Eleanor Holmes Norton
Eleanor Holmes Norton (WI file photo)

D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton joined a handful of fellow Capitol Hill Democrats in requesting that the Government Accountability Office issue a report on federal advertising contracts and subcontracts with small, disadvantaged and minority-owned businesses. 

Norton and Reps. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), Val Demings (D-Fla.) and Grace Meng (D-N.Y.) sent a letter to Gene Dodaro, the GAO comptroller general, calling for action. 

“The federal government is the largest advertiser in the United States, and it is important that media companies owned by people of color whose primary mission is to serve communities of color have the same advertising opportunities as other media companies,” the House members wrote. 

The letter noted that in 2016, Congress members, including some of the letter’s co-authors, requested the GAO look at federal spending on advertising contracts with small disadvantaged and minority-owned businesses. In 2018, GAO reported federal advertising with the concerned groups increased between 2013 and 2017 but made up only 13% of contracts at that time, the letter said.

The coronavirus pandemic and legislative actions have affected federal advertising to such an extent that a follow-up study is needed, the lawmakers wrote. 

“We ask the GAO examine how much is spent on federal advertising contacts with small disadvantaged and minority-owned businesses whose audiences are largely communities of color,” the letter said.   

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