Barr off-base, or just confused, about Ogilvy and government

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It gets curious-er and curious-er.

I'm talking about the bizarre statement by Rep. Bob Barr, R., Ga., at a House of Representatives hearing the other week in which he implied the Democratic National Committee had an operative, a guy named Alan Levitt, within the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. (I stated erroneously in my Aug. 12 column that the person worked for the Partnership for a Drug-Free America.)

Mr. Levitt, campaign director for the anti-drug ads, is a government bureaucrat who spent his career developing media campaigns on the environment, endangered species, science and related subjects. He's worked for a half dozen Cabinet secretaries. I've been told he has never had anything to do with the DNC; he's said to be "a political eunuch."

At the hearing, Rep. Barr hinted there was some sort of "sweetheart deal" in the works between the government and WPP Group's Ogilvy & Mather, the agency recently reappointed to handle the youth anti-drug media campaign that uses Partnership creative. The campaign is funded through the White House drug control office.

"It seems to me that the government has gone out of the way to deal with" Ogilvy, Rep. Barr stated. "I don't know whether it's because of its past dealings with the DNC, and the huge amounts of money that it got in its relationship with the DNC, or something else, some other sweetheart deal that we've heard about. But these are certainly things that will be looked into."

I have no idea what he is talking about. Ogilvy never handled any DNC business, or any prominent Democratic candidate, for that matter. Given that Alan Levitt has worked in government for more than 30 years, it isn't likely he'd have any DNC connection.

But what if he did? Why would a Republican administration do anything to reward the DNC, such as channel money to an ad program started under President Clinton?

A more likely scenario is that Rep. Barr mixed up Ogilvy with Young & Rubicam. He told Ira Teinowitz, Ad Age's man in Washington: "You may recall, with regard to the Clinton scandal a couple of years ago, Ogilvy & Mather was very much involved." He was referring to the Monica Lewinsky incident. A minor part of that saga was the job hunt conducted for her by Clinton pal Vernon Jordan. One call was made to Peter Georgescu, then Y&R chairman. As recounted by The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Georgescu passed Ms. Lewinsky's resume to Thomas Bell, president of Y&R PR unit Burson-Marsteller. Mr. Georgescu wrote on the cover sheet: "Dear Tom, our good pal called personally to ask us to look with care at this young lady. I know it would mean lots if we can help. Could you arrange for her to meet the right people? ..."

Rep. Barr seems determined to shoot himself in the foot. I read in The New York Times that a gun the congressman was handling the other week went off and shattered a glass door. As the Times reported: "Nothing else was damaged-except perhaps Mr. Barr's standing as a gun-safety expert."

Rep. John Linder, Mr. Barr's rival for the GOP nomination in Georgia's seventh congressional district, joked Rep. Barr "was a loose cannon." Voters seemed to agree. In Georgia's primary last week, Rep. Barr lost to Rep. Linder by nearly a 2-to-1 margin.

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