The Washington Free Beacon reported today on a document that was being circulated to hedge funds as part of a larger proposal to rehabilitate the industry’s image in the wake of sustained attacks by the Obama administration, Democrats in Congress, and Occupy Wall Street, among others. The document was put together by the public relations firm McClean/Clark LLC, but included prominent Republican and Democratic consultants from an array of firms, including SKDKnickerbocker. The document listed SKDK as the lead consultants on the "paid media" component of the PR campaign, alongside a picture and bio of Anita Dunn, an SKDK managing director and former Obama White House communications director.
While McClean/Clark denied that the proposal had advanced into an actual campaign, when the Washington Free Beacon first approached SKDK for comment, an aide to Anita Dunn stated, "Look, I’m not giving any answer to any question to you whatsoever on this topic." However, the same aide did subsequently email the Washington Free Beacon to say that "SKDK is not currently working with McLean Clark on any projects."
Since the publication of our report, SKDK senior vice president Paul Thornell made a statement to Politico claiming that his firm had "made it clear last summer that we were not interested in being part of any proposal and we've not been part of any ongoing McLean/Clark work on this issue." However, an email obtained by the Washington Free Beacon and dated Nov. 28, 2011, casts doubt on Thornell’s claim. The email, printed below, contained the proposal which still featured Anita Dunn as part of a team of PR professionals assembled by McClean/Clark offering group or individual meetings with hedge fund staffers in both Greenwich and New York City.
Sent: Monday, November 28, 2011 5:04 PM
Subject: Follow up to our summer dinner re: hedge funds' public image
I hope everyone had a happy and healthy Thanksgiving holiday.
Last summer, several of us attended a dinner and presentation by the public affairs firm McLean/Clark. We discussed the public perception of the financial industry and legislative and regulatory risks to hedge funds in particular. The bi-partisan team led by McLean/Clark partners Joe McLean and James Berger, laid out the stark realities about the environment in which our industry now finds itself. That evening we began to explore how we could employ an integrated public affairs campaign to help mitigate and repair the damage as well as increase our upside potential through an improved image, [redacted].
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Both the Democrats and Republicans on the McLean/Clark team are in 100% agreement this deterioration is sure to accelerate as the presidential campaign season fuels new rounds of finger pointing and misinformation. Therefore they believe that now is time to take steps to prevent politicians or business competitors from using our industry as a scapegoat, target us for their own political or business gain or promote ineffective regulations. McLean/Clark has prepared a strategic plan and drafted a proposal to develop and execute a state-based grassroots campaign to accomplish just that.
I have attached a copy of the executive summary of their detailed proposal. Please take a look, with a view toward meeting again with them and their team to discuss establishing a potential coalition (would be structured to provide anonymity to the extent desired). Please treat this document as confidential, and feel free to call me or XXX/XXX if you would like to discuss this and receive a copy of the full proposal. They intend to schedule small group or individual meetings (both in New York City and Greenwich).
The Washington Free Beacon has requested comment from Anita Dunn's office in order to explain the chronological discrepancy. We will update this story as warranted.