Alleged Lobbying Activities: Office for Substance Abuse Prevention

HRD-93-100: May 4, 1993

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Pursuant to congressional requests, GAO investigated the Office of Substance Abuse Prevention's (OSAP) alleged lobbying activities, focusing on: (1) whether OSAP or its grantees used appropriated funds to lobby Congress; and (2) alleged OSAP involvement in attempts to terminate the GAO investigation.

GAO found that: (1) OSAP did not violate the anti-lobbying law in its publications or in any of its own activities; (2) the grantee sponsoring an OSAP-funded conference and speakers at a Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)-funded conference engaged in prohibited grass-roots lobbying, but OSAP and HHS had no prior knowledge of or complicity in the planned lobbying; (3) although OSAP, as a clearinghouse, must publish prevention information with as few restrictions as possible, it must be sensitive about items regarding controversial activities; (4) restrictions on grass-roots lobbying do not apply to activities in connection with state legislation; (5) there is no evidence that OSAP attempted to have the GAO investigation terminated; and (6) one OSAP grantee urged its members to request that members of Congress withdraw from the investigation request, but the grantee did not use appropriated funds for that purpose.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: CSAP has increased review of articles and will not publish articles that mention grass roots lobbying.

    Recommendation: OSAP should avoid the explicit mention in its publications of grass roots lobbying.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services: Alcohol, Drug Abuse, and Mental Health Administration: Office for Substance Abuse Prevention

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: HHS Office of the General Counsel has briefed senior CSAP officials to increase sensitivity to situations in order to avoid being associated with grass roots lobbying. Also, CSAP officials are aware of avoiding the perception of grass roots lobbying.

    Recommendation: OSAP should take steps to avoid being associated with grass roots lobbying by grantees.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services: Alcohol, Drug Abuse, and Mental Health Administration: Office for Substance Abuse Prevention

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: All future conference grant agreements will include language addressing grass roots lobbying.

    Recommendation: OSAP should ensure that grantees agree not to use grant funds for grass roots lobbying.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services: Alcohol, Drug Abuse, and Mental Health Administration: Office for Substance Abuse Prevention

  4. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: GAO and the agency are currently engaged in discussing whether it is practicable and cost-effective to carry out this recommendation. The agency wrote to GAO informing it that it was not practicable to attempt to quantify or collect what appeared to be a negligible portion of the grant. GAO agreed; therefore, no collection action was taken.

    Recommendation: OSAP should recover improperly used grant funds from the grantee that organized the Alcohol Policy VIII conference.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services: Alcohol, Drug Abuse, and Mental Health Administration: Office for Substance Abuse Prevention

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Contracts and grants pertaining to conferences will include language advising participants that government-sponsored conferences are not appropriate forums for grass-roots lobbying. SAMHSA is now including specific language for all conference grants warning that none of the funds may be used to support lobbying activities of any kind.

    Recommendation: HHS should advise participants in government-sponsored conferences that such a conference is not an appropriate forum for grass-roots lobbying.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

 

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