FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Friday, April 30, 2004
Contact: Robert Weiner, former White House Drug Office Spokesman or Jeffrey Buchanan
301-283-0821/202-329-1700

WHITE HOUSE AGREES TO “LOOK INTO” DRUG CZAR’S
FORCING OUT COURAGEOUS SENIOR EMPLOYEE WHO REFUSED TO IMPLEMENT IMPROPER MILLION DOLLAR NO-BID CONTRACT;

FORMER WH DRUG SPOKESMAN BOB WEINER
CALLS FOR INVESTIGATION TO HIGHEST LEVEL INCLUDING DRUG CZAR, BY PROFESSIONAL JUSTICE ARM,
NOT POLITICAL APPOINTEES

    (Washington, DC)—White House Spokesman Scott McClellan today agreed to “look into” the Drug Czar’s (John Walters) forcing out a courageous senior employee who refused to implement an improper no-bid single-source $1.15 million contract to Republican contributors.  Dr. Al Brandenstein, Director of the Counterdrug Technology Assessment Center of ONDCP, was also told he would have $400,000 of other money withheld from approved projects until he complied. In today’s White House press briefing, Hearst’s Helen Thomas asked about Dr. Al Brandenstein. Former ONDCP Director of Public Affairs Robert Weiner had called for a Department of Justice Investigation of the matter “to the top,” including the Drug Czar.

    The issue involves a no-bid contract arranged at a powerful U.S. Senator’s request (Ben Nighthorse Campbell, R-CO).  Brandenstein "deserves a heroic medal, not being pushed out of government," asserts Weiner.

    "Because of the political nature of the allegations, the Justice investigation must be by professional, not political appointees," Weiner added.

    Weiner yesterday sent a letter to Ashcroft requesting the investigation, and DOJ has confirmed receipt.  In addition, the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking office, a field branch of ONDCP, has turned over files on the matter to the Department of Justice executive office.

    In a May 15 memo, the ONDCP chief of staff wrote to Brandenstein, "As soon as you can identify such funds, I will be delighted" to release $400,000 already committed to approved projects under Brandenstein.

    Brandenstein refused, was demoted, and retired on March 28.  At Brandenstein’s retirement party April 28, the Director of the U.S. Marshal Service, Ben Reyna, praised Brandenstein as a “man of character, with a profound sense of justice, who understands the Constitution.”  Campbell recently announced that he will not run for reelection.   

    “It pains me to see the office I joined in creating abused for petty personal and possibly illegal reasons,” said Weiner, who had been communications director of the former House Select Narcotics Committee and was on the House floor in 1988 when the bill creating the Drug Czar was passed.