Budget Reduced by 17% to $120 Million

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WASHINGTON ( -- Congress has slashed the White House youth anti-drug advertising program's budget by 17% in the latest congressional spending bill.

Both houses of Congress agreed to the new

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government spending bill over the weekend. Legislators allocated $120 million to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, $25 million less than last year. While the $120 million is more than the $105 million the Senate proposed, the figure still represents continued erosion of the $195 million the program started out with in 1999 during the Clinton administration.

New ad agency
The ad program seeks to stop youth drug use by targeting children and their parents with youth-related ad messages. The creative comes from the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, and Interpublic Group of Cos.' Foote Cone & Belding, New York, is the ONDCP's new agency. The account had been with WPP Group's Ogilvy & Mather, New York, a relationship that deteriorated following a billing scandal.

Media companies who accept the the ONDCP's advertising have to provide a free ad for every paid message.

Officials from the Partnership and ONDCP have in the past complained that rising advertising costs meant more money was needed to do the same job, and that spending cuts would make it more difficult to target youths with sufficient reach and frequency.

Congressional complaints
Those on Capitol Hill, however, in turn have said the drug office is spending too much of the advertising money on public relations activities.

A year ago Congress required 78% of the drug office money be spent on advertising. This time, amid some legislators' concern that the drug office managed to bypass some of the non-advertising spending curbs by eliminating a corporate outreach program, Congress added two new restrictions. It limited production and non-advertising costs to 10% and it required the corporate outreach program be reinstated.

Drug office officials did not return several calls for comment.

Steve Dnistrian, a spokesman for the Partnership, said the group was pleased the program was continuing.

'We are pleased'
"Overall we are pleased that amidst all the priorities Congress had, it still came up with $120 million," he said. "Going forward we will be working to turn around [the spending decline]."

The spending bill now goes to the White House.

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