Chronicling the highs, lows, quips, quotes, comings and goings of Washington, D.C. spokesguys and spokesgals

Friday, September 29, 2006

Poorly Chosen Foley Press Release Picture

I hate to pile on poor Mark Foley spokesguy Jason Kello -- who is surely having a bad day -- but an anonymous tipster points out that Foley's e-mailed press release announcing his resignation included this unfortunate photo (left) in its header graphic.

UPDATE: The same graphic is at the top of Foley's website.

Some Things Are Just Unspinnable

Foley To Resign Over Sexually Explicit Messages to Minors

Noble effort anyway, Jason.

Flack Job of the Week: Stick Up for Sand

Have a thing for pepples, dirt, and rocks? This week's Flack Job of the Week (courtesy of the Republican Communicators Assn) just might be for you:
11. Communications Director - National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association - Pro-business association seeks Communications Director to assist Vice President for Communications in preparation and dissemination of communications and public affairs materials to national audiences both inside and outside the aggregates industry. Duties include: managing editor, Stone, Sand & Gravel Review (staff liaison with contract publisher), assistant editor, NSSGA e-Digest, writes and edits news releases, articles for publication, testimony and speeches, assists in developing and maintaining media relations; design and implementation of strategic communications planning, administers awards programs, and staff liaison with printers/graphic designers. Bachelor’s degree in journalism, communications or a related field. Minimum 2-3 years’ experience in public affairs, journalism or communications. Send letters of interest and resumes to: Please provide salary history and expectations. For more information see

HUD Spokesgal A Wee Bit Zealous in Spinning?

Remember the controversy a while back about HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson telling a Dallas audience he canceled a company's government contract because their criticized President Bush?

Well, the HUD Inspector General apparently has done a report on the the fallout from the whole affair, and the folks over at Think Progress say that HUD spokesgal Dustee Tucker (left) admits in the report to "making stuff up":
On May 2 or May 3, the Dallas Business Journal (DBJ) called Tucker and inquired whether the contractor incident in Jackson’s story actually happened. Tucker replied, “I can’t speak to a hypothetical, you know. You’re speaking about a verbal agreement.” But according to p. 17 of the HUD report, when asked if she had “made up” the “concept of a verbal agreement,” Tucker acknowledged she had: “Yes. I probably did when I responded to her.”
For those who haven't heard of Dustee before, Wonkette is apparently obsessed with her.

Friday People: Keith Richards Pal to AARP

  • Brian Marriott, "who counts [Rolling Stones] guitarist Keith Richards (right) among his friends," has joined AARP as publicity director. Marriott was previously special assistant to FCC Chairmen Kevin Martin and Michael Powell; Missouri political director for Bush-Cheney 2004. (CongressDaily).
  • Brooke McNally joins Hoopes Strategies as a communications and political strategist. She previously flacked for Rep. John Tierney and PR firm Venture Communications. (National Journal)

Spin of the Week: We Get Pics of All Our Interns...

A Potomac Flacks reader suggested we start a "Spin of the Week" feature highlighting the ballsiest spin effort over the past week by a Washington spokesperson. So, without further adieu this week's inaugural Spin of the Week:
Kello also said that it is not unusual for someone from Foley's office to seek photographs to keep on file in case people seek recommendations.
- Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL, left) spokesguy Jason Kello to Wash Post's Jeff Birnbaum, explaining why Foley e-mailed a 16-year old former House page asking him to "send me a pic of you as well."

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Edelman vs. Consumerist: It's On

Ben Popken, author of Gawker Media's Consumerist blog, is very unhappy with Edelman D.C. blogger and RedState vet Michael Krempasky (right), who reps Wal-Mart. I'm a latecomer to the tiff and don't have a dog in this fight, but here's the chronology as best as I understand:
  1. Consumerist posts several unflattering posts about Wal-Mart.

  2. Krempasky invites Consumerist to drinks as part of Edelman's blogger outreach on Wal-Mart's behalf. Consumerist says Krempasky asks that discussion be off the record, then asks, "What can we do to get you to stop writing about our companies?"

  3. Consumerist breaks confidential agreement (by his own admission), discusses his private conversation with Krempasky on Consumerist's No Respect! podcast.

  4. Krempasky and Consumerist exchange nasty e-mails over the podcast. Consumerist posts that email thread and shares more details about his drinks with Krempasky.

  5. Consumerist posts followup posting today. He doesn't think too highly of flacks: "A PR rep is not the same as a human being. Consumers are the victims, often of PR folk's disinformation campaigns."

  6. Channeling Rodney King, Krempasky posts a thinly veiled "can't we all just get along?" reply on his personal blog: "Put a little energy into exercising some respect, courtesy, and perhaps a bit of professionalism."
Call them the Gerstein and Sirota of the Big Box Wars.

Energy Dept Lights Up Pro-Flourescent Campaign

The U.S. Department of Energy, along with the EPA, is next week launching a month-long campaign to encourage U.S. households to switch at least one incandescent light bulb with a compact flourescent light bulb (CFL), PR Week reports.

This is actually the 7th annuval version of the "Change a Light, Change the World" campaign, and Energy Secretary Bodman will kick things off in a visit next Wednesday to "BioTown USA," (really Reynolds, IA). Apparently all 600 households in town have promised to change at least five of their bulbs. And in a nice bit of synergy with the previous post, those bulbs have been donated by Wal-Mart.

The campaign will also include podcasts of speeches, outreach to retail groups, and an internal website for federal government agencies.

Flack Profile: Nu Wexler, Wal-Mart Watch

Our profile series continues with Wal-Mart Watch Communications Director Nu Wexler. Wal-Mart Watch is a non-profit that’s pressing the company to make changes to its business practices.

Hometown: Highlands, N.C., pop. 909

How long have you been in your current position? Almost a year and a half.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grow up? Either center fielder for the Atlanta Braves or quarterback for the Miami Dolphins. I thought Dale Murphy and Dan Marino walked on water.

Where did you fall in your family’s birth order (i.e., eldest child, middle child)? I’m the oldest of three kids. My brother Seth is one year younger and my sister Elizabeth is five years younger.

What college did you go to and what was your major? I majored in Government at the University of South Carolina. Go Gamecocks!

Did you ever work on the Hill? If so, for whom? I was Sen. Landrieu’s scheduler (1999-2000) and Sen. Hollings’ press secretary (2001-2003).

The nerdiest thing you ever did as a kid was… Stayed up way past my bedtime to watch the 1980 election results. My mom cried when Carter lost.

What was your very first job? Grocery bagger at Mountain Fresh Fine Foods. We had wiffle ball tournaments in the parking lot every night after work.

Biggest vice (PG-rated): The Apple Store

When did you first think you might want to get into PR? My college advisor, former DNC Chair Don Fowler, thought communications work would be a good fit for my interests and abilities. Best advice I ever received from a professor.

Which print publications do you subscribe to at home? Probably too many: Wash Post, Sports Illustrated, The New Republic, Esquire and The Oxford American, among others.

Who taught you what you know about doing PR? I’ve learned a lot about PR and political communications from a number of folks I’ve worked with over the years. Among them: former Hollings colleagues Andy Davis and Robert Gibbs, Rich Masters at Qorvis, fellow South Carolinian Bill Carrick, Geoff Garin, Fred Yang, Jason Linde at Ogilvy, the inestimable Jen Palmieri, Andy Grossman, Jim Jordan, Terry Holt, Kara Delahunt, Tracy Sefl at Glover Park, Anne Dickerson and (of course) Adam Kovacevich at Dittus. [Ed. - I was not compliment-fishing here, I swear.]

