Gov’t. Ad Contract Inquiries Spread

WASHINGTON — 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 one with the U.S. Army.

Rep. Carolyn Kilpatrick, D-Mich., said similar concerns over Ogilvy’s contract with ONDCP have been raised about the Army’s $95 million account.

Kilpatrick said she’s looking into “several” other 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,” Kilpatrick said. “As we delve more 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-based agency said in a statement. “There is absolutely 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 who bid in the recent selection process. Rep. Mark Souder, R-Ind., made his remarks at a hearing Friday to consider what affect an amendment barring Ogilvy (which was attached to the appropriations bill and passed by the House last week) would have on the media campaign. “Something is going to happen with this,” Souder told an ONDCP rep who testified at the hearing. “I encourage you to come up with an alternative plan.”

“I think the government is in a very strong position to go to another [agency],” said Rep. Bob Barr, R-Ga., who sponsored the amendment. ONDCP argued that terminating Ogilvy’s contract would cause the campaign to stop advertising by November.

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

Ogilvy also threatened to seek redress if Congress kicked 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.