Group Calls on White House to Take Action Against Think Tank for Using Presidential Seal

A conservative group is calling on the Justice Department to take action against a liberal think tank for using the presidential seal on a new policy publication.

Americans for Limited Government says the use of the seal is restricted under the law, which prohibits reproduction of the seal for "the purpose of conveying, or in a manner reasonably calculated to convey, a false impression of sponsorship or approval by the government of the United States."

The law allows exceptions for educational and historical uses as well as limited usage by news media. The White House counsel can also grant an exception under an executive order.

ALG President Bill Wilson initially sent a letter to White House counsel Robert Bauer asking if he granted an exception to the Center for American Progress to use the seal for its publication, "The Power of the President: Recommendations to Advance Progressive Change."

The report offers President Obama a blueprint on how he can advance his agenda through the use of executive orders, instead of relying on Congress after Democrats lost control of the House in this month's midterm elections.

"The Center for American Progress' use of the seal appears to indicate presidential endorsement of its agenda," Wilson said in a statement. "The question is whether the White House granted an exception in this case or not."

"If it did, that would appear to be a stretch beyond the intent of the law and the order, in which exceptions are supposed to be provided for educational, historical and news purposes," he said. "If it did not, then it would appear to be a violation of the law by the Center for American Progress."

A spokeswoman with the Center for American Progress told that the think tank purchased a photograph of the seal from The Associated Press. The group did not respond to further inquiries.

Neither the White House nor the Justice Department returned messages seeking comment.

When told by that the center used an AP photograph of the seal, Rick Manning, a spokesman for ALG, called the purchase "interesting" but "irrelevant in terms of the law."

"Given what you have learned…our request to the White House is moot," Manning said. "They're admitting they did not get permission."

"So the operating question is: Is the White House going to take action to protect the seal because it violates the statute?" he said.

Manning noted that the second Bush administration forced the satirical newspaper, The Onion, to stop using the presidential seal on its website for its parody of the president's weekly radio address.

"Even on something that's clearly satirical in that kind of environment, it appears if it's used to convey of being official, it's not within the scope of the exemption of the law," he said. "So the White House and the attorney general need to take action either to enforce the law or not."