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Conservatives Upset at Money Wasted on Drug War
10 May 2003 - from www.taxpayer,net


From, a conservative watchdog which advocates the following principles on government waste.  It's good to know that some conservatives are pissed about the ONDCP media campaign (see the press release below).

What Is Government Waste?
Following are 10 common sense principles on government waste:

  1. If it doesn't work, don't fund it.
  2. Eliminate redundant expenditures.
  3. Stop helping those who don't need help.
  4. Get a fair price for taxpayer assets or government services.
  5. Don't encourage irresponsibility.
  6. Don't burden future generations with unfair or hidden debts.
  7. Level the playing field and use the power of the market.
  8. Eliminate unnecessary federal involvement.
  9. Everyone should pay their fair share.
  10. Fund projects based on their merits and only after open review

Vol. VIII No. 20 May 15, 2003

The White House's Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) has spent more than $1 billion on an anti-drug ad campaign whose only measurable effect has been that the ads may cause some teens to smoke more dope. Despite no evidence that the ads are effective, Congress is about to authorize nearly $1 billion more for ONDCP to burn through in the next five years.

The National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign was established in 1998 to "educate and enable America's youth to reject illegal drugs." The campaign currently spends close to $8 per teenager per year to reach 90% of all teens at least four times a week via Internet, print, and broadcast advertising. Most of the ads are produced by the Partnership for a Drug Free America, which gets ad agencies to conceptualize the ads for free and then uses federal funds to pay for final production costs and airtime. Media companies that run the ads are supposed to match the federal funds they receive with an equal amount of donated advertising time or space.

One of the most notable campaign ads aired during the 2002 Super Bowl, when the ONDCP dropped more than $3 million for 60 seconds of ad time -- the single most expensive government ad purchase in history. In a total deviation from the campaign's strategy, this expensive ad wasn't even fully tested to make sure that it would have the right effect on the teenagers who watched it. Remember, these were the ads implying that teen drug use was funding terrorist activities. Critics claimed the ads were not only misleading, but many dismiss the ads as propaganda.

The results of $35 million worth of the ONDCP's own ad evaluations confirmed what many already knew: the ads were totally ineffective. In November 2002, a government study confirmed that the campaign failed to reduce marijuana use, and even may make some kids more likely to use drugs in the future. Repeated viewing of the ads even caused some teens to think more favorably of drugs.

Despite this report's findings, ONDCP spent another $4 million to place ads during the 2003 Super Bowl, one of which was created by Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, an ad agency that has a long history with the anti-drug campaign. Last year, Ogilvy agreed to pay the government $1.8 million to settle a suit brought by the Justice Department regarding over billing for hours worked in 1999.

In an Office of Management and Budget (OMB) evaluation of federal programs, the anti-drug ad campaign was cited for a lack of adequate performance measures and related goals. Therefore, OMB recommended that funding not be increased for the program and that future funding is contingent upon improved results.

America's own Drug Czar, John Walters, has even admitted that the campaign is a total flop, and testified to the Senate last June that he is willing to "live by" the results of the fall 2002 and spring 2003 evaluation. When the ONDCP's reauthorization comes up in the House Government Reform Committee later this month, it would be wise for them to listen to the OMB's advice and tell Walters to put his money where his mouth is by eliminating the Anti-Drug Media campaign.

For more information, contact Keith Ashdown at (202)-546-8500 ext. 110 or

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A special thanks to Keith for all his support and insight.
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