Senators seek to retool drug agency's advertising efforts

In the latest round of an ongoing spat, Sens. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and Joseph Biden, D-Del., have introduced legislation that would strip advertising agency Ogilvy & Mather of the responsibility for placing youth-oriented anti-drug advertisements, and would shift the task to the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, a nonprofit coalition of professionals from the communications industry.

The bill would also end the public-relations and Web-related activities of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, and would direct the office to spend 89 percent of its federal appropriation on placing ads.

Shortly before the Hatch-Grassley-Biden bill was introduced, a House-Senate conference committee voted to require that 78 percent of the anti-drug program's $145 million budget be spent on advertising, according to AdAge.com.

Earlier tensions over Ogilvy's contract with the White House office led to an investigation by the General Accounting Office into charges of overbilling by the ad agency. As a result of the investigation, Ogilvy agreed to forgo $1.8 million in federal payments.

However, Ogilvy managed to win a contract renewal, thus irritating the sponsors of the Senate bill and other lawmakers.

Also, the media director for the White House drug-control office, Alan Levitt, quit this fall after feuding with both drug czar John Walters and the Partnership for a Drug-Free America.

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