Rep. Barr Moves to Block Ogilvy’s ONDCP Win

WASHINGTON-A House lawmaker wants to bar Ogilvy & Mather from the White House anti-drug media campaign, while there is talk among the losing contenders about filing a Freedom of Information Act request to get more information on the selection process.

Rep. Bob Barr, R-Ga., plans to introduce an amendment to the House appropriations bill that would prevent taxpayer money being spent “to pay any entity that has entered into a settlement to pay claims against that entity by the United States,” according to the language under consideration.

Ogilvy had been the subject of a federal probe into its billing practices and paid $1.8 million to settle civil charges. A criminal investigation continues.

A hearing has been scheduled for this week to determine if such an amendment, if passed, would shut down the campaign, as the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy contends, one Congressional source said.

ONDCP did not return calls. Ogilvy declined comment.

Meanwhile, the losing contenders who attended debriefing meetings with ONDCP last week said they were frustrated with the lack of detail about the selection process. While some had considered filing a protest, they were now weighing a FOIA request for evaluation documents to determine if Ogilvy had an unfair advantage.

“This was an expensive process, and if the decision was made at the beginning, and it wasn’t really a level playing field, that’s going to cause a lot of anger,” one source said.

Among the documents a House subcommittee requested about the selection process included ONDCP’s evaluation of Ogilvy. Ogilvy received the highest marks on its technical proposal, which is the shop’s overall ability to handle the program. ONDCP rated the technical proposal as the most important criteria, sources said. Previous experience and cost were considered less important.