Obama Railroading Propaganda Signs

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has dropped its requirement for “stimulus” project propaganda signage, according to a communiqué from the department’s inspector general.

As of July 15 the policy changed, the I.G. says, and signs and plaques promoting the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) at jobsites and on things like “stimulus”-funded railroad cars were “strongly encouraged” in lieu of the mandate. 

Sounds like a Capone line.

According to DOT Inspector General Calvin L. Scovel III, prior to the July 15 change, agencies like the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) required “high-speed intercity passenger rail grant recipients” to “post a sign at all fixed project locations at the most publicly accessible location and a plaque on all purchased or rehabilitated rail cars announcing that the project or equipment was funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Railroad Administration with funds provided through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.”

The mandates may have softened but the pressure to erect the signs persists, says one top lawmaker.

“Despite eliminating requirements to post signs, Department of Transportation agencies are still improperly focused on pushing projects to display signs crediting President Obama and the so-called ‘stimulus’ for earmarked funding handouts,” said Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), Ranking Republican on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. 

The existing stimulus propaganda signage regulations read like a narcissistic actor’s billing clause in his movie contract.  A sampling:

• ARRA Project Signs should be stand-alone signs, with the sole purpose of identifying the project as being funded (in whole or in part) by ARRA.

• Grantees may elect to have a secondary sign which identifies other project partners (e.g. State, city county, corporate partners), but such secondary project signs should be smaller and less prominent than ARRA project sign.  An ARRA Project sign must be located adjacent to each placement of such a secondary project sign.

• ARRA Project Signs should be designed to maximize visibility of the Recovery.Gov and USDOT TIGER logos and minimize any accompanying text.

• For rail vehicles purchased or rehabilitated using ARRA funding, ARRA Project Sign should take the form of decal, no smaller than 12 inches measured diagonally.  For passenger rail cars, such decals should be placed so as to be visible to every passenger entering the car (e.g. on or adjacent to each vestibule door and/or each exterior door).  For locomotives, such decals should be place in the lower front of the locomotive body, adjacent to any builder plate.

• ARRA Project Signs should be located at the project site so as to maximize their visibility to rail passengers and passersby approaching the site.

The FRA’s move to soften requirements for posting “stimulus” signs follows questions and criticism from Republican Members of Congress including Issa who wrote to Recovery Act and Transparency Board Chairman Earl Devaney in June to obtain information about the politicized stimulus advertising.  Issa’s demands included an accounting of rules issued by federal agencies on signage and whether the posting of signs was a requirement for obtaining stimulus funding. 

DOT IG Scovel’s letter to Issa was sent as part of a response to Issa’s inquiry and included more examples of the “encouragement” language:

Maritime Administration (MARAD): “MARAD guidance cites the President’s wish to have all projects funded by ARRA to bear a recovery emblem: ‘The President of the United States has said that he wants all projects funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) to bear a recovery emblem to make it easier for all Americans to see which projects are being funded by the ARRA.’ However, there is no requirement for signage in MARAD grant agreements.”

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA): “The airport grant recipient of ARRA funds hereby agrees that it will strongly encourage the prime contractor of an airport project funded with ARRA funds to post signs…”

Much more at the link.

“The Administration’s obsession with using taxpayer money to get political credit for projects adds unnecessary expenses and bureaucracy to a spending package that’s failing to spur promised job creation in the private sector,” Issa said.