Republican strategist and media consultant Rick Reed already works for some of Capitol Hill’s biggest names, but with his 2004 election coup he’s positioned his firm, Stevens Reed Curcio & Potholm, to be an even bigger player in 2006 and beyond.
Reed’s firm produced the controversial Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ads that are credited with turning the election momentum in President Bush’s favor when the incumbent was down last summer.
“We knew that we had a provocative piece with the first ad, and at that point we just hoped to raise enough money to be able to do a follow-up ad,” Reed said of the initial $500,000 buy for “Any Questions?” — which ran in only small markets in Ohio, Wisconsin and West Virginia.
That turned out to be no problem as the group, a 527 organization, ultimately raised more than $26 million, most of it within 90 days of the first ad airing, he said.
The firm went on to produce eight more spots for the Swifties.
Even that austere first buy may never have happened if the group had not hired well-known GOP strategist Chris LaCivita, Reed said.
“Initially the Swifties weren’t organized enough” to put an ad together, Reed said. But once LaCivita entered the scene — he was the National Republican Senatorial Committee’s political director for the 2002 cycle — the group really got serious, Reed said.
LaCivita then approached Reed about producing the ads and the rest, as they say, is history.
Reed knows that a phenomenon like that does not come along every cycle, and he and his firm’s four principals are concentrating mostly on Congressional races.
In their immediate future is this year’s New Jersey governor’s race, where they are expected to work for Doug Forrester, a former Senatorial candidate, followed by the re-election campaigns of their longtime client, Sen. George Allen (R-Va.), House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) and other top-tier candidates.
This past cycle the firm headed up most of the NRSC’s independent expenditure efforts while also handling numerous House and gubernatorial candidates and spearheading efforts to beat back two ballot initiatives in Maine.
Looking ahead to 2008, Reed said: “We’re in kind of a unique position in that we’ve represented a number of people whose names have been bandied about for president.”
The firm has worked for Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Allen and Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R).
The group does not want to pick a horse too early so the “thinking is we’ll just have to wait and see who runs,” Reed said.
Because of the Swift Boat ads, however, McCain may drop the firm.
McCain was one of the only Republicans to join the chorus of Democrats who were outraged by the Swift Boat ads and their allegations that Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) was dishonest about his Vietnam War record and that he served dishonorably.
“We weren’t surprised that Senator McCain did not want Vietnam to be the central issue of the presidential campaign but I was surprised that he spoke up about the ads and I don’t understand that,” Reed said. “There was nothing dishonest in the commercials.”
Regardless, Reed says he thinks the firm could do more work for McCain.
“I don’t think it helped [the relationship] but I think we’re beyond that now,” he said.
McCain was not immediately available for comment.
All the publicity the ads garnered has raised the firm’s profile and stock.
While the number of want-to-be pols seeking work at the firm has increased this year, the firm has not expanded.
“We’re pretty much able to handle a lot of work,” Reed said, adding there are four partners and one principal. “I don’t think most of our competitors have that many.”
The group has its own studio and in-house production people so it is able to handle high volume, he said.
Reed readily admits that the Swifties could remain the firm’s greatest achievement for some time to come.
“You would think working for people like Frist, DeLay and Allen would be the most exciting thing you’ve ever done … and it’s still exciting … but this was clearly a unique experience, and I don’t know if you ever top it,” Reed said.
Thoroughly Good. Thurgood Marshall Jr. and Suzanne Spaulding have joined the Harbour Group as managing directors.
Spaulding put in more than 20 years on Capitol Hill working national security issues for Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) and Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) and heading up two Congressionally-mandated commissions, among other positions.
Marshall has held positions in the Clinton White House, on Capitol Hill and in the private sector.
Marshall will continue to serve as a partner at Swidler Berlin, the Harbour Group’s parent company.
The Harbour Group does public relations, crisis communications and legislative strategizing for business clients while Swidler Berlin is a law firm with offices in New York and Washington, D.C., that focuses on government affairs and other issues.
The two replace Joel Johnson, who left to join the Glover Park Group.
Johnson was tapped to launch the communications firm’s legislative affairs practice and was named partner.
Before founding the Harbour Group, Johnson served former President Bill Clinton as his senior adviser for public policy and communications. Johnson also served former Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) as staff director for the Senate Democratic leadership.
He will work in conjunction with former DeLay chief of staff Ed Buckham with the lobbying firm he leads, Alexander Strategy Group, which shares offices with the Harbour Group. Those two firms also continue working together.
Four other former Hill staffers also joined the Glover Park Group recently.
Brett O’Brien, a former adviser to both former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell (D-Maine) and former House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.), will lead the international practice.
Mary Ann Chafee came on board with 15 years of legislative experience gained working for former Sens. Dale Bumpers (D-Ark.) and Zell Miller (D-Ga.), as did Erin Graefe, a former Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee finance director.
Kim James will specialize in media training and other areas after her work as communications director to former Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.). She previously was a Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee press secretary.
Koester Coasts In. Kate Koester was named vice president for operations at the Mellman Group.
She was promoted from field director, a position she held for the opinion research and strategic advisory firm for six years.
The Luck of the Lukens. The Lukens Co. has promoted John Schaller to vice president of political services.
He previously was the direct response marketing agency’s political director. He also spent the 2004 cycle heading up the successful direct mail fundraising program of newly-elected Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.).
After You, Alfonse. Former Sen. Alfonse D’Amato (R-N.Y.) and his Park Strategies firm have opened a Washington office.
Former Hill staffer Kraig Siracuse will head up the new locale for the Manhattan-based consulting firm.
It’s a reunion for Siracuse and D’Amato, as Siracuse worked for the three-term Senator both in his personal office and on what was then known as the Senate Banking Committee.
Moore Staff. Jeremy Deutsch, former executive director of the Washington state House Republican organizational committee, has joined the Portland, Ore., office of Moore Information.
Deutsch will serve the GOP polling firm as a senior project manager.