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Media Firms Merge

Murphy Putnam, Shorr Form Powerhouse

Two Democratic media consulting firms joined forces July 1 in an attempt to create a mega-firm that serves as a one-stop shop for candidates seeking a variety of federal and state offices.

Known as Murphy, Putnam, Shorr and Partners, the new firm’s three principals are Steve Murphy, Mark Putnam and Saul Shorr.

Murphy and Putnam have been partners since 1996 in a firm that has largely handled top-tier House races and gubernatorial contests.

Shorr, formerly of Saul Shorr & Associates, has done a number of statewide races, most extensively in Missouri, North Carolina and Pennsylvania.

The three men are also part of a small group of consultants tapped to create ads for a potential independent expenditure effort to be run out of the Democratic National Committee and have done work for both the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in years past.

“We made an offer to Saul to join our firm years ago, and he finally decided to accept,” explained Murphy.

“The time seemed ripe,” said Shorr. “You get to a point where it makes sense to you.”

Shorr added that the transition has been exceedingly smooth.

“I have been in the middle of everything they’re working on and they have been in the middle of everything I’m working on,” he said.

Murphy said the two firms made for a logical pairing due to their shared belief that the quality of the commercials is as important as the message being conveyed in them.

“Both firms have a longstanding commitment to production values and quality control,” Murphy said. “This enhances what all three of us are doing for our clients.”

Murphy and Putnam will remain based in Washington, D.C.; Shorr will continue to work out of his Philadelphia office.

The addition of Shorr as well as Marc Farinella, a former Missouri operative now based in Florida, places the new firm at or near the top of the Democratic media consultant pile.

The select group includes Shrum Devine and Donilon, Struble Eichenbaum Communications, GMMB and Squier Knapp Dunn.

The new firm’s client list includes a number of candidates who are considered the House Democrats’ best chances to oust Republican incumbents.

The firm will handle the media strategy for former Flagstaff Mayor Paul Babbitt, who is challenging freshman Rep. Rick Renzi (R) in Arizona’s 1st district; Athens-Clarke County Commissioner John Barrow, the leading Democratic challenger to Rep. Max Burns (R) in the 12th district of Georgia; and former basketball scout Jon Jennings, who is taking on Indiana 8th district Rep. John Hostettler (R) in the fall.

The firm is no stranger to tight House races, guiding Rep. Stephanie Herseth (D) to a narrow special election victory last month over state Sen. Larry Diedrich (R).

Herseth began that race with a wide lead thanks in large part to her close race against then-Gov. Bill Janklow (R) in 2002, a race that Murphy also handled. She won by less than 3,000 votes and will face Diedrich again in the fall.

The two Senate clients currently in the company’s fold are Oklahoma Rep. Brad Carson (D), who is running for the seat being vacated by Sen. Don Nickles (R), and Georgia Rep. Denise Majette (D).

Carson is the heavy favorite to win the state’s July 27 primary and is seen as roughly an even-money pick in the fall.

Majette faces considerably longer odds as she is running an under-financed campaign to this point for the open seat of retiring Sen. Zell Miller (D).

Governors in Missouri, Delaware, Arizona, North Carolina, Tennessee and Oklahoma are also clients of the new firm.

The decision to join forces was the culmination of more than 20 years of friendship between Murphy and Shorr.

The two met while working campaigns together in Philadelphia in the early 1980s, said Murphy, and have “maintained a friendship and a similar philosophy and approach to working for political candidates.”

Shorr has been a media consultant for much of the past two decades while Murphy and Putnam both worked with Peter Fenn and Tom King in the early 1990s before branching off to start their own firm after the 1996 election.

During those years, Murphy and Shorr “bounced ideas off one another about our respective races,” said Murphy. “We all think outside of the box but think outside of the box differently.”