Wednesday, January 20th, 2021

New Study Shows How the U.S. Government is the “2nd Largest PR Firm in the World”

Published on December 18, 2015 by   ·   No Comments

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Open the Books is a nonpartisan, non-profit organization focused on providing transparency in government. I’ve highlighted their work in the past, most recently related to how the EPA wasted $92.5 million of taxpayer money on high-end, luxury furniture over the past decade. Their latest report is even more disturbing.

It relates to the amount of money the U.S. government spends on PR, which in total amounts to nearly $4.5 billion over the past eight years. Open the Books split this spending up into two main categories. The first is $2.347 billion in salary and bonus payments to federal employees, and the other is $2.02 billion spent on outside contractors.

The organization released a 40 page report with their findings, which can be read in full here.

If you’re pressed for time, I’ve provided some highlights below.


At we’re constantly pushing agencies at all levels of government – state, local and federal – to disclose their spending. Our motivation is clear, simple and straightforward. Taxpayers have a right to know how their money is being spent.

Federal agencies, however, not only resist transparency but often pretend to be transparent when, in reality, they are engaged in self-promotion. Too often, they use their charge to disclose information as a cover for public relations campaigns that are designed to advance their interests (i.e. their desire for more funding and higher salaries) rather than the public interest.

After $4.5 billion in federal public relations spending over the past eight years, have we reached a point where the people’s consent is being manufactured by our government?

Today, government public relations are thriving at the federal, state and level levels. In fact, using public data released by the 2006 “Google Your Government Act” (Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act), for this report, we quantified $4.37 billion in federal government public relations (PR) expenditures since 2007.

Federal PR spending is comprised of $2.347 billion in salary and bonus payments to federal employees with the job title of “Public Affairs Officers,” plus, $2.02 billion spent on outside contractors for additional services (FY2007-FY2014).


  1. The federal government spent $4.34 billion on public relations in the last seven years.
  2. U.S. Government ranked 2nd largest Public Relations Firm in the World (based on the number of PR employees).Click here for a ranking of the largest private PR firms in the world.
  3. 3,092 federal ‘Public Affairs Officers’ are employed by over 200 federal agencies in FY2014.
  4. 1,858 ‘Public Affairs Officers’ made at least $100,000 in base salary compensation in FY2014.
  5. Salaries totaling $2.337 billion and ‘performance bonuses’ totaling $10.929 million flowed to public affairs officers (FY2007-FY2014). The highest bonus was $35,940 to John T. Burklow at Department of Health and Human Services in 2012 .
  6. Since 2007, PR positions increased in the federal government by 15 percent – an addition of 402 positions – from 2,688 to 3,092. Total PR salary spending by year increased by 22.4 percent despite a long period of freeze and sequester in federal hiring.
  7. $2.02 billion spent by 139 federal agencies with 2,403 outside PR vendors on 16,249 individual transactions since 2007 – despite 3,092 federal PR employees.
  8. 47 percent increase in outside PR consulting expenditures under the Obama administration vs. the last two years under the Bush administration.
  9. Top PR firms in the world reaped millions of dollars: Laughlin, Marinaccio & Owens, Inc. ($87.98M), Young & Rubicam Inc. ($57.5M), Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide Inc. ($47.93M), Fleishman-Hillard, Inc ($42.4M), Gallup ($42.0M), and many more.
  10. $183,581 (per year) billing by Ketchum ($88/hour, $15,298/month) for ‘Intern.’ $1.192 million (per year) billing by Boos Allen Hamilton ($525.67/hour, $91,107/month) for ‘Executive Manager’ – examples of billing rates per their respective federal advertising contracts.


Despite spending $2.3 billion on 3,092 public affairs salaries and bonuses since 2007, the federal agencies also spent another $2 billion with outside consulting firms.

Over the past 7 years, the federal government has engaged in 16,249 transactions amounting to $2.02 billion, averaging between $186.3 million to $309.4 million per year in PR contracts. The federal government contracted with 2,403 individual entities for outside PR work since 2007.

Read More HERE

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