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O'Dwyer's Newsletter - Jun. 18, 2012 - Vol. 45 - No. 25 (download PDF version)

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Accretive Health, the Chicago-based debt collection agency under fire for allegedly demanding pay from emergency room patients before treatment, has hired Duberstein Group for preparation for Congressional hearings.

The New York Times ran a blockbuster piece April 24 about Accretive's strategy of “embedding” debt collectors in hospitals, and other hardball activities, which have been under investigation by Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson.

Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) held a hearing May 30 at Minnesota’s State Capitol in which he took testimony from patients; Swanson; Charles Mooty, interim CEO of Fairview Health Services, and Greg Kazarian, Accretive senior VP.

The author of the End Debt Collector Abuse Act, said: “When Minnesotans go to the emergency room, they should be able to get treatment without first being hassled for payment.”

Ken Duberstein, chief of staff