Who is the wittiest reporter you know? Lauren Markoe, who covered the South Carolina congressional delegation for Knight Ridder and The State, understands the funny peculiarities of southern politics as well as any non-native I’ve known. And Dana Milbank and Mark Leibovich are laugh-out-loud funny.

What’s the best attention-getting gimmick you’ve ever pulled off? It’s not really a gimmick, but we held the South Carolina Democratic presidential primary in February 2004, when a lot of reporters (and even some candidates) said it wasn’t going to happen.

Over your career, what are the most obscure policy issues that you’ve had to beef up on in order to field media inquiries? My first day in Sen. Hollings’ press office was 9/11/01. Hollings chaired the Senate Commerce Committee at the time, and our staff learned more about transportation security than we ever imagined. My current position has been a crash course in health care policy and wage violations.

What’s the biggest on-the-job screwup you’ve had that you can laugh about now? Accidentally sending a client’s poll results to The Hotline, before they were public. Six years later, I’m barely able to laugh about it.

What advice would you give to people wanting to advance in PR? Practice humility. Don’t upstage your boss. Never lie to a reporter. Stop talking after you’ve answered a question. Nothing is truly off the record. Always return phone calls, especially press calls. Any good communications strategy is grounded in solid research. Stay on message, but not to the point of absurdity. And don’t be afraid to show a personal, human side of yourself.

On the weekends you can be found… Either biking in Rock Creek Park or watching football, depending on my level of motivation.

Favorite vacation spot: Anywhere in Vietnam.

If you weren’t in PR, you’d probably be… Working in another capacity for immigrant and refugee rights.

Thursday People: Top LieberFlack Moves to CDF

  • My friend and former colleague Casey Aden-Wansbury, who has filled nearly every role there is in Sen. Joe Lieberman's press shop over the past five years, is leaving her post as communications director to assume the same title at the Children's Defense Fund. CDF also plans to expand its comms department in the coming months.

  • New faces are joining Qorvis Communications to handle the firm's Medicare "doughnut hole" project for PhRMA, including: Quin Hillyer, ex-senior editor at the American Spectator and ex-press secretary for Rep. Bob Livingston (R-La.); Eric Alvarez , a former CBS reporter and anchor; Kathleen Corcoran , PR director for Volunteers of America; Jarrett Bens , ex-director of Luntz Maslansky Strategic Research; and Kathleen Michael , ex-assistant managing editor of the Pink Sheet, which covers the pharmaceutical industry (Washington Post)

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Liveblogging "The Hill" Series Finale

Tonight was the series finale of "The Hill," the 6-ep documentary look behind the scenes at Rep. Robert Wexler's Hill staff. Just like last week, I liveblogged tonight's finale:

9:03...Halie earnestly tries to tell Eric how serious it is that John Murtha is calling for withdrawal from Iraq. Eric just wipes crud off of his shoes.

9:06...Eric flips his lid with Wexler over the phone after too many people (including Lale and the nerdy staff assistant guy) ask if the boss wants some lunch. Wexler does indeed want lunch.

9:10...Wexler says the House Dem leadership is worried about publicly exposing Democratic differences over Iraq. Ya don't say?

9:16...Halie upset that Republicans are subverting the House rules in order to force Dems to vote on Murtha's Iraq withdrawal resolution. Apparently she hasn't been paying attention the last twelve years.

9:18...Wexler takes a survey of his staff in order to decide how to vote.

9:20...Wexler takes another survey.

9:23...Another survey. Finally, Wexler is one of only three Members to vote for the withdrawal resolution.

9:27...Halie announces her engagement. Guess I was wrong with my prediction last week that she and her boyfriend wouldn't last.

Makeover In Store for The Hill's Press Release Wire, er, Blog

Sorry, Hill press secretaries. It looks like The Hill's Congress Blog -- currently a pretty lame venue for you to repackage your boss' press releases as "blog postings" -- may be in for a makeover.

Mike Grass at the Express reports that The Hill has hired blogger Rob Capriccioso to "improve and dazzle" CongressBlog, presumably including adding some original reporting, gossip and other content. In the meantime, Capriccioso is shutting down his personal blog.

News Flash: Policy Staffer Gives Press Secretary the Finger

Which Hill press secretary hasn't had a little bit of friction with their legislative staff colleagues? Policy staffers think that all flacks care about is a quick media hit, while flacks gripe that policy staffers don't make any effort to incorporate media strategy into their plans. Credit at least to House Majority Leader spokesguy Kevin Madden (right) for having a sense of humor about it (courtesy Yays and Nays):
“I walked into our floor operations staff office this morning and said to my colleague there: ‘Hey, you’re going to assure me that there won’t be any more schedule changes and we’re going to sail all the way through to Friday, right?’ The response: Single-finger gesture.” – Kevin Madden, spokesman for House Majority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, in an e-mail to reporters Tuesday

Wednesday People: Bono's Got New Flack, Babe

  • Jason Vasquez, 27, is Rep. Mary Bono's new communications director. Vasquest was previously district director for CA Assemblyman Todd Spitzer (R), an associate atPR firm Marathon Communications, and manager of community and government affairs for John Wayne Airport in the O.C. (Roll Call)

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Wonkette Finds Iraqi PR Gig Vedddy Eeenteresting...

Wonkette (left) is so excited about the Lincoln Group's $6 million Iraqi PR contract that he's eyeing the revolving door himself (tongue firmly in cheek):
The contract calls for “a unit of 12-18 communicators to support military PR efforts in Iraq and throughout the Middle East from media training to pitching stories and providing content for government-backed news sites.” In other words, same exact thing Lincoln got caught doing last year.

Let’s see, 12-18 “communicators” at $6 million to $20 million for two years … that works out to …. GOOD-BYE WONKETTE, I’M GOIN’ TO BAGHDAD!

Lieberman and Lamont Spokeguys Really Don't Like Each Other

Jason Zengerle over at TNR has a fun piece about flacks/bloggers/ex-Hillites/antagonists David Sirota and Dan Gerstein, now on opposite sides of the Connecticut Senate campaign (Sirota for Ned Lamont, Gerstein for Joe Lieberman.) It seems they really don't like each other very much. (Full disclosure: Dan was my boss when I worked for Sen. Lieberman and I consider him a friend.) A few highlights:
  • If they didn't hate each other so much, David Sirota and Dan Gerstein might be friends. They certainly have a lot in common. Both are in their thirties. Both are Jewish. And both are Democratic operatives. But their greatest similarity is their shared love of vicious political combat.
  • "Yes, that's right," Gerstein taunted on a pro-Lieberman blog, "[t]he same guy who is viciously attacking Joe Lieberman as the great Satan of the Democratic Party actually sought not one but two jobs from the target of his hatred. ... The polite term for that would be chutzpah. Some one less charitable might call Sirota a fraud."
  • Perhaps concerned that he wasn't making his real feelings clear, Sirota added that Gerstein is a "classic, haughty, self-important, professional election loser." And the fight only got uglier from there, as the operatives lobbed charges at each other ranging from "rank hypocrisy" to being "an unabashed liar."

