Over the last 10 days, the Washington Guardian and the Medill News Service teamed up to publish a series of stories exposing how much the government spends on outside advertising, marketing and public relations contractors.
We'd like to call your attention to the full series, and its implications for the ongoing budget talks aimed at finding spending cuts and averting the fiscal cliff.
What we found was that federal agencies spent at least $16.3 billion on various image-making and messaging consultants over the last decade.
About a third of the time they don't even competitively shop to get taxpayers the best deal.
And that total doesn't even include the amounts spent each year by the military services to stage more than 1,000 flyovers at sporting and other events as part of their public relations and recruitment campaigns.
So what did taxpayers get for all that spending? Well, they got several agency decals on NASCAR racing cars, and a host of public service announcements. And sometimes they paid for contradictory messages, like encouraging Americans to eat healthier while urging foreigners to buy liquor, chocolates and popcorn.
Some of the students at Northwestern University's Medill News Service teamed up to take our readers on a stroll through five decades of federal advertisements. They even turned it into a YouTube mini-documentary. You can watch it below.