Government Ad Contract Inquiries Spread As Lawmakers Up Ante on Ogilvy, Burnett's G.I. Joe on the Spot


While Congress moves closer to barring Ogilvy & Mather from the White House's anti-drug media campaign, a House lawmaker is investigating possible billing irregularities on other federal contracts, including Leo Burnett's with the U.S. Army.

Rep. Carolyn Kilpat rick, D-Mich., said similar concerns over Ogilvy's contract with ONDCP have been raised with the Army's $95 million ac count. Kilpatrick said she's looking into "several" government contracts, but declined to name them.

"We hope Leo is doing what it should be doing and will not wind up in the same situation as Ogilvy," she said. "As we delve into this, I think we may find it in other places."

Burnett strongly denied any wrongdoing. "We are completely outraged that such a false accusation would be shared with the Congresswoman," the Chicago agency said in a statement. "There is abso lutely no impropriety going on with the Army contract, and it is reckless for anyone to share such inaccurate information with the Congresswoman."

Meanwhile, the chairman of a House subcommittee on criminal justice suggested ONDCP consider alternatives to Ogilvy. Among the options lawmakers are considering is replacing Ogilvy with one of the four agencies that bid in the recent selection process. Rep. Mark Souder, R-Ind., made his remarks at a Friday hearing to consider what affect an amendment barring Ogilvy would have on the media campaign. "Something is going to happen with this," Souder told an ONDCP rep at the hearing. "I encourage you to come up with an alternative plan."

ONDCP argued that terminating Ogilvy's contract would cause the campaign to stop advertising by fall.

In a letter to the U.S. Navy, which oversees the campaign, Ogilvy raised concerns about not being reimbursed for August media buys for "millions of dollars" in ads that will run next year.

Ogilvy also threatened to seek redress if Congress kicks it off the campaign. "Although we still have confidence in the ultimate fairness of the congressional process, there are other avenues that provide a fair hearing of a dedicated contractor's rights," the letter said.