Sucking Up to Bloggers, DC Edition

In conversations with Hill press secretary friends, trade association PR folks, and other colleagues around town, it's pretty clear that plenty of DC PR pros are still trying to figure out how to interact with bloggers. Many Members of Congress and their staffers seem to view bloggers as reflexively hostile toward politicians, but the truth is that showing bloggers respect and engaging with them goes a long way.

The latest Business Week has a piece on how businesses are engaging with the blogosphere, noting that "blogger relations specialists" at PR firms (including yours truly) "are monitoring posts and chatting up bloggers to gain credibility."

Former Apple marketing chief Guy Kawasaki has put together a great list of blogger-relations tips on his blog, appropriated titled, "How to Suck Up To A Blogger." Go read it.

These are all great tips for DC flacks, but PR campaigns here are unique, mostly because most of us are trying to influence policy debates or get something done on the Hill or within the Administration. So, I humbly offer a few DC-specific addenda to Kawasaki's tips:
  1. Suck up to the bloggers who matter to the people you want in your camp politically. Need to influence Republican Members to see an issue your way? Reach out to PowerLine, RedState, or The Corner. Need to influence Democratic Senators? Butter up the folks at HuffingtonPost, MyDD, or Kos. But also think about several steps down the blog food chain. You better believe that Connecticut Democratic pols and their staffs are reading My Left Nutmeg, and that VA Dem staffers are reading Raising Kaine. Remember, an obscure blog is just one Political Wire referral link away from being very well-read.

  2. Don't pitch a political blogger on a policy issue, and vice versa. Some bloggers in the political arena only blog about politics (campaigns, who's up, who's down, etc.). You probably won't have much luck sucking up to them about, say, the new Medicare bill that's on the floor this week. So, do your homework and look for the bloggers who are most likely to actually write about policy debates.

  3. Give sympathetic bloggers an action item. You've found a blogger who's likely to see things your way, and you have them all teed up with a sympathetic post on your pet issue. But don't forget to suggest a concrete step that supportive readers can take -- whether sending an email, signing an online petition, or calling their Member of Congress. Many uninformed pols see bloggers as do-nothing layabouts who are contemptuous of politicians. But if you can encourage bloggers to flex their muscles with their Member of Congress, all of a sudden bloggers are a real force in the eyes of politicians. The Save the Internet campaign is a prime example here.

  4. Pick your battles. Some policy battles lend themselves to blogger sympathy better than others. If you're fighting for a corporate tax cut, reaching out to bloggers to push your case will probably earn you more scorn than support. On the other hand, if you support the creation of an earmarks database, that's the kind of transparency-minded, blogger-friendly crusade that can really catch on. Just ask the bloggers attending the WH bill-signing today.
Those are just a few DC-specific rules that come to mind. Got any more?

Snow to Hit the Fundraising Circuit

AP's Nedra Pickler reports that Tony Snow is hitting the road for Republican candidates -- an unusual move for a sitting WH press secretary and a testament to how popular Snow is among the base.
[Snow] said he decided to help maintain the party's majority in Congress after some consideration of his proper role — and that doesn't include a lot of red meat rhetoric like some speakers offer at partisan events.

"They asked, and I thought about it a lot and we went back and forth," Snow said. "It's one of those things where I certainly want to help the president. But you have to make sure it's a fine line, and that's why I don't want to get into opponent bashing....The approach I'm going to take is not going to be one of going out and whacking Democrats by name, but straightforward comments about what the president has accomplished," Snow said[...]

Snow said taxpayers will not pay for any of his travel — the bill is being footed by the
Republican National Committee. He said fundraising is "fairly unusual ground" for a sitting press secretary, and he won't hesitate to cancel a political appearance if he's needed at the White House. "If there's a conflict between that and my day job, then the day job wins," he said.

Tuesday People: VA Spokesguy Trades In His Govt Laptop

  • Scott Hogenson, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs at the Department of Veterans Affairs, joins Dezenhall Resources as senior vice president. His work managing the missing laptop crisis will surely come in handy. Hogenson has also worked for the Republican National Committee and served as founding editor of

DC Flack Profile: Marcie Ridgway, Information Technology Industry Council

Our profile series continues with Information Technology Industry Council (ITI) Communications Director and Hill vet Marcie Ridgway. ITI represents some of the country's top technology companies.

Bedford, Texas

How long have you been in your current position? 4 months!

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grow up? Lawyer

Where did you fall in your family’s birth order (i.e., eldest child, middle child)? I’m the baby!

What college did you go to and what was your major? University of Texas, Political Science, of course!

Did you ever work on the Hill? If so, for whom? Yes, for many years! Members include: Cong. Sam Johnson, Cong. Dave Camp, and Senator George Voinovich

The nerdiest thing you ever did as a kid was…ooo stop – I didn’t do anything nerdy.

What was your very first job? Sales in a shoe store

Biggest vice (PG-rated): Shoes!

When did you first think you might want to get into PR? While working for Rep. Dave Camp, I interviewed and told him I wanted to be a Healthcare LA…he thought I was better suited for PR. He was right.

Which print publications do you subscribe to at home? Golf Magazine, Wine Spectator, and Time.

Over your career, what are the most obscure policy issues that you’ve had to beef up on in order to field media inquiries? Human Capital.

On the weekends you can be found… golfing, sailing on the bay, or at a sporting event.

Favorite vacation spot: St. Barths – although I haven’t been there yet!

If you weren’t in PR, you’d probably be…owner of a shoe store! Do you see a theme?

Monday, September 25, 2006

NAM Spokesguy Cleary Pulls Back Curtain on Birnbaum Piece

National Association of Manufacturers blogger and chief spokesguy Pat Cleary offers behind the scenes insight on why Jeff Birnbaum's lobbying piece in the Post today might have left out the quote that Cleary offered. From NAM's
We had a funny feeling where this story might be headed. It kinda morphed from a "what didn't get done" piece to one with a different -- and we'd dare say, more partisan -- bent. Also, to be fair, there's no shortage of quotes in the piece from fellow association execs, all of whom apparently responded to the question as posed.

Seems to us a more informative piece would have been about why things didn't get done. It's not because they ran out of time. It's because so much of the agenda was frustrated by opponents of issues that are critically important to manufacturers.

Ex-WH Comm Director Nicolle Wallace To Consult for CBS

Per TVNewser: former White House Communications Director Nicolle Wallace (left) has been named a CBS News political consultant, starting immediately. CBS says she will "provide on-air analysis on a variety of political issues, including the upcoming 2006 elections."

Is this something of a CBS mea culpa/olive branch toward the Bushies for Rathergate? Just askin'.

Ari Says Hill Flacks Pitch, WH Flacks Defend

Seth Gitell, former Boston Phoenix reporter and ex-press secretary to Boston Mayor Tom Menino, sat down with ex-WH flack Ari Fleischer last week and wrote about it for the New York Sun. Gitell, who says he relates to Fleischer because he knows "what it is like to be in the public eye and be bald," offers these pearls of wisdom from two ex-flacks:
  • "When you're on the Hill, you're always pitching. You're almost never defending," [Fleischer] says. A successful day would mean getting his boss's name mentioned in a newspaper article in connection with a proposal or action.
  • "The office of the press secretary is the job where you come in wearing a piñata, you know you're going to catch it," Mr. Fleischer jokes. That's a little bit like being the press secretary for a mayor's office where one is likely to be queried on matters as picayune as a pit bull attack to more serious things such as crime and homeland security.
  • The press came to Mr. Fleischer with some biases, which magnifies the challenge for whoever is carrying the brief for a president or a big city mayor. "They're biased. They're biased in favor of conflict. They're biased in favor of blame of whoever is in government."
  • A normal person who has reached a relatively successful position in life has been trained to engage in discourse. Television, in particular, rewards the quipster and the flamboyant quotemaster. All that life experience and training must be quickly and completely unlearned if an individual is to survive as a press secretary. In many cases, the press secretary must say on national television,"I don't know" even though saying "I don't know" repeatedly doesn't exactly render a person the second coming of Dick Cavett.

