Consultants face a dilemma when their client gets his or herself into a public pickle: Stay on and risk their own reputations or resign and appear disloyal.
Florida Rep. Trey Radel is the latest example of a politician testing his staff and consultants’ loyalty. Radel, a freshman Republican who succeeded former Rep. Connie Mack, pleaded guilty to cocaine possession Wednesday. He blamed the “disease of alcoholism” and subsequently took a leave of absence from Congress to enter rehab. There hasn’t been an exodus of advisors or staff from Radel’s camp — yet.
In Georgia, meanwhile, it didn’t take a public snafu for the campaign staff to quit Rep. Phil Gingrey’s (R) Senate campaign. General consultant Chip Lake, campaign manager John Porter, political director David Allen and political adviser Justin Tomczak quite en masse on Monday, according to the Daily Caller.
Lake spoke publicly about his departure.
“We hit a crossroads in the campaign, and I just made a decision that it was best for both parties if we went in different directions,” he told the DC. “There was a fundamental disagreement on how to execute the campaign, and those differences over time just became too big of an obstacle for both parties, and at the end of the day I don’t know that he was very comfortable, and I don’t know that we were comfortable, and so we just thought it was best to move in different directions.”
Lake wished Gingrey “nothing but the best moving forward.”
The consultant-client parting of ways can be a delicate proposition, according to Bill Wachob, who was former San Diego Mayor Bob Filner’s media consultant before the Democrat took office.
“In terms of damage control, you have to be a little careful because the one thing clients or candidates don’t want is consultants who are only interested in themselves, in their own reputation,” Wachob tells C&E. “If I were the candidate, I would want to see if the person leaving is using it or exploiting it.”
Wachob says that there are inevitably conflicts between consultants and clients, sometimes over issues and sometimes over personal behavior. Consultants then have to decide if they stay or go.
“It is obviously a business, but generally people who are consultants or who are campaign people are in it because they believe in certain things and they believe the people they’re working for can promote those issues and if that’s compromised you have to make a choice,” he says.
Deciding if an incident — or in Filner’s case, a pattern of compromising behavior — is worth quitting over is like identifying art, according to Wachob, who served in the Pennsylvania state Assembly and ran for Congress. “You know it when you know it when you see it,” he says.
Doing your own PR in these cases is often unnecessary, he adds.
“It’s typically not the only client that you have in a given area,” says Wachob, a partner in The Campaign Group. “So you do have other people who arguable are happy with your work and content with your decision and supportive of the decision.
“I don’t know that there’s a lot of PR that you’d have to do on your own. Just cut your losses and get out and make the best of it.”