Friday, April 30, 2004

Grant to drug task force sought by Campbell draws call for probe

By Mike Soraghan, Denver Post Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON - A former White House drug official is calling for a Justice Department investigation of a grant to a Denver-based anti-drug task force sought by Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell.

"It pains me to see the office I joined in creating abused for petty personal and possibly illegal reasons," Robert Weiner, director of public affairs from 1995 to 2001 for the White House "drug czar," formally called the Office of National Drug Control Policy, wrote to Attorney General John Ashcroft. "The Department of Justice must investigate to the top."

Weiner charged that a top career official responsible for developing new technologies in the drug czar's office was forced out for objecting to the no-bid contract. Al Brandenstein, the original director of the Counterdrug Technology Assessment Center, resigned last month rather than accept a demotion.

A Justice Department spokesman said the letter was received but declined to comment on it. Drug czar spokeswoman Jennifer de Vallance said Weiner's demand for a probe would likely be ignored. "Federal agencies routinely receive all sorts of correspondence and have in place processes to sort legitimate queries from frivolous ones," de Vallance said.

Brandenstein had complained about a $1.15 million grant to a Denver drug task force that Campbell, R-Colo., and his aides apparently sought to direct to an Oregon company called Thinkstream Inc.