Snow Lighting Press Secretary Fashion World Ablaze

The Wall Street Journal's Saturday edition, taking to heart its mission to provide lighter fare, writes that "five months into the job, [WH Press Secretary Tony Snow] is using his wardrobe to communicate that he's not the stereotypical press secretary."
"Press secretaries have tended to come out of either newspaper reporting or political public relations," says presidential historian Stephen Hess, who teaches at George Washington University. "Neither of those occupations would be noted for classy haberdashery."

Mr. Snow mixes things up, with colors that often seem to reflect the administration's mood. Discussing Syria recently, he wore a serious white shirt and maroon tie. When the president gave an upbeat press conference in the Rose Garden after a surprise visit to Iraq, Mr. Snow wore a cheery pink shirt and light blue tie.

The Note's Questions For Flacks

ABC's The Note, in its lede today, asks two questions about Democratic flacks:
1. Will Democrats take what Jay Carson and Howard Wolfson call the "Chappaqua Hint" and realize that the Clintons' aggressive pushback against formidable targets such as ABC Entertainment, Fox News, Jerry Falwell, and John Spencer is meant in part to set an example for how they want the party to behave between now and Election Day?

(Anticipating skulls thinker than skins, Carson keeps saying about the Chris Wallace interview, "President Clinton fought back hard, just like any Democrat should when they are attacked with a baseless attack.")
3. Will Obama communications czar Robert Gibbs demand a bonus system whereby he gets paid extra from the book royalty kitty every time he hustles to get his boss some favorable coverage?

Monday People: New Faces in Allard Press Shop

  • Sen. Wayne Allard's (right) press shop has a new leader. New comm director Laura Condeluci, 27, was previously press secretary to Sen. David Vitter sinc '04, and before that was communications associate at the Association of Public Television Stations. Condeluci is an LSU grad who majored in mass communications (Roll Call).
  • Joining Allard's press shop as deputy press secretary is Steve Wymer, 28. This is Wymer's first press gig, having served as an LC for Sen. Gordon Smith from 2005-06. He previously was campaign manager for Washington Secretary of State Sam Reed’s re-election campaign in 2004, legislative assistant for Reed from 2003 to 2004, and field representative for Rep. Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) from 2002 to 2003 (Roll Call).

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Wal-Mart Lures Edelman's Dach In-House With Big $$

Washingtonian's Kim Eisler (sorry, no link yet) reports in the new issue that "insiders have been asking what it took for Wal-Mart to lure Leslie Dach (left) away from Edelman, [which] Dach cochaired with former Ronald Reagan aide Michael Deaver." Dach left for Wal-Mart in July.

"Dach helped Edelman create political-style TV ads for Wal-Mart, claiming that the stores save the average household $2,300 a year. Wal-Mart was so impressed with Dach's enterprise that they asked him to come aboard."

And at a handsome price. SEC docs show that Wal-Mart gave stock worth more than $3 million, with options to buy more shares. "For every dollar that Wal-Mart stock goes up, Dach will make an additional $168,805," Eisler reports.

"Dach says his family won't be moving to Bentonville [Ark., Wal-Mart HQ], but he has stocked an apartment there with artisan bread, lox, and fresh fruit from a local Wal-Mart."

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Wash Times Hires PR Firm to Discredit Critics

Among other tidbits in The Nation's new feature piece on alleged tensions within the newsroom of the Washington Times: the paper's Editor in Chief Wesley Pruden has hired a PR firm to help combat critical news coverage of the paper's leadership (presumably including The Nation's article itself).
Pruden, [Managing Editor Francis] Coombs and [newspaper President Douglas] Joo are now operating like a troika to eliminate threats, real and perceived, to their continued control over the Times. "This is everything to them," a senior staffer said. "And they will do anything they have to in order to survive. It's slash and burn." Pruden has enlisted the PR firm Hill and Knowlton to attempt to discredit media reports alleging racist and sexist behavior by him or Coombs.

The Nation's piece goes on to describe an article that conservative mag Human Events had planned to publish an article by ex-Times employee George Archibald, "detailing instances of racism and sexism at the Times but that, under pressure from Pruden and Coombs, Human Events editor in chief Thomas Winter spiked the piece."

From the looks of things, the Wash Times' damage control on The Nation piece has already begun. FishBowlDC has leaked newsroom memos from both Pruden and Coombs directly and indirectly responding to the piece. Coombs calls the Nation piece "a desperate effort to undercut the fine work of the hundreds of men and women who have made The Washington Times one of the most powerful newspapers in America and the rest of the world."

Friday, September 22, 2006

Flack Job of the Week: Even Weed Needs a Spokesman

Today we inagurate a new feature, perfectly designed for slow Fridays in DC (at least until the Bush Administration does a Friday afternoon bad news dump). The Flack Job of the Week highlights a communications job opening that ambitious DC career climbers might want to take a look at. This week's job comes from Roll Call Jobs:

Job Title Assistant Director of Communications
Employer Marijuana Policy Project
Posted 09/14/06
Job Description

COMMUNICATIONS. Ast Dir of Comm for fast-paced, respected marijuana policy reform lobby. Strong writing & speaking skills req. $35K.

Apply at

Actually, the disappointing part is how boring this job announcement is. Some alternative slogans, courtesy of PF contributors:

"Positions reports directly to Mary Jane."
"Does your job give you a high? This one will!"
"We don't mean to be blunt, but we need someone immediately."
"This position requires frequent joint projects with colleagues."
"Must be able to attend daily staff meeting at 4:20 p.m."

Firms Vie To Spread Good News From Iraq

National Journal's Peter Stone reports that "At least a half-dozen public-relations firms - some with a track record of doing PR for the military - are competing for a two-year, $20 million Pentagon contract designed to increase positive news out of Iraq."

Among the firms competing for the gig: The Rendon Group, SYColeman, SOSi International, Burson-Marsteller and Hill & Knowlton, but per Stone, "the job could go to a smaller firm paired with a larger one."

More from Stone: "The contract calls for a wide-ranging PR mission that includes regular monitoring of how American and Middle East media outlets are covering the war...The new effort, slated to begin in late October, is a successor to a smaller year-to-year contract held by the Rendon Group."

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Senate Campaign Flacks' Online Hijinks

Apparently the pressure of the approaching midterm elections has gotten to a few flacks in competitive Senate races. Per Hotline's Blogometer:
  • MN Senate candidate Amy Klobuchar's spokeswoman Tara McGuinness (who previously flacked on the Hill for MA Rep. Ed Markey) was fired yesterday for "viewing a possibly illegally obtained ad from Rep. Mark Kennedy's (R-06) campaign." McGuinness was apparently sent the video by a sympathetic blogger who found a link on the website of Kennedy's media consultant. The story from Kevin Aylward at Wizbang.

