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Records show Jonkin staff unhappy with tourism authorities’ choice of the governor’s political office for advertising

The political advertising agency that helped Glenn Youngkin run for governor of Virginia, which created Youngkin’s branding and specializes in work for Republican candidates, received a $268,600 contract from state agencies and Youngkin himself. I made a tourism video that featured the

According to newly obtained records, an aide to Gov. Glenn Youngkin said that the Virginia Tourism Authority had requested the governor for politics to produce state-funded tourism advertisements to air at Virginia’s airports and welcome centers. We expressed concern about the non-competitive selection of digital media agencies to use.

According to records released by the Virginia Tourism Corporation under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act, tourism officials said they would use Poolhouse Agency for an ad featuring Youngkin at a time when Youngkin was considering running the ad. Prior to the April decision, the Governor’s Office had never attempted to exert any influence. I am running for president in 2024 and looking to strengthen my national image.

Agency guidelines recommend six bids for such a project, but Rita McClenny, CEO of Virginia Tourism Corporation, believes that doing so under the law or handing over to fewer vendors is not recommended. and have the power to handpick companies for contracts. She said she chose her pool house last week and that neither the governor nor his staff suggested it to her.

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Democrats sent a letter last week to State Inspector General Michael Westfall calling for an investigation. It’s not yet clear whether his agency will investigate.

The document says Commerce Secretary Karen Merrick has emailed Virginia Tourism officials to say the governor wants multiple bids for a tourism video featuring him.

In summary, McLennie said he decided in March to make a tourism video featuring his boss, the governor. Her agency usually uses Martin agency for such work. Richmond-based Poolhouse, which contributed to the branding and political strategy and helped Youngkin win the governorship last year, has never done tourism advertising in Virginia before.

McClenny says he chose Poolhouse because of his experience working with Youngkin.

Rita McLenny.jpg


Virginia Tourism Corporation

But last week, around April, someone on the governor’s staff expressed concern about what appeared to be a biased selection of pool houses and wanted to bid.

Public records confirm it.

According to the latest records obtained by The Times-Dispatch, Virginia Tourism Corporation officials reached out to Poolhouse employees about the project on March 17 (two months after Youngkin’s oath) and asked them to set up a meeting at the Poolhouse office in late 2018. March. By then, the Virginia Tourism Corporation was working to make Poolhouse an approved state vendor.

The company is particularly known for its digital ads for Republican candidates, including Republican Senator Mitt Romney, Utah Republican Senator, and two Republicans currently running for the Virginia Legislature, Jen Kiggans and Yesli Vega. .

Records show that on March 23, McClenny met with Commerce Secretary Karen Merrick to discuss the project, and Merrick was “satisfied with the idea of ​​the campaign,” tourism records show.

But on March 28, Becca Glover, the governor’s deputy chief of staff and communications director, emailed the governor’s public affairs staff and two officials from the Virginia Department of Tourism in response to an email about the advertising plans. Sent. A bid for a pool house or a single source contract? If so, we really need to talk,” Glover wrote.

By early April, Poolhouse sent the state a sample script for the Governor’s Welcome Project. Poolhouse then signed a state deal to produce the video on her April 13th, with a final deadline for his June 9th. The amount was $268,600.

A state tourism official emailed Poolhouse, saying they wanted Poolhouse to “go into pre-production immediately.”

But Mike McMahon, an executive at the Virginia Tourism Corporation, said in an email to a colleague on April 8 that there had been “minor problems” from the state’s Commerce Secretary and the governor’s office. is now asking for a second quote,” McMahon wrote, followed by a sad face emoji. “But we are ready.”

McMahon emailed a tourism colleague on April 25 asking them to stop working on Poolhouse’s work order, and CEO McClenny said, “I just got a call from the governor’s office to get a bid from Martin. ‘ said. [Agency]A bidding package must be put together. “

Records show that the tourism authority had concerns about opening the project to tender. “Timelines are important because work must be completed.[d] Quickly to take advantage of the summer tourist season,” McMahon wrote to Secretary of Commerce Merrick.

A Pool House rep emailed the state on April 27, saying, “It looks like we’re having some issues. We’re completely pausing this project until the issues are resolved.”

By the next day, however, Poolhouse was working on the project again.

“Obviously we have to adjust some dates, but we will be moving again!” a representative for the Pool House wrote to the tourism authorities.

Merrick wrote to the tourism authorities on the morning of May 5 about the need for competition. She said she thinks Martin Agency would be happy to bid.

In response to the governor’s request, the state offered the Martin Agency an opportunity to bid on the “Governor’s Welcome Project” on May 5, formally sending Poolhouse a new bid offer. Martin declined this, leading the state to make his third offer to a company called Henninger Media Services, but received no response.

“Part of the problem was that we were able to respond to the bids in time. We had very short fuses throughout,” president and CEO Robert Henninger said in an interview. “It didn’t feel like a real opportunity. That was the way we looked.”

Poolhouse signed a new contract on May 18th. The company photographed the governor to create an ad, and on September 20, McLennie signed his $268,600 check to Poolhouse from his Tourism Corporation in Virginia.

Portsmouth MP Minority Leader Don Scott said he still had questions about why and how McEnany chose Poolhouse in the first place. rice field.

According to the governor’s office, the governor, the first lady, or none of the governor’s political or government staff took action to suggest that the Virginia Tourism Board choose Poolhouse.

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