Anti-Drug Campaign Report Card Due

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So just how many more kids are "just saying no" to drugs thanks to the administration policy of  buying anti-drug public-service-announcement time on TV and planting anti-drug plotlines in TV shows?

The Government Accounting Office is expecting in the next couple of weeks to get its first look at a study detailing what the government has gotten for its $1 billion campaign targeted at young people.

That is, besides a congressional investigation into how all that money was spent and to what end.

The Office of National Drug Control Policy was required by Congress in 1998 to conduct the campaign, and has spent more than a billion bucks on it.

Media accepting the public service announcements had to match the dollars spent by the government on ad time with an equivalent value in public-service announcements, programming--anti-drug plot lines in programming--or other activities.

In 2003, the Senate Appropriations Committee asked GAO to study how the money was being spent, concerned that too much was going to "consulting" and not enough to the actual purchase of the media time.

That followed ad agency Ogilvy & Mather's out-of-court settlement of a suit charging accounting irregularities and overcharges associated with the ONDCP contract, of which it had the lion's share. O&M retained the contract anyway.

The GAO report on the spending break-down, released last week was that for 2002-2004, $520 million was spent, with 72% ($373 million) going for ad time and 28% ($147 million) going to services, which included campaign creative and outreach.

Separately, ONDCP was asked to produce its own study--the cost of the study, says a GAO source was $18 million--to determine how effective all those dollars had been in dissuading young people from abusing drugs.

ONDCP contracted out the study and is currently reviewing the results, with a promise to send a copy to GAO. GAO will then mull the report and opine on it sometime this summer, but the findings are "guaranteed to be interesting" said GAO director of homeland security and justice issues Laurie Eckstrand.

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