Organizing to oust Ogilvy

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A U.S. congressman is linig up fellow lawmakers to push the Bush administration to fire Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide from a high-profile government antidrug campaign, amid a criminal investigation of overbilling by the ad agency, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Rep. Bob Barr (R., Ga.) has in recent days approached at least two Washington colleagues, asking them to join in efforts to axe Ogilvy & Mather three years into its five-year contract with the government. The agency draws an annual fee of $1.6 million. He intends to ask President Bush to have the Office of National Drug Control Policy find another agency to handle its antidrug advertising. Brian Walsh, a spokesman for Rep. Barr, told the Journal the congressman is "concerned" about recent findings of potential fraud in the billings from Ogilvy to the White House.

Rep. Barr reportedly aims to enlist Rep. Mark Souder (R., Ind.), chairman of the government-reform subcommittee for criminal justice, drug policy and human resources, and Rep. Dan Burton (R., Ind.), chairman of the government-reform committee, to join him in the effort.

The question of overbilling, which arose last year, became a more urgent issue last week. That is when the General Accounting Office disclosed in a hearing on the antidrug campaign that it had referred the case to the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York in June for potential criminal and civil violations related to the overbillings.