(PR) Seminar, the annual gathering of blue chip corporate PR executives, hosted one of its most controversial speakers ever this year — Van Jones, a community activist who has been called "a communist-anarchist radical."
For at least while, he had the ear of President Obama and many key figures in the Obama Administration.
Critics found he had signed a petition in 2004 questioning whether the Bush Administration had allowed the 9/11 attacks to provide a pretext for war in the Middle East and that he had publicly supported Mumia Abu-Jamal, accused murderer of a Philadelphia cop.
His ice-cold sendoff by the administration included two brief statements released just after midnight Saturday on a holiday weekend.
His appearance at Seminar, had he remained with the Administration, would not have squared with the policy of President Obama to attack the “culture of secrecy in Washington where information is locked up, taxpayer dollars disappear without a trace, and lobbyists wield undue influence.”
Obama has also said he would erase “the belief that the government benefits the special interests and the well connected at the expense of the American people.”
He signed the “Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government” that is meant to “bridge the gap between the American people and their government.”
Seminarians are nothing if not “special interests and the well connected.” Also, they give new meaning to the word, “secrecy.”
Seminar Should Revert to Previous Name
They should keep their name “PR Seminar” because it’s more descriptive than “Seminar” which says nothing about the nature of this group, whose members include those from scores of Fortune 100 companies and about half of the top 25 (General Electric, Ford, J.P. Morgan Chase, Hewlett-Packard, Citigroup, General Motors, AIG, IBM, Procter & Gamble and Kroger).
Financial giants not in the industrial ranking include Visa, MasterCard, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and American Express.
Not in the top 25 but pretty large are Johnson & Johnson, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, FedEx and Kraft.
“Seminar” fills the bill for a false front.
President Obama has promised “transparency” and the one thing that (PR) Seminar is not is transparent. It should run its previous flag up the flagpole.
Sources at the meeting said that just about everyone attended since few identity badges were left on the table. There was no concern over the boycott that some cities, companies and organizations are conducting against Arizona because of its strict new immigration laws.
Lobbying at federal and state levels has become the main concern of companies with communications taking a back seat. It doesn’t matter in many cases what people think as long as the right laws are passed and enforced or not enforced, as the case may be.
Another hotbed of secrecy, subterfuge and intrigue is PRSA where some members are trying to introduce democratic principles although the Society has forbidden such tactics for many years.
Trying to introduce democracy when the tools of democracy are denied to those trying to do this is a no brainer. It’s like a hand trying to scratch itself.
Almost all chapter leaders thus far, who get all their goodies from national and none from the rank-and-file members who are at least 80% non-APR, are not going to allow any voting by members. Otherwise, the APRs would be quickly deposed, ending a reign of about 35 years. Attempts to dislodge them have been going on since 1999.
An exception is the nearly 500-member Detroit chapter which has scheduled an e-mail vote by the members next week. President of the chapter is Rich Donley of Airfoil PR. Eleven of the 17 directors are APR and all five officers are APR.
We’re disappointed that there is no scheduled vote in the New York chapter itself, some of whose members originated this drive to talk tigers into becoming vegetarians.
The 767-member chapter only has 51 who are APR or 6.6%. Given a chance to vote (which they won’t get), the rank-and-file members would oust the APRs by a huge margin.
However, chapter leadership is cool to this. Irene Maslowski (pictured at left), oddly chapter president even though her PR firm is 24 miles away in Roseland, N.J., only signed the online petition of the Committee for a Democratic PRSA on May 18 which was almost a month after the first signatures went up (April 23).
She signed it “Irene Maslowski, New Jersey.” She should have said she was president of the New York chapter. That would have made her the only chapter president among 110 supporting the CDP. What is she afraid of? We can’t get Maslowski to show any interest in polling chapter members right now.
No Democracy in New York Chapter
If committee leaders can’t even get democracy practiced in their own chapter how can they expect it to flourish elsewhere?
Another chapter we’re looking at is National Capital, the biggest by far with 1,350 members in its area of whom 1,150 are members.
Since it’s based in the seat of our democracy, one would expect that democratic principles might be followed. No.
The chapter gets 14 votes since it represents the non-members in its area. Although APRs account for only 20% of members, suddenly 13 of the 14 Assembly delegates are APR!
What kind of justice can the non-APRs expect from them? None. NCC president Jeff Ghannam shows no interest in asking the rank-and-file for their opinion. There is no mention of the CDP on the chapter’s website.
NCC is one of the most loyal of chapters and a hotbed of APR.
APRs dominate national committees and task forces. Twenty-nine of the 35 chairs and co-chairs on the Society’s website are APRs. These are the chairs and co-chairs that bylaws re-write committee members last year wanted to add to the Assembly as voting delegates. They lost. Sixty-nine of the 138 Silver Anvil judges in 2010 are APR.
Our guess is that APRs see the designation as something that will help their careers by burnishing their resumes with some of the literally thousands of titles that national can hand out.
These are seen as resume-enhancers that will help the APRs to land or keep a job. The cost is comparatively high--$385—but the return can be high if a job interviewer also happens to be APR.
Chapter presidents of the 25 largest chapters who have not signed the petition (in order of the size of the chapters) are listed below Seventeen are APR.
Jeff Ghannam, National Capital
Tim Hussey, APR, Georgia
Stephanie Krol, Chicago
Eric Moses, Los Angeles
Elizabeth Monaghan, APR, Colorado
Richard Donley, APR, Detroit
Candee Wolf Olson, APR, Minnesota
Stephanie Dedeaux, APR, Houston
Neil Neroutsos, APR, Puget Sound
Michael Gross, Philadelphia
Jaron Terry, APR, Central Ohio
Meghan Gross, Boston
Patricia Alvarenga-Smith, APR
Jamaison Schuler, APR, Hoosier
Laura LaChapelle, APR, Maryland
Mary Scheibel, APR, S.E. Wisconsin
Ken Hunter, APR. New Jersey
Katie Coates Ageson, APR, Orange County
Joel Goldstein, Greater Cleveland
Sara Wacker, APR, San Diego
(Mr.) Chris Kemper, APR, Cincinnati
David Thompson, APR, Portland, Oregon
Krysta Pellegrino, San Francisco
Jill Haynes, APR, St. Louis