WASHINGTON — Procter & Gamble has exploited First Lady Nancy Reagan's "Just Say No" campaign by using it to sell soap and other products and by claiming exclusive marketing rights to one of the program's anti-drug efforts, a New York congressman and two former program officials charged Friday.
After the corporation contributed $150,000 to the "Just Say No" foundation, it claimed an exclusive right among packaged goods firms to send ads and coupons for its products to children along with anti-drug pledge cards bearing Mrs. Reagan's name, Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.) said at a press conference.
Appearing with Rangel, chairman of the House Select Committee on Narcotics Control and Abuse, were Tom Adams and Joan Brann, former chairman and vice chairman of the foundation, based in Walnut Creek, Calif., who said they quit their jobs last week to protest the arrangement.
Point to Documents
They provided documents indicating that Mrs. Reagan's chief of staff, Jack Courtemanche, apparently approved Procter & Gamble's involvement in the program.
"Procter & Gamble apparently has abused its relationship with the White House staff in the interest of profit," Rangel said.
A spokesman for Procter & Gamble discounted the allegations as "unjustified, self-serving and totally without merit."
Gerald S. Gendell, the company's manager of public affairs, said it was involved with the "Just Say No" campaign because it believed its work was worthwhile, adding: "The company's efforts and substantial financial contributions have been directed at trying to save this program, not take it over . . . "
Rangel gave reporters copies of a March, 1987, letter to Adams from P&G's promotion manager, Paula H. Goldman, a correspondence that appeared to support the charge that the firm was interested in making money as well as campaigning against drug use by youths.
"While we are excited about the opportunity to teach kids to stay drug-free, we remind you that our primary objective is building the business," Goldman wrote in demanding that P&G be the only firm in the packaged goods industry allowed to take part in the "Just Say No" back-to-school pledge campaign last fall.
Playing Up Product
"The foundation must continue to eliminate 'competitive' 'Just Say No' activity like Hill's Mr. Big Paper Towels and do everything to minimize the presence of the already planned 'Ziplock' sandwich bag promotion. . . . " she added.
"Let's make sure we do everything we can to move millions of Americans to sign pledge cards and buy P&G products," her letter concluded. The company spokesman said these remarks were "unfortunate" and defended the exclusivity as "standard procedure" for such promotions.
"Procter & Gamble's participation had the full support of Mrs. Reagan and the White House staff," Gendell added. "Any use of her name was cleared in advance."
The White House did not dispute that the marketing arrangement was cleared with Courtemanche, as Adams and Brann contended.
Mrs. Reagan's press secretary, Elaine Crispen, said the First Lady had no comment on the controversy. However, she said, Mrs. Reagan would feel frustrated if it adversely affected the "Just Say No" program.
Fears Impact on Children
"It would be too bad if millions of little kids who pledged to say no to drugs now question their decision because the big boys don't know how to act," Crispen told a reporter. Adams, who earned $60,000 a year as president of the foundation, said Procter & Gamble was trying to take over the foundation and should apologize to the public for its actions.
In response, Gendell said Adams was a poor manager who was asked to resign and termed his criticisms a "vengeful, unjustified attack."