  • Meanwhile, the Blue Jersey blog has caught state Sen. Tom Kean's (R) spokeswoman, Jill Hazelbaker, posting "several troll comments" on their website's comment boards. BJ matched up Hazelbaker's IP address to BJ commenters "usedtobeblue" and "cleanupnj." BJ concludes: "Jill - your campaign has been exposed. You're nothing but a bunch of liars, and sadly, you can't even do that well."

Tony Snow "Scared Stiff" on Day One, Now Having a Blast

"The most pleasant surprise about this job has been how much fun it is," WH Press Secretary Tony Snow said this morning at the Breakfast Formerly Known as Sperling.

"I must say, the first day, I was absolutely scared stiff... The biggest challenge is... just trying to make sure that you know enough about the things that are going to be of interest to reporters." FishBowlDC and The Swamp have more Snow highlights, including:
  • "'The press secretary's job is a reporting job,' said Snow, explaining what he sees when he looks out across the press briefing room. 'I don't come out of the political side... What I see is a lot of people trying to get information to write a story.'"

  • "'I suppose if there's an operative philosophy for me, it's Flood the Zone,' says Snow, maintaining he tries to flood reporters with information, not spin. 'If we spin you,'' Snow says, 'we die.''"

  • "Snow...also has a way of deflecting questions about ongoing negotiations...'The status is ongoing,'' Snow said of talks aimed at reaching a compromise[on torture], adding: 'This is like warm milk on the kitchen counter right now... Whatever news I can give you will turn to yogurt by the time you get back to the office.'"

Thursday People: Republican Governors' Spokesguy Departs

  • Republican Governors Association communications director Robert Van Raaphorst is leaving to become comm director for the Community Financial Services Association (the payday loans people). His RGA deputy Lindsay Sweetin steps up to fill his shoes. (Roll Call)

  • Allison Price has been named comm director for Kirsten Rutnik Gillibrand, the Dem challenger to Rep. John Sweeney (R-NY). Price previously served as comm director for PA congressional candidate Joe Sestak and in the press operation at Sandy Berger's Stonebridge International consulting shop (Roll Call)

  • Hayley Rumback, ex-comm director for two moderate Dem reps, Dennis Moore (KS) and Ellen Tauscher (CA), is also hitting the campaign train, as comm director for NY candidate Michael Arcuri (who is competing to fill Rep. Sherry Boehlert's seat). Rumback also worked for Planned Parenthood Federation of America (Roll Call).

  • John Bell has been named managing director of 360 Degree Digital Influence, part of Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide (PR Week).

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Sort-of-Liveblogging "The Hill," Episode 5

Though it's received a curious lack of buzz in town since its premiere last month, I suspect a fair number of Hillites have been watching Sundance Channel's "The Hill," a 6-part behind-the-scenes reality show filmed in Rep. Robert Wexler's office last year.

Tonight was the second to last episode of the series, and while I'm not technically "liveblogging" since the show was on an hour ago, I can offer a tape-delayed version (BTW, the "stars" of the show, Chief of Staff Eric Johnson and Press Secretary Lale Mamaux, are also blogging infrequently over at the Sundance website).

9:02...Hallie and Jonathan bantering. Man, I forgot how close those House office desks are to one another.

9:04...Wexler turns down a CNBC live interview opp because he is too busy preparing for Hurricane Wilma.

9:06...Halie is moving in with her boyfriend, who's wearing a blindingly bright pink shirt. Why do I get a feeling from the tone of their banter that these two aren't dating any more?

9:08...Eric mocks Lale for spazzing out about Wexler doing a local TV interview during the hurricane. Eric, the voice of reason, points out that no one in Florida has TV service at the moment.

9:12...Eric and Lale fighting again. Those crazy kids! There seems to be an above average amount of voice-raising in this office.

9:15...Lale asks Wexler if the ride on Air Force One "was fun." Obvious reply: "Nothing is fun in a hurricane." Oblivious, Lale continues, "well, you looked very dapper yesterday...they focused in on you, it was very funny." Reminds me of Brownie and his staff emailing about how good he looked on TV during Katrina.

9:18...Where is this office's scheduler? Everybody spends so much time tracking down where the boss is. I can only assume he/she had the common sense not to participate in the show.

9:22...Halie plays buttinsky during Lale's drafting of a Scooter Libby statement. Jonathan tears up Halie's suggested lines.

9:35...Everyone very excited because Wexler is requesting a hearing in Iraq...temporarily forgetting that they're in the minority, and that Henry Hyde will probably tell Wexler to take a long walk off a short pier.

Maybe Congress Needs a PR Firm

NYT Header: Poll Finds Most Americans Displeased With Congress

Email Bug Hits Rep. Bilbray's Press Shop

An anonymous journalist writes us about the e-mail love that he (and presumably a few of his media brethren and sistren) was feeling from Rep. Brian Bilbray's (right) press office today:

5:56 p.m...Team Bilbray sends e-mail about boss' new bill on "election integrity" to about 100 reporters, all of whom listed in the "To:" field (not BCC). Media list apparently needs updating; "" is HotSoup'ing these days. Adding insult to injury, the e-mail is blank and no press release is attached.

5:58 p.m....Team Bilbray sends second e-mail. Has mastered BCC this time, but still no press release attached or in the body of the e-mail.

6:00 p.m...Mission accomplished for the Bilbray staffer whom we are are too kind to name. Press release attached, BCC achieved.

"Third time's the charm" is the expression, after all. Chin up, Team Bilbray, for I'm sure many a PF reader has had the same thing happen to them once or twice and lived to flack another day.

New Coalition is Patently Awesome

Remember how a big patent lawsuit against Research in Motion earlier this year threatened to cut off CrackBerry (left) service? Today, Joe Crea of Legal Times tells us about DC's new Coalition for Patent Fairness, "a patchwork of 45 companies from the technology, financial services and manufacturing industries."

On the lobbying side, the group is led by Mark Isakowitz of Fierce Isakowitz & Blalock, while Mayer Brown Rowe & Maw partner Andrew Pincus tells Crea that "he's focusing on the substantive arguments for patent reform." Chlopak, Leonard, Schechter is handling PR for the coalition, but I couldn't find a coalition website.

Coalition members include Apple Computer Inc., the Business Software Alliance, Comcast Corp., Dell Inc., the Financial Services Roundtable, Hewlett-Packard Co., Intel Corp., Microsoft Corp., Oracle Corp., TechNet and Time Warner Inc.

Per Crea, the coalition "has spent the better half of 2006 building momentum and educating Congress members about concerns the group has about the current patent system. Isakowitz says in the coming year he expects the Senate to act on patent reform legislation introduced by Senate Judiciary Committee members Orrin Hatch, R-Utah and Patrick Leahy, D-Vt."

The group has its work cut out for it. It's up against the pharmaceutical industry, led by trade group PhRMA.

DC Campaigns Getting Message Out Through Top Blogs

Washington Examiner's Dee Ann Divis files another column this week on the use of blogs in lobbying campaigns (I blogged about last week's column here), this one focusing on the imporantance of getting your message out through other, better-trafficked blogs. There's a mention of the blog outreach that my Dittus colleague John Pappas has been doing on behalf of the Poker Players Alliance.
Finding the right partner requires “aggressive listening,” said Michael Krempasky, who founded the conservative blog and now works for Edelman public relations. You want to determine “who's talking about what and who moves an issue.”

When the Poker Players Alliance wanted to dissuade Congress from banning Internet poker, for example, its PR firm Dittus Communications contacted avid players to see what blogs they read and then asked those bloggers to read their material, comment and link to their site.

