By Diane Farsetta on February 13, 2006

The nonpartisan investigative arm of the U.S. Congress, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), released a report on the media contracts of seven agencies -- Commerce, Defense, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Interior, Treasury and Veterans Affairs. (These departments "account for nearly all the obligated federal dollars for public relations and advertising activities in fiscal year 2003.") The departments self-reported on 343 media contracts, worth $1.62 billion, from fiscal year 2003 through the second quarter of 2005. The Defense Department spent the most on media contracts, at $1.1 billion. Fifty-four contracts, worth $197 million, were with public relations firms. Fourteen contracts, worth $1.2 million, involved video news releases, for the Census Bureau, Food and Drug Administration, National Institutes of Health, Transportation Safety Administration, National Park Service, and U.S. Mint. The top recipients of federal media contracts were Leo Burnett, Campbell-Ewald, GSD&M, J. Walter Thompson, Frankel & Company, and Ketchum.