Down on the Riverfront

Posted March 3, 2004 at 6:06pm

A close examination of Sen. John Kerry’s (D-Mass.) spending in the presidential race to this point shows that he has disbursed more than $7 million to a company called Riverfront Media.

Who is behind this mystery firm? None other than Bob Shrum of Shrum Devine Donilon and Jim Margolis of GMMB, the two consultants leading Kerry’s media effort as he prepares for a November face-off against President Bush.

Margolis explained that the new company, which is run out of GMMB, was formed to “make sure that there was an ability to wall off the presidential race from the other activity that we do.”

Margolis added that forming a unique company with a dedicated staff solely for the presidential race makes it easier to comply with Federal Election Commission regulations.

“It is much easier if you have a separate entity so the finances and the media track,” said Margolis. “It’s easy when the FEC wants to do an audit.”

Riverfront Media not only handles the production of Kerry’s spots, but also the media buying.

Margolis has been with the campaign since its inception, while Shrum, perhaps the pre-eminent speechwriter in Democratic politics, was added to the team roughly a year ago.

At that time, Shrum was also considering working for North Carolina Sen. John Edwards’ presidential campaign (D). Shrum handled Edwards’ media when he defeated then-Sen. Lauch Faircloth (R) in 1998.

This is not the first time that such a joint venture has been established to handle the massive amounts of money being spent on the nationwide television advertising campaigns in a presidential race.

In the 2000 presidential race, Mark McKinnon, Stuart Stevens and Alex Castellanos formed Maverick Media to handle Bush’s ads.

The Bush media team, which will launch its first ads of the campaign today, has beefed up its ranks, adding a handful of Republican consultants, including Scott Howell and Fred Davis.

In 1992, Margolis was part of Great American Media, which oversaw the advertising for then-Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton (D).

On a side note, Riverfront Media is being sued by a Peoria, Ill.-based company that makes demo tapes for up and coming bands and carries the same name.

Scott Tranchitella, the head of the music firm, would say only that a “lawsuit is pending” regarding the naming rights.

Coop to the Group. Chris Cooper has been named a partner in the direct-mail firm Malchow Schlackman Hoppey & Cooper Inc.

“This is a first-class organization and it’s a privilege to help the clients we work for,” said Cooper.

Cooper has been with the company for four years. In 2002 he helped handle the mail and strategy for the successful campaign of Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano (D) and did Democratic party work in Arizona and Georgia.

Cooper is currently embroiled in the crowded Illinois Senate Democratic primary on behalf of wealthy businessman Blair Hull, who has already dumped $24 million of his own money into the race.

A Charleston native, Cooper got his start in campaign politics in 1994 when he served as turnout coordinator for Charleston Mayor Joe Riley Jr.’s (D) unsuccessful gubernatorial primary race in South Carolina.

The following cycle Cooper served as campaign manager for Rep. John Spratt (D-S.C.), who had narrowly escaped defeat in the 1994 Republican tidal wave election.

Facing a rematch, Spratt won by a more comfortable 54 percent to 45 percent margin.

Riddle Me This. Veteran Democratic political operative Mark Riddle has left the campaign trail, taking a position in the Nashville-based Fletcher Rowley & Chao, a Democratic media consulting firm.

“The day-to-day trek on a campaign can make for very long days,” said Riddle, explaining his new job as a “lifestyle decision.”

Most recently, Riddle served as the Arizona campaign manager for retired Gen. Wesley Clark’s (D) presidential bid.

Prior to that Riddle was executive director of the Kentucky Democratic Party during the unsuccessful 2003 gubernatorial campaign of former state Attorney General Ben Chandler (D); Riddle managed Chandler’s primary victory.

(After losing to then-Rep. Ernie Fletcher [R] in the governor’s race, Chandler won a special election last month to replace him in Congress.)

In the 2002 cycle, Riddle managed Jack Conway’s race against Rep. Anne Northup (R) in the Louisville-based 3rd district.

Northup won that contest 52 percent to 48 percent.

Fletcher Rowley & Chao has been the consultant of choice for a number of Tennessee Democrats, including Rep. Lincoln Davis’ open-seat victory in 2002 and then-Rep. Bob Clement’s unsuccessful Senate bid.

The firm has signed up former Court of Appeals Judge Ned Doucet (D) in Louisiana’s 7th district, which is being vacated by Rep. Chris John (D).

High Finance. Chantel McCormick has been hired as the new finance director for Kentucky state Sen. Daniel Mongiardo (D), who is challenging Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) this year.

McCormick served in the same capacity for two of the Democrats’ recent success stories: the special election that just put Chandler into Congress, and the 2002 re-election campaign of Sen. Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), who won a second term by just 524 votes.

Go West, Young Woman. Sarah Rosen, who just left her post as communications director for Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.), will assume the same position this month for the Arizona Democratic Party in Phoenix.

Previously Rosen worked as communications director for Rep. Sam Farr (D-Calif.). She has also worked for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and for the unsuccessful 2002 Congressional campaign of Ira Shapiro (D) in Maryland.

Impact Players. Direct Impact, a grassroots public affairs and marketing services firm, has added to its field and media departments.

Beth Frigola, a former communications policy analyst with the National Republican Congressional Committee, will be the new legislative director at the firm. She previously worked as deputy communications director for the House Government Reform Committee.

Heather Wells, a former press secretary to Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), was named senior manager for media relations at Direct Impact. She has worked in public relations and for several Democratic campaigns in Florida.