Senators to Geithner: Taxpayer-funded social media campaigns may violate law

Matthew Boyle Investigative Reporter
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Republican Sens. Orrin Hatch of Utah and Jerry Moran of Kansas on Tuesday pushed Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to account for his department’s use of what may be illegal taxpayer-funded social media campaigns aimed at legislation pending before Congress.

In a letter to Geithner, the two GOP senators note how “over the past few years” Geithner’s Department of Treasury has “expanded significantly” its use of YouTube, Twitter, Flickr, Facebook and the department’s own “Treasury Notes” blog. Moran and Hatch say this increased social media presence comes “at some cost to the taxpayers.”

“In recent postings to the Treasury Notes blog, Treasury’s Twitter account, Treasury’s Facebook page, and to slideshare, the Treasury department broadcast, under Treasury’s logo, the attached ‘infographic’ which identifies appropriations legislation pending before the Congress as ‘Pound Foolish,'” Moran and Hatch wrote to Geithner as an example of such behavior.

“Elsewhere throughout many of your social media postings, there are links to presentations designed to support or defeat legislation pending before the Congress,” they added. “For example, there are links in your social media postings to a 2011 interview on BloombergTV with you, during which you advocated that Congress adopt what the President labeled his ‘American Jobs Act’ and you stated that ‘if Congress doesn’t act, it’ll be because Republicans decided they did not want to do anything to help the economy.'”

Moran and Hatch suggested the behavior on behalf of the Treasury Department may be illegal, too.

“Your political rhetoric aside, Treasury’s social media links to instances in which you advocate that Congress act on legislative proposals seem contrary to appropriations language (e.g., Sections 716 and 719 of P.L. 112-74),” the GOP senators wrote. “The infographic referred to above appears clearly to be designed to defeat legislation pending before the Congress. At a minimum, such activity runs counter to P.L. 112-74 and a statute (P.L. 66-5; 41 Stat. 68; 18 U.S.C. 1913) forbidding agencies from spending appropriated funds to encourage the public to contact Members of Congress.”

The GOP senators asked Geithner to respond with a full accounting of his department’s social media program, its costs and the policies surrounding it. They gave Geithner until the close of business on July 30.

Hatch and Moran both hold some sway over Treasury as Hatch is the ranking minority member of the Senate Finance Committee and Moran is the ranking minority member for the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government.

A spokesperson for the Department of Treasury didn’t immediately return The Daily Caller’s request for comment on the letter.

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