A Government Accountability Office report said last week that a federal anti-drug campaign spent 72 percent of its funding on the purchase of advertising time and space. The report was a response to an assertion from some on Capitol Hill that most of the money went to pay for consultants.
The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy distributed $520 million to four contractors during the 2002 to 2004 federal fiscal years. Those contractors, in turn, committed $373 million to media time and space purchases for anti-drug messages aimed at children. The remaining $147 million paid for services provided directly by the four contractors and their subcontractors.
The GAO, the investigative arm of Congress, says in its March 31 report that it was asked to study the campaign in the wake of a report from the Senate Appropriations Committee that said drug use was increasing in spite of more than $1 billion spent on the media campaign since fiscal 1998. The campaign is known for its “Parents: The Anti-Drug” commercials and print advertisements. A GAO analysis of the campaign’s effectiveness is under way.
The GAO report also notes that the anti-drug campaign created several prepackaged television news stories that did not disclose that they were prepared at the government’s behest. The lack of disclosure violates “propaganda prohibitions,” the report says. The Office of National Drug Control Policy responds in the GAO report that it has not produced any “video news releases” since May 2004 and has no plans to create others.