Monday, January 09, 2006

True conservatives vs. the Drug Czar

The American Prospect has a great report on the Drug Czar's declining ad campaign budget.
With the Iraq war and Katrina cleanup straining the federal budget, the Republican Study Committee--a klatch of over 100 Republican members of the House of Representatives--called in September for the ads warning young people about the dangers of weed, speed, and other substances to be scrapped to save money. The campaign has a budget of $100 million for this year, and has cost taxpayers well over $1 billion since its inception in 1998. But as the Republican group, headed by Indiana Rep. Mike Pence, pointed out in a statement, "there is no solid evidence that media campaigns are effective in either preventing or reducing the use of illegal drugs."
Indeed, a federally-funded study on the ads found that "there is little evidence of direct favorable Campaign effects on youth, either for the Marijuana Initiative period or for the Campaign as whole. The trend data in marijuana use is not favorable, and for the primary target audience, 14- to 16-year-olds, past year use increased from 2000 through 2003..."
Its questionable results aren’t the only controversy the campaign has kicked up. Two executives of a media company formerly hired to create the ads were jailed this last summer for over billing the ONDCP. Earlier this last year, a General Accounting Office report declared that prepackaged “news stories” created by the drug czar’s office and distributed to local TV stations, where many aired without acknowledgment of their origin, constituted illegal “covert propaganda.” That finding echoed a scandal from 2000, when Salon magazine revealed that the ONDCP was allowing networks to fill public-service announcement requirements by inserting anti-drug storylines into popular shows like ER.
Oh, those drug warriors and their scandals. They just don't stop, do they?

The article wraps up with a great quote from the Marijuana Policy Project's Aaron Houston.
Houston says he’s not surprised to now find himself shoulder-to-shoulder with a bevy of Republicans. “It’s a waste of taxpayer money. Every independent analysis has shown it to be an utter failure,” he says. “Cutting this program is entirely consistent with conservative ideals.”
But the Media Campaign is just one example of Drug War excess that runs counter to true conservative principles. As we run up more and more national debt, look for more and more Drug War opposition from the right side of the aisle. And we're going to need it, considering the lackluster support many Democrats have thus far displayed for drug policy reform.

[Thanks to Adshock for the heads up on this one.]


kaptinemo said...

Just one thing: credit should be given to groundbreaking Internet journalist Dan Forbes for having the stones to do the Salon 2000 articles on the gross waste of money and the underhandedness of ONDCP's little (as I called it back then, the) "Barry-ola" scandal.

As far as I am concerned, Forbes was bang-on target then and stands vindicated now. (And no, I'm not him, nor do I know him, save professionally.) He received nothing but calumnies from the White House and the ONDCP.

Forbes was also the only journo to broach the gross violations of the Hatch Act that the ONDCP have been engaging in since the 1990's when it jets hither and yon and intrudes into local elections, using taxpayer-funded monies in propagandizing against the electorate against cannabis law reform referenda and legislation. Were all three branches of the government not controlled by the same party, his efforts in this matter would have provoked far greater outcry and debate than it it should.

Micah Daigle said...

Tom, great point about needing Republican politicians (since Democrats are often too weak-kneed to do anything).

Anyone who was here at the RI statehouse for the nail-biting finale of the medical marijuana vote will remember that it was just a few key Republicans who held out against political pressure, ultimately swaying the vote to our side, as flip-flopping Democrats put their fingers to the wind and jumped over to the winning side at the last minute.

At the last SSDP conference, there were many attendees who were worried about the viability of drug policy reform in their conservative state. DON'T write Republicans off! You may find your best and strongest allies in the party of paternalism (believe it or not, some of these guys think that the budget is more important than punishing you for naughty behavior!).

800 pound gorilla said...

Everyone knows what the sole function of the Hatch Act is: a good excuse for unelected leaders who run taxpayer funded governmental agencies and departments to decline a challenge to debate policy issues. It does nothing to stop them from being quoted about the "meth epidemic" or "crack babies" or blaming crime on certain drugs [as if the policy had nothing to do with high crime rates].
And yes, it's perfectly legal for a tax exempt organization [Oregon Partnership] to run a political website [] that promotes three pending pieces of legislation involving taxpayer spending while using taxpayer funded Oregon State Police toll free numbers and OSP employees to organize political rallies throughout the state to influence legislators. I'm shocked that only 2 of three passed. I was equally POed when not one media outlet publicized this flagrant abuse of taxpayer monies to the public. We have free speech but in order to be heard you have to have lots of money.

Jonthon said...

I'm used to playing the cynic, but this time I'll try to counter other cynics. While I agree readily that conservatives "get" drug law reform more quickly than some might otherwise believe, and that Democrats may hedge on the question, it's not exactly fair to say that they flip-flop and are infirm on this issue because they are not in support of the cause. Indeed, as many of them are defending seats in 2006 and 2008, and are by far the minority party, it is a hard time for them to take ideological stands if they wish to retain their seats. The Republicans, however, have the benefit of incumbency usually following huge margins. Also, they can afford to be in support of a bill in silence, for as long as they don't mediate it they can rest assured that the Democrats won't be using it against them in the next election. However, I feel confident that if a Democrat in a close race had advocated drug law reform, his challenger would be sure to bring it up in their home district.

So let's give credit where it is due (in this case, to forward thinking and deliberative Republicans), but not take away credit from elected officials who, generally, hold political ideologies more favorable to the full scope of our cause.

Tom Angell said...


I think you're dead wrong here, and I'll tell you why.

The public supports reform. We know that upwards of around 80 percent of the public wants the government to stop arresting medical marijuana patients, and that support for other reforms is growing more and more every day.

How can you, in your right mind, justify Dems (or anyone else) playing politics with these issues when it doesn't even benefit them to do so?

I don't understand why you'd attempt justify their heads being up their asses any longer.

Jonthon said...

Dear Tom:
You seem to have gotten a lot more combative in the weeks I've been away, and I hope that changes. Nevertheless, I respect your opinion and do not hold mine any higher than your own.
I still do think there's some validity to what I'm saying. First, citing public support for medical marijuana reform is, I'd parry, misleading and you know it. I doubt 80% of the elctorate is in favor of reforming all marijuana laws.
Secondly, you are DEFINITELY right in some cases, but I am fairly confident that you are also wrong in others. Because those in favor of reform are not dispersed uniformly across districts, it's conceivable that some left-leaning representatives might hesitate to take on such a divisive issue, especially if their margin of victory was less than a point. If you'd rather have a Republican who is in favor of drug law reform and the gutting of all social programs, all under the banner of small government/low taxes, then you and I stand at odds.
That said, I don't think any Dem should balk at an opportunity to vote in favor of drug law reform, given the overwhelming amount of evidence for reform. I'm simply aware that, contrary to your remark about "playing politics," drug law reform is inherently political. You seem to gloss over the complexities of governance and the election process, based only on your optimistic and altruistic belief that the facts will always sway the public, and reign supreme in the halls of congress. Forgive me for taking a more realistic approach to Democracy.
I have learned a lot from you, and think others will as well, Tom. But I respectfully submit that you could be a bit less caustic when disagreeing with others, and a little more pragmatic about your progressive politics.