To victors go jobs in government

May 20, 1992|By Knight-Ridder Newspapers

WASHINGTON -- Political appointees are turning government public relations offices into propaganda machines for the Bush administration.

Scores of appointees have moved into top federal PR jobs formerly held by career civil servants, personnel records indicate. Hundreds of Republican campaign workers have been rewarded with the jobs since 1988.

"It's an ominous development because it can only lead to more distortion, more skewing of the information that gets to the public," says David Wise, who has written widely on government secrecy and deception.

"Our system of government is based on the consent of the governed," he adds, "and if we are uninformed or the information we receive is distorted, our system will not work."

While injecting politics in public affairs isn't new, it used to be limited to the White House, the State Department and top echelons of government.

But President Bush and his predecessor, Ronald Reagan, have spread PR specialists throughout the government by putting them in newly created assistant secretary positions. On the rungs below, cadres of patronage appointees have displaced career professionals.

Overall, Mr. Reagan and Mr. Bush have created more than 1,000 public-affairs positions. In 1983, the government had 2,667 career and non-career public-affairs jobs, according to the Office of Personnel Management. By 1989, the latest year for which figures are available, there were 3,933.

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