Category Archives: Lobbying

Just Say No to E-Cig Lobbyists

Late last month, I received the following note from Raymond Glendening, the CEO of Scarlet Oak Strategies lobbying firm:

I hope you’re well.  I wanted to reach out for an idea for Seventh State.  As you likely know, the e-cig industry is currently being regulated by the FDA and there is looming regulations coming out of Annapolis (21 bill) and Baltimore City (flavor ban).

We are reaching out to see if you have interest in interviewing the vaping industry’s national spokesperson, David Pasch, on one of your talk shows.

We want to help balance the coverage, as there is considerable evidence that vaping products and e-cigarettes are among the most useful tools to help adult smokers’ quit traditional cigarettes, as noted in this recent study by the New England Journal of Medicine.

This new tax would make it harder for adults to gain access to these life changing products which are not only 95% safer than combustible cigarettes, they have been proven nearly twice as effective as other nicotine replacement products – like patches and gum – at helping adults quit smoking.

David Pasch, a spokesperson for Voices for Vaping, is available to further discuss the impact this tax would have, especially for adults seeking alternatives to smoking. David previously served in a senior communications role at the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, as a Communications Director in the House of Representatives, and for various non-profit organizations active in the healthcare and public health space. 

Maryland became one of the first states to ban smoking in indoor workplaces in the country under the leadership of the then-Gov. Parris Glendening, Raymond’s father. While e-cigs may help smokers quit, they have also proven to be quite the gateway drug for teenagers, who are more likely to take up smoking if they used e-cigs. Of course, there is nothing healthy about e-cigs, which contain nicotine and formaldehyde among other noxious chemicals.

Trump Cheerleader David Pasch is one heck of a choice of a representative for this industry, as Politico reported:

David Pasch, who ran HHS’ digital communications until this month, regularly parked his car — with “FAKENWS” vanity license plates — outside agency headquarters.

This Trump hack ought who went from HHS to advocating for the tobacco industrial complex ought to be a real hit on State Circle. Of course, it helps to have the son of a former Democratic governor paving the way

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Leventhal Blasts the Dumbest Lobbying Campaign of All Time

By Adam Pagnucco.

On the evening of October 20, a representative of Clark Enterprises (Bob Eisenberg) appeared before the Montgomery County Council to testify on the Downtown Bethesda Master Plan.  Clark has been involved in a dispute with its next-door neighbor, fellow developer Brookfield Properties, over Brookfield’s plan to erect a new building on top of the Bethesda Metro Station.  Clark hired PR firm KOFA Public Affairs to wage a campaign to block the new building that accused Council Members of being tools of developers and criticized their salaries.  Accordingly, we labeled it “The Dumbest Lobbying Campaign of All Time” since even dimwitted lobbyists understand that elected officials don’t respond well to attacks on their integrity.

Above is the reaction of Council Member George Leventhal to KOFA’s insult-laden campaign.  Hide the children, folks!

 

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Is This the Dumbest Lobbying Campaign of All Time?

By Adam Pagnucco.

Suppose you want to persuade an elected official to vote in a certain way.  Which of the following tactics would you choose?

  1. Prepare the best case on the merits of the issue that you can.
  1. Mobilize a large part of the public to agree with you.
  1. Insult the elected official’s integrity and criticize his or her salary.

If you picked Tactic 3, congratulations!  You could get hired by one of Maryland’s top PR firms to run the Dumbest Lobbying Campaign of All Time!

What is this campaign, you ask?  It involves a Battle of Developers in Downtown Bethesda.  (Ring the bell, folks!)  On one side is Clark Enterprises, one of the nation’s largest real estate and construction firms that is headquartered at Bethesda Metro Center.  On the other side is Brookfield Properties, another giant real estate firm based in New York and Toronto, which bought 3 Bethesda Metro Center for $150 million in 2011.  Brookfield would like to place a new high-rise on the concrete Bethesda Metro plaza and the Planning Board agreed to it in its proposal for the area’s new master plan.  Clark, whose existing building would be right next door to Brookfield’s new building, opposes it.

The Montgomery County Council has final say over all master plans, and so Clark paid for a grass-roots lobbying campaign.  A website proclaiming a need to “Protect Bethesda Open Space” was registered in May and emails from constituents started arriving in council inboxes.  While the emails varied a bit in content, the following two sentences appeared word-for-word in a great many of them.

“The County Council has sided with the developers one too many times here in our recent history.”

“After recent raises to our taxes and to your salaries, we ask that the same priority be given to the people who live and work in downtown Bethesda.”

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Your author has worked for and with elected officials for a long time.  There are many differences among them.  But one thing absolutely every single one of them HATES is to be called a tool.  The only thing worse is to get hundreds of their constituents to call them tools.  You may as well burn down their houses, vandalize their cars, loot their bank accounts and then ask them to give you a vote.  See how that works for you!

And on top of that, is it really wise for a campaign financed by a real estate company to encourage residents to criticize Council Members for siding with developers?  What will those residents say the next time Clark wants to build something?

But Clark is only the client.  They hired someone to run the campaign for them.  One clue appears in this notice listing a certain Bassam Tarbush as a contact for the website.  Tarbush is also named in the campaign’s response emails.  According to his Linkedin profile, Tarbush is employed by KOFA Public Affairs, one of Maryland’s most prominent public relations firms.  That is astounding for two reasons.

  1. KOFA’s principals, who are regarded as professional and competent in Maryland’s political circles, have lots of experience working for elected officials. They include senior aides to former Governor Martin O’Malley, former Baltimore County Executive Jim Smith and U.S. Senator Ben Cardin. If anyone understands how outraged elected officials can get when their integrity is impugned, these people do.
  1. The firm’s roots are deeply planted in the Democratic Party. Its principals have devoted substantial parts of their careers to helping Democrats like O’Malley and Cardin succeed. And yet, here is a group of Democratic operatives running a campaign that depicts Democratic elected officials as tools of developers.

Clark Enterprises is a well-respected real estate firm that has other priorities here in addition to what happens at Bethesda Metro Center.  Burning its bridges with the County Council through such a ham-handed lobbying campaign goes against its long-term interests.  For its own sake, Clark should go back to the drawing board, figure out a different message, hire someone else to implement it and end The Dumbest Lobbying Campaign of All Time.

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