Pat Cleary, Senior VP for Comms and lead blogger at the National Association of Manufacturers, is also quoted in the piece about building his audience by cross-posting at RedState. I've heard lots of people around town describe NAM's blog,, as one of the best association/policy blogs in town.

David Johnson from Strategic Vision has also been using YouTube for clients:
“People will start hitting it up” and may send the link to others and mention it on their blogs. Even the White House has downloaded anti-drug videos onto the YouTube site in hopes of reaching its young audience.

Wednesday People: New Speakers for the Speaker

  • One new face and one old face getting promoted in House Speaker Dennis Hastert's (right) press shop. Ex-press intern and press assistant Chris Taylor, 25, has been promoted to deputy press secretary. Taylor worked previously on Michael Bloomberg's 2005 re-elect, and for the College RNC during the '04 cycle. "In his new role in the Speaker’s office, Taylor will be responsible for writing press releases, handling all radio and TV bookings for the Speaker and setting up coordination for all media events, among other things," Roll Call reports.
  • Also new to Hastert's shop is press assistant Ashley Rogers, 23. Rogers was Deputy Executive Director for the College RNC, and served as an associate at Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform (Roll Call)

  • A hire and promotion in the DC office of Ketchum Public Affairs. Randy DeCleene has been hired as VP/account supervisor. DeCleene was deputy press secretary for Vice President Dick Cheney in 2004 and 2005 and most recently was at Ogilvy Public Relations. Also at Ketchum, my ex-Lieberman campaign colleague Zachary Tindall has been promoted from VP/account supervisor to VP/group manager (PR Week)

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

DC Flack Profile: Carrie Foster, Linda Roth Associates

We're kicking off a new series of regular profiles of flacks from around town - PR firms, the Hill, associations, Administration, and companies. Today's inaugural profilee is Carrie Foster (left, with Executive Chef Robert Wiedmaier of Marcel's), Publicist & Vice President of Linda Roth Associates, one of DC's best-known restaurant and hospitality PR firms.

Portsmouth, VA

How long have you been in your current position? 4.5 years at LRA and 2.5 years holding the VP title.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grow up?
My aspirations evolved from the drummer of The Bangles to a television reporter in a few short years.

Where did you fall in your family’s birth order (i.e., eldest child, middle child)?
The Golden Child – i.e. the second and youngest child. My older sister may disagree with the title.

What college did you go to and what was your major?
Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, NC; Politics and Communications double major. Shock that I ended up in Washington.

Did you ever work on the Hill? If so, for whom?
Yes, I deem it my “Grad School.” I was Press Secretary for (now Senator) Richard Burr (NC) for 2.5 years on the House side.

The nerdiest thing you ever did as a kid was…
Ouch - I attended Math Camp at University of Virginia for two summers. Indeed, I got my thrills from solving word problems on a hot summer day. The whole “genius child” phase came to an abrupt halt when calculus entered the equation. (and my talent for puns flourished– “equation?” Anyone?)

What was your very first job?
My years as a camp counselor/riflery instructor and waitress in college outstanding, my first job was a paid internship at Fleishman-Hillard (Washington, DC) office, specifically for the WorldSpace and XM Satellite Radio accounts. Yes, I included the riflery note to intimidate the press.

Biggest vice (PG-rated):
My biggest vice: my slight obsession with pirates (sept. 19 – Talk Like a Pirate Day – I consider it a holiday.)

When did you first think you might want to get into PR?
I somewhat bumped into the PR business – let’s call it natural selection! I’ve always been lauded by professors and teachers as a succinct and creative writer, and even through the nerdy math phase I was outgoing. I excitedly enrolled in a broadcast journalism class in college, where I received low marks for excessive smiling and laughter – what can I say, I am a happy gal! - but I excelled in story development. I stuck to improving my writing and found that in PR, I could combine my relationship-building talents, writing skills and most importantly, daily use of creativity.

Which print publications do you subscribe to at home?
The New Yorker, Capitol File, Washingtonian – we have multiple lifestyle and hard news subscriptions in the office that satiate my need to read.

Who taught you what you know about doing PR?
In my p.o.v., there are 4 necessary skills to be successful in public relations – networking, creativity, resourcefulness and excellent writing/communication. They can’t be taught – they are innate qualities - they can only be improved upon and structured. Therefore, from cutting the perfect media clip to rolling out a brand campaign, I’ve learned so much from Adam Anthony, Dom Morea & Mia Masten at Fleishman; Jan Hausrath, Maggie Fitzpatrick & BJay Cooper at APCO; John Versaggi (my CoS) in Burr’s office; of course, the social butterfly Linda Roth and other hospitality industry masterflacks: Colleen Evans (Marriott), Sarah Greenberg (FGPR in NYC), Sara Taylor (Allied). And of course the reporters, producers and assignment editors have taught me more than they’ll ever realize. (insert orchestra music here…roll to commercial)

Who is the wittiest reporter you know?
Hank Steuver at Washington Post – my kind of humor. Bitingly sarcastic, quick-witted and dry.

What’s the best attention-getting gimmick you’ve ever pulled off?
The Presidential Doughnut Poll, day 3 of the 7 day celebration/opening of Krispy Kreme Doughnuts in Dupont Circle in August 2004, “Kerry” and “Bush” campaigned on segways with KK coupons while visitors voted by buying blue-sprinkled or red-sprinkled doughnuts as we tallied the votes. Polling Firms provided pun-heavy quotes, lobbyists sent interns to “stuff the ballot” by the sweet dozens…and CNN, two local crews and all the political rags covered it.

Over your career, what are the most obscure policy issues that you’ve had to beef up on in order to field media inquiries? None stand-out as obscure, which means I’ve lived in DC for too long. In my foray into lifestyle/hospitality PR, I recall insanely obscure pitches. i.e. promoting the visit of Flumpa the Frog character at the National Aquarium. The media never ignores a restaurant opening. Never.

What’s the biggest on-the-job screw up you’ve had that you can laugh about now?
Hmm. Tough question. I’m an easygoing person generally and laugh at other people’s misfortune all too often. But I’m very hard on myself. There are few screw-ups I ever laugh about.

What advice would you give to people wanting to advance in PR?
Never chew gum. Work on being well-spoken – It separates the women from the girls. Force yourself to cut out verbal fillers – i.e.”like, you know, I mean, um” out of pitches and work-related conversation…ideally out of everyday conversation but even at 30 I find that a challenge. In PR, you can never act solely by example, because everyone has their personal charm, their own style of relationship building and what works for them may not come naturally to you. Be yourself!! …and be proactive. Trial by fire may burn you in the short term but the remedy provides the opportunity to learn for the long term.

On the weekends you can be found…
…at weddings. Walking through Eastern Market and running errands on the Hill (my neighborhood), driving to the beach, attending/hosting an event or enjoying one I’ve helped to plan – its in my blood - catching up on R&R…

Favorite vacation spot:
The Beach –Nags Head, NC, where my family has a home or sailing in the British Virgin Islands. I’m beefing up my travel/tourism PR portfolio with full intentions to promote a luxury resort in the Caribbean one day…Richard Branson, are you listening?

If you weren’t in PR, you’d probably be…
In shape (many of our clients are restaurants, bakeries, etc.) I jest. I imagine I’d be an aspiring journalist, writer or producer.

Potomac Flacks Survey: To Snoop or Not To Snoop?

