Legislation Favors Partnership for a Drug-Free America

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WASHINGTON ( -- A bill was introduced in the Senate on Friday that would bounce advertising agency Ogilvy & Mather from the White House's youth anti-drug ad program and give greater control of the campaign to the Partnership for a Drug-Free America.

The bill, sponsored by Senate Judiciary

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Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, with Sens. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and Joseph Biden, D-Del., would also end public relations and Web-based activities, mandating 89% of money appropriated be used "for the purchase of advertising time and space."

Enacting reforms
The legislation "enacts reforms ... to ensure responsible use of federal funds used to support the campaign," said Sen. Hatch.

No action on the legislation is expected before next year and House legislation wouldn't be as severe. Ogilvy referred comment to the drug office, which said it was hopeful the eventual outcome would be closer to the House version.

Members of Congress have been concerned that too much of the money authorized for the ad program has been spent tracking results and supporting activities rather than advertising. A House-Senate conference committee, which earlier this week recommended $145 million be approved for the ad program for the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30, had required that 78% of the money go toward media buying.

Ogilvy, which handles research and oversees media buying for the drug office, has been under attack since its initial billing on the account prompted a General Accounting Office probe that led the agency to settle government charges of overbilling by forgoing $1.8 million in pay.

Contract sparks furor
The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy rebid the contract shortly before Ogilvy's agreement to pay the money, but then awarded the account back to Ogilvy after the settlement was announced. The decision infuriated some congressmen, and for months it has been expected that a Senate version of the program's reauthorization would include some limit on the ad agency's involvement.

The legislation requires "disqualification of any corporation ... from bidding ... if such entity within the last 10 years in connection with the national media campaign has been convicted of any federal criminal offense subject to any federal civil judgement or penalty in a civil proceeding involving the United States or settled any federal civil proceeding or potential proceeding."

More authority
The Partnership, which has sometimes fought with the White House on the direction of the campaign, gets far more authority under the proposal, while the White House would be barred from spending more than $5 million a year to develop creative content anywhere else.

The legislation also requires a General Accounting Office probe of the campaign's spending.

A spokesman for the drug office said the legislation "imposes a number of constraints that would be very detrimental to the success we have had recently." He said drug czar John P. Walters and the Partnership have worked together over the past year to improve the campaign.

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