerequisite for receiving stimulus funds”:

Although this requirement was subsequently reversed, I am concerned that a federal agency could have ever imposed such a politicized quid pro quo on recipients of taxpayer dollars. Similarly, guidance from the Department of Commerce requires recipients to post signs bearing the “Primary Emblem” of the stimulus in order to identify the expenditure of taxpayer funds.

Rep. Issa points to Department of Commerce language which seems to require the use of the signs:

All projects which are funded by the Recovery Act shall display signage that features the Primary Emblem throughout the construction phase. The signage should be displayed in a prominent location on site.

Rep. Issa said Congress annually inserts language into appropriations bills which prohibits the use of money by federal agencies for “publicity and propaganda,” and has done so since 1952. Further, Issa said, the Government Accountability Office says the prohibition extends to “the use of appropriated funds solely for partisan purposes.”

According to Issa:

The American people understand that self-congratulatory stimulus signs are inherently political.

Issa points out that left-wing commentators have said Obama should do more to tout the AARA and should do so before the November elections.

Issa continues:

It ought to be bad enough that the stimulus has failed to deliver the promised economic growth at a price tag, with interest, that will well exceed $1 trillion. Adding insult to injury by wasting taxpayers’ money on self aggrandizing political propaganda is unacceptable.

(Photo credits: Rachel Jeffries [], Caroline Magnuson)

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Patrick Richardson has been a journalist for almost 15 years and an inveterate geek all his life. He blogs regularly at, which aims to be like another SF magazine, just not so serious.
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