Snooping on Congressional Staff Salaries on LegiStorm...
Makes me uncomfortable
I can't take my eyes away
Create Free Polls

Tuesday People: WH, Treasury Swap Michele Davis and Tony Fratto

  • Michele Davis, depty national security adviser, deputy asst. for NSC comms, and former Senior VP at Fannie Mae, is returning to her old position as top Treasury Department spokeswoman (actual title: Asst. Secretary for Public Affairs). Her first tour was with ex-Sec. Paul O'Neill, and she served previously as comm director for ex-Majority Leader Dick Armey. Davis replaces...

  • Tony Fratto, who is leaving to become White House deputy press secretary. Fratto is ex-comm director to Sen. Rick Santorum (CongressDaily)

  • Charlie Greenwald of the Information Technology Association of America, promoted from communications director to Acting VP for Communications. Greenwald came to ITAA from American Management Systems in Fairfax, and takes the reins from 17-year ITAA veteran Bob Cohen. (Technology Daily). In other ITAA news, VP Greg Garcia has been named the new cybersecurity czar at the Department of Homeland Security.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Fun with LegiStorm: Senate Press Secretary Salaries

The new LegiStorm database of congressional staff salaries is back up and running, and I just spent some time perusing it. Washington Wire reports that "the site is the brainchild of D.C.-based, LegiStorm LLC., founded by Jock Friedly, a former reporter for The Hill newspaper."

As a public service to Potomac Flacks readers, I've used the site to put together a spreadsheet of salaries for Senate personal office press staff - comm directors, press secretaries, deputy press secretaries, etc. I didn't have time to do leadership offices or committee staffers, but you can check those out on the site.

Before I get any angry emails, let me caveat this posting by endorsing completely what the folks over at LegiStorm have to say:
A few aides are well paid by any measure. Many others make an embarrassing sum, especially in an expensive city such as Washington, DC at jobs that can have a ferocious intensity to them. While Congress is in session, Congressional aides often work well into the night, sometimes into the early morning, to craft legislation or to broker deals with the administration.
Here, here. The vast majority of Hill staffers are hard working, talented, and criminally underpaid, and the fact that Hill salaries don't keep pace with the private sector contributes to a lot of good people leaving government service.

Okay, off the soapbox.
Download the spreadsheet.

Notes: Spreadsheet is based on period from 10/01/05 - 3/31/06. Staffers who did not serve the complete period were not included. The salary estimate column is calculated by multiplying the pay period times two.

No More Secret Trips to Russell or Cannon Basements

Hill veterans know that the Senate and House release regular expenditure reports for all congressional offices, including salaries. As PoliticalWire accurately puts it, "staffers [make] regular trips to the library to page through large volumes of public records to see what their colleagues were paid."

No more hush-hus trips to the basements of the Russell or Cannon buildings. A new site, LegiStorm, has searched all the data and posted all staff salary info online for the first time.

Of course, the site is now running very slow. All traffic from 20515 and 20510 zip codes presumably. But once it comes back up, we'll be on the lookout for gems.

Bayh's Top Mouthpiece Moves from Hill to Campaign-in-Waiting

In yet another sign that Evan Bayh's '08 campaign-team-in-waiting is gearing up, Dan Pfeiffer, veteran of Tom Daschle's Senate office and '04 re-election bid -- and Bayh's Senate Communications Director since December 2004 -- has just moved over to become full-time Communications Director for Bayh's All America PAC.

Bayh (right), like the other '08 wannabes, is sure to have a busy October and November stumping for congressional candidates. And once Election Day is past, the '08s will immediately start announcing the formation of their presidential committees, so they can start raising $$ right away.

More Sunlight on MoC Schedules? Why Hill Press Secretaries Shouldn't Veto This Idea

Wash Post's Birnbaum reports today (second item) on a new effort by a DC group called the Sunlight Network to "pay up to a total of $680,000 to people who persuade members of Congress, or prospective members, to agree to put their daily schedules on the Internet for all to see."

Per Birnbaum, the group "thinks that it is well past time that voters knew who their elected representatives were meeting with and how often. But there's no way to find out short of publishing their schedules, something that is not required and, in fact, is never done."

The effort is called the Punck Clock Campaign, and appears to be led by Zephyr Teachout, one of the leading gurus behind Howard Dean's impressive online outreach. From a look at Zephyr's blog, it's clear that Sunlight has high hopes that this effort will catch on big-time in the netroots. If that happens, how should Capitol Hill and campaign press secretaries respond? A few thoughts:

  • Congressional schedules aren't pretty. I've spent most of my career flacking on the Hill and campaigns, and the dirty little secret is that Members and candidates spend a lot of their time fundraising. What does that mean exactly? It means saving a few hours each day to make fundraising calls, travel to exotic locales for fundraising events, and attending receptions with lobbyists nearly every weeknight while Members are in DC. The average citizen would be disturbed to see how much of their elected officials' time is spent raising cash, and most flacks know that, so they'll instinctively oppose schedule disclosure. But...

  • Good things can result from citizens seeing the truth. It's a sad fact that Members and candidates have to spend so much time raising money, but that's the result of the campaign system we have today. If that disturbs citizens, they should push their elected representatives to change the system, and perhaps make changes like public financing of campaigns or other reforms. Plus...

  • The White House already does this, so why shouldn't Congress? Every meeting on the President's schedule is disclosed to the media. Meetings and phone calls with foreign leaders. Fundraising events for congressional candidates. Trips to the doctors' office for a physical. True, there is much more interest in every President's activities than there is in the average Member of Congress', but why shouldn't Congress hold itself to the same standard as the President does? After all, they all have the same boss.

  • Your boss will look good back home by embracing this early. All flacks know that there's a PR coup to be had from being the first to embrace something, and that's no different here. Just think of the glowing national and home-district press that a candidate or Member will receive from disclosing their daily schedule; the same kind of love that John McCain received aboard the Straight Talk Express. Also look at the positive reaction that's been received for the idea of disclosing appropriations earmarks. Again, most Hill press secretaries will resist this, but a few smart ones will surely see the advantage of distinguishing their bosses by demonstrating transparency.

  • Disclosure keeps you honest. Amidst all the furor over privately-funded travel for Congress, congressional staff today know that they shouldn't accept a trip offer unless they're prepared for the world to know they went on that trip. In many cases those fact-finding trips are easy to justify, but in others the rationale is less clear. But regardless, knowing that a schedule will be disclosed will be yet another incentive for Members and candidates to avoid any behavior that would reflect poorly on them.

  • Sharing your schedule helps you build a following. Netroots candidates know this well - by telling the world where you'll be and when, you make it easy for your supporters to show up. Howard Dean's '04 campaign proved it. True, there's always the risk that disclosuing your schedule will make it easier for your opponents' supporters or a tracker to show up and shadow you, but that downside can be easily offset by the upside of mobilizing your supporters more easily.

  • Remember, you work for the people. With time, it's easy as a Hill or campaign staffer to start to feel a sense of entitlement, or to become a bit drunk with the power you have. Which makes it all the more important to have frequent reminders of who you're working for.

ADDENDUM: One more point. Unless I'm mistaken, Members' schedules are already accessible to reporters who file a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. In fact, plenty of news exposes have been written using FOIAs. So if this info is FOIA-able anyway, why tick off reporters who are going to get their hands on the info anyway?

UPDATE: Apparently I am mistaken about FOIA (it happens often).

Monday People: New Martinez Deputy

  • Jessica Garcia is replacing Melissa Shuffield as Sen. Mel Martinez's Deputy Press Secretary (Shuffield departed to become #2 in John McCain's press shop). Duties will include Hispanic media. Garcia was previously press officer at the Agency for International Development in the State Department, special assistant to U.S. Treasurer Anna Escobedo Cabral, and at the RNC. (Roll Call Hill Climbers)

  • Bailey Wood is departing his self-title PR/lobbying shop to become Director of Legislative Affairs and Communications at the National Automobile Dealers Association. He flacked previously for ex-Rep. Christopher Cox (R-CA). (Roll Call K Street Files)

  • Richard Ades, five-year veteran of Powell Tate Weber Shandwick, is becoming Executive Vice President of Prism Public Affairs. (Roll Call K Street Files)

Bill Jefferson's Crisis Comms Spin Doctor

If ever a politician needed a crisis communications counselor, Bill Jefferson -- who was found earlier this year to have stashed $90,000 in tinfoil-wrapped cash in his freezer -- surely fits the bill.

CQ Weekly's Shawn Zeller reveals today (subscription) that Judy Smith (right), founder of DC's Impact Strategies and head of its crisis communications practice, has been providing comms counseling and support to Bill Jeff since July.

Most of Smith's past high-profile stints have involved representing figures that are unfriendly to Democratic pols. That includes repping Clarence Thomas in his Senate confirmation hearings (who many Dems strongly opposed), disappeared intern Chandra Levy (whose disappearance contributed to the downfall of ex-Rep. Gary Condit) and Monica Lewinsky (no explanation necessary). Given all that history it may be a shift for her to represent a Democratic congressman in this instance.

Zeller adds, "Since she signed on to the Jefferson case in July, Smith hasn’t done much public speaking on his behalf, referring most calls to the congressman’s attorney, Robert Trout, the partner of famed prominent-person-in-trouble attorney Plato Cacheris."

Friday, September 15, 2006

Technorati Profile

PhRMA Starts Two-Year Campaign on Medicare Benefit, Reimportation

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), the drug industry's lobby here in DC, is embarking on a "two-year multimillion-dollar grassroots lobbying and public-affairs" campaign, per National Journal (subscription).

After winning the project, Qorvis Communications is hiring five new staffers. "Qorvis partner and co-founder Michael Petruzzello declined to specify the amount of the contract, but said that PhRMA would be Qorvis's third-largest client, behind the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia and United Technologies," write NJ's Bara Vaida.

Focus areas for the campaign include "enrolling seniors in the Medicare prescription drug program and the reimportation of prescription drugs into the United States from Canada and other countries."

Tony Snow Is 330% Funnier than Scott McClellan

Anyone who's watched White House press briefings the last few months has surely noticed that everyone - both Tony Snow and the reporters - seem to be having more fun then they had under ex-Press Secretary Scott McClellan.

Washington Examiner's Yays and Nays:
Yeas & Nays reviewed the press briefing and press gaggle transcripts from Snow’s first four months on the job and compared them to those of Snow’s predecessor, Scott McClellan, during his first four months.

Under Snow, there were more than 330 percent more instances of laughter — as defined by the transcriber’s insertion of “(Laughter)” in the transcript — than under McClellan.

Reporters seem to like it:

“It’s not that Tony’s necessarily a laugh riot,” says Ron Hutcheson, who covers the White House for McClatchy newspapers. “But he engages, and it’s a lot more fun to be in the room with somebody who’s engaging reporters.” Hutcheson says that McClellan, on the other hand, “was just cautious, cautious to a fault. He would retreat to the talking points and it was almost as if he didn’t listen to the question.”
But don't expect Snow to headline in the Catskills anytime soon:

“Well, I do like to have fun, but at the same time you don’t want to be doing stand-up as the spokesperson of the president and the leader of the free world,” he says.

DC Spin Control Trend: Is "The Booze Made Me Do It" the New "Pills Made Me Do It"?

First it was prescription drugs that became the acceptable way for DC pols to explain their way out of trouble. Now it seems to be the bottle.

First, Patrick Kennedy. After enduring days of criticism and controversy in May for driving into a concrete barrier near the Capitol, Kennedy eventually acknowledged his problem with the prescription meds and held a press conference where he announced he would check himself into the Mayo clinic. From a damage control perspective, problem solved. Reporters know that once a pol admits his failings -- particularly with substance abuse -- it's not nice to keep beating up on him.

Now it looks like Bob Ney, who earlier this year announced his retirement from Congress after getting wrapped up in the Abramoff scandal, is following a similar strategy, except he's blaming booze, not pills. We all know people who struggle with alcoholism, but the cynic in me wonders whether blaming the bottle is an effort by Ney to elicit some sympathy in the court of public opinion. After all, the Post reports that Ney has cut a plea deal with DOJ, and entered rehab only yesterday. If admitting a problem with alcohol is enough to lighten his punishment from the Feds, it may also be a way for Ney to get the media off his back.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

New Coalition: America Ain't So Bad

Wash Post's Judy Sarasohn reports on a new coalition hitting the scene, this one designed to promote American tourism to foreigners. Discover America Partnership is described as a "multimillion dollar advocacy campaign designed to boost the number of visitors -- by 10 million a year -- to the United States:

Their aim is to help improve America's image abroad and bolster national security by introducing more people from other countries to us. "In the effort to win hearts and minds, we have a unique card to play," Jay Rasulo , chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, said in a statement. "That card is an invitation . . . to visit America, meet our people and experience our values."
The group has a large board, including reps from National Restaurant Association, Anheuser-Busch, Travel Industry Association of America, American Hotel & Lodging Association, and other tourism companies.

So who's running things? PR is being handled by Fleishman-Hillard; lobbying by BKSH's Charles Merin and Monument Policy Group's Stewart Verdery.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Using Blogs in DC Lobbying Campaigns

My Dittus colleague John Pappas and myself were referenced in Dee Ann Divis' Washington Examiner piece today about how blogs are being used in lobbying campaigns. John specifically talked about his work on behalf of the Poker Players Alliance:

Lobbyists, who lagged while politicians and advertisers tapped the power of the blogosphere, are now actively incorporating blogs into their strategies and are using smaller state campaigns to test which blogs and techniques work best on lawmakers....

...Another blog-focused campaign, this one on the national issue of online gambling and Internet poker, triggered 8,000 letters to Capitol Hill in a single day, reported John Pappas and Adam Kovacevich, assistant vice presidents with Washington-based Dittus Communications

We said a lot more to Dee Ann, but the other guy, from Strategic Vision stole our thunder. Take my word for it - we said some smart things about the power of blogging in public affairs campaigns.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Tuesday People: New #2 Flack for McCain

  • Media fave Sen. John McCain has a new #2 person in his press shop (Andrea Jones recently departed to be media relations director at ABC News' Washington bureau). Melissa Shuffield fills Jones' shoes, most recently serving as deputy press for Sen. Mel Martinez (CongressDaily)
  • Cassidy & Associates, primarily a lobbying firm, has lost two of its in-house comms experts. Aimee Steel, ex-flack to ex-Rep. Pat Toomey (R-PA), leaves Cassidy after three years to start as Director at Levick Strategic Communications. Meanwhile, ex-OMB Press Secretary Chad Kolton, who joined Cassidy in March 2005, is becoming director of public affairs for John Negroponte (the Director of National Intelligence for those not following the org chart closely). Per Roll Call, Kolton had been building a strategic comms practice at Cassidy.