The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Wednesday, May 01, 2002  


In today's New York Post we read that Saudi Arabia has hired at least five prominent Washington public and government relations firms with close ties to the Republican Party to improve its image in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Who's getting the business?

Sandler-Innocenzi Inc. ("There's too much noise on television.") has been assigned the task of placing ads on television that portray Saudi Arabia as an ally in the Bush administration's efforts to stop terrorism.

Among Sandler-Innocenzi's clients: the Republican National Committee, the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the National Republican Congressional Committee, the Republican Governor's [sic] Association, the Republican National State Elections Committee, the New Hampshire Republican Party, the Republican Party of Florida, Gov. Kirk Fordice (R-Miss.), Gov. Phil Batt (R-Ida.), Gov. Judy Martz (R-Mont.), Sen. Larry Craig (R-Ida.), Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Ida.), Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), Rep. Nathan Deal (R-Ga.), Rep. Mike Bilarakis (R-Fla.), Rep. Steve Schiff (R-N.M.), Rep. Wayne Gilchrest (R-Md.), Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), Rep. Jim Gibbons (R-Nev.), Rep. Bob Schaffer (R-Colo.), Rep. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), Rep. Clay Shaw (R-Fla.) Rep. Mike Oxley (R-Ohio), Rep. Tom Delay (R-Texas), Rep. Steve Buyer (R-Ind.), Rep. Jim Leach (R-Iowa), Rep. Adam Putnam (R-Fla.), and Rep. Butch Otter (R-Ida.).

Sandler-Innocenzi also worked for Enron Corp., which is hoping to emerge from bankruptcy "as a strong and viable, albeit smaller, company," on the issue of “electrical monopoly deregulation.”

Next up, Qorvis Communications, "Communication for Wall Street, Main Street and K Street," which is pulling in $2.4 million on an annualized basis -- not from the Saudis but from Sandler-Innocenzi, which has outsourced the job of placing the ads. That leads us to wonder what exactly Sandler-Innocenzi is doing and how much the firm has been paid for its services.

"The Saudi strategy is to 'increase awareness' and promote their 'commitment in the war against terrorism,' according to the p.r. contract with Qorvis," the Post reports.

Sandler-Innocenzi declined to comment and has not registered as a foreign agent with the Department of Justice.

Also on the take, Patton Boggs L.L.P., the law firm that "sees things differently." Patton Boggs has snagged a two-month, $200,000 contract, and Hill & Knowlton, which has shaken down the Saudis to the tune of $77,000 a month.

Burson-Marsteller, the public relations firm with "the best people," was paid $2.5 million by the Saudis on September 19 to place newspaper ads in the U.S., including an ad expressing the country's condolences in the aftermath of the deadly attacks.

Finally, Jamie Gallagher, a lobbyist and former Republic Senate staffer, picked up $20,000 for advising the Saudis before their recent meetings with President Bush and top congressional Republicans.

How's it flying? Not very well, apparently. Even in an advertising-starved market the Weather Channel and A&E have rejected the Saudis' ads, though the Post says some local stations have aired the spots.

The political fall-out? Nothing yet, but we're looking forward to hearing the reactions of the firms' clients.

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