GAO: Bush administration violated federal laws with Medicare news spots

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The General Accounting Office said Wednesday the Bush administration violated federal law by producing and disseminating television news spots that show the Medicare law as beneficial to the elderly. The agency said the videos were a form of "covert propaganda" because the government was not identified as the source.

The consequences of the ruling were not clear, however. Medicare officials are unlikely to face any penalties because the agency does not have law enforcement powers. However, officials in the executive branch usually take the GAO's decisions on federal spending seriously.

The videos also violated the prohibition on using taxpayer money for propaganda. Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) said he was drafting legislation that would require the Bush campaign to reimburse the Medicare trust fund for the cost of the videos, according the New York Times. The administration put the cost at $42,750.

The segments were broadcast by at least 40 television stations in 33 markets.