A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Public Notice (Bankrupting America)

Political Leanings: Republican

Spending Target: Not Disclosed



Public Notice is a group headed by Gretchen Hamel, who has a long history of working for Republicans. She was a press assistant for former GOP Rep. J.C. Watts of Oklahoma, then press secretary to GOP Rep. John Carter of Texas and later for the House Republican Conference. She was deputy assistant U.S. trade representative during the final years of the Bush administration.

This group describes itself as "an independent, non-partisan, non-profit organization." Hamel insists that the organization is "an education advocacy group" and not a "political group." Unlike some "super PACs" and overtly partisan groups, it does not attack specific candidates. But it does echo Republican campaign themes and attacks federal spending programs identified with Democrats.

As of Oct. 6, the Campaign Media Analysis Group estimated that Public Notice had spent $3 million running a single TV spot, "Stop Digging.” The ad urged viewers to "hold Congress accountable" for "unsustainable" spending, and it made the false claim that spending is "not creating jobs" — a theme repeated in many Republican campaign commercials.

Public Notice runs a project it calls "Bankrupting America," dedicated to criticizing federal spending and the stimulus measure in particular. Its slick website contains an interactive "Spending Fail Map" of the U.S. listing supposedly wasteful stimulus projects, and a video spoof in which a woman with a microphone describes ridiculous-sounding spending projects and asks people on the street whether they are "real or fake." (Spoiler alert: They’re all real examples cited by Republican Sens. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and John McCain of Arizona.) The website is bipartisan to this degree: It contains a page criticizing both President Barack Obama and former President George W. Bush for their "unfortunate similarities," saying they both "love to spend."

Hamel would tell us nothing about who gives to her organization, or even whether or not it accepts corporate funding. “We do not discuss our organization’s finances,” she said in a telephone interview on Oct. 5. The group says on its websites that it is organized as a Limited Liability Company with tax-exempt status under section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code. That leaves it legally free to accept corporate funds, without disclosing its donors publicly.