Republican leaders probing stimulus cash for MSNBC ads

Republican leaders on a House panel are requesting that the U.S. Department of Labor turn over all records involving a $495,000 contract funded through President Obama’s stimulus program that paid for a barrage of ads on White House-friendly cable programs touting its “green jobs” initiative.

The 2009 contract with McNeely Pigott & Fox Public Relations led to more than 100 commercials on cable news programs on MSNBC hosted by Rachel Maddow and Keith Olbermann to increase awareness about the Job Corps program’s training in environmentally friendly industries.

In an Aug. 24 letter to Department of Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, House Committee on Education and the Workforce Chairman John Kline, R-Minn., and Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training Chairwoman Virginia Fox, R-N.C., requested documents, communications and information on the taxpayer-funded ad campaign.

“Despite the fact that these funds were made available as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act – legislation President Obama said was critical for immediate job creation – an examination of public records show that the contract that resulted in the advertisements on MSNBC created no jobs,” the letter reads. “Upon further review of public records, we have found that DOL, since 2009, spent almost $2 million on public relations services from MP&F, resulting in the creation of one job in the last reported quarter.”

A call seeking comment from Labor Department officials was not immediately returned Friday.

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Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, who sits on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, told last week that the contract didn’t “pass the basic sniff test.”

Chaffetz said the targeting of these ads also raises questions about "political motivations."

Labor Department officials defended the expense last week, suggesting in a brief statement that the decisions on placement were largely made by the contractor.

"Job Corps has used media buys over the decades to inform potential participants and referral sources as well as employers about the Job Corps program. In this case, the Department of Labor relied on an outside contractor and media buying expert to perform research, conduct cost comparisons of media outlets, determine the most cost-effective way to reach the target audience, and create and place the ads," the department said.'s Judson Berger contributed to this report.