How two Ky. groups on different sides of Obamacare share the same megaphone

05/20/2013 04:43 PM

After Gov. Steve Beshear announced his decision to expand Medicaid in Kentucky on May 9, the group Kentucky Voices for Health ran online ads thanking him.

Earlier that week, the super PAC Kentucky Opportunity Coaltion made a six-figure ad buy criticizing Obamacare — the legislation that made that expansion possible.

Both groups use the same public relations firm, the relatively new RunSwitch Public Relations firm that officially launched in February and already has become a force in influencing policy debates in Kentucky.

So how does one firm handle two clients with seemingly opposing philosophies on the same issue?

Scott Jennings, a partner of RunSwitch Public Relations and a longtime political operative, serves as a senior adviser to the Kentucky Opportunity Coalition — the 501(c )4 non-profit corporation whose ads say the Affordable Care Act would be a “train-wreck.”

Jennings said the firm has established a firewall between the political work he does for his clients and the non-political advocacy other partners at the firm handle.

“As in most large professional services firms with multiple partners and employees, our people are often working on clients that are unique to them. My partner, Steve Bryant, has vendor relationships with some clients I’m not involved with. I have vendor relationships with some clients that Steve isn’t involved with,” Jennings said in a statement to Pure Politics. “Further, we have an internal firewall that prohibits anyone at the firm other than myself and one other person from doing work for the Kentucky Opportunity Coalition.”

It’s not unusual for political consultants — or public affairs firms — to have clients whose views don’t align. But it’s not everyday views of clients are so diametrically opposed.

Jennings and Steve Bryant conceived RunSwitch last year and officially launched it in February as a firm that handles public advocacy campaigns, public relations, media buying, lobbying and political consulting.

After the governor’s decision to go ahead with the expansion of Medicaid in the state, the Kentucky Voices for Health coalition also released a statement applauding the decision. The coalition’s partners include groups such as the Kentucky Youth Advocates, Kentucky Council of Churches and Kentucky Equal Justice Center. The press release was sent from a RunSwitch PR email.

Bryant told Pure Politics in a phone interview that he has worked closely with the health care advocacy group for years before starting RunSwitch PR. And he said the group is actually associated with his other firm, BK Public Affairs, not RunSwitch. So the press release should have come from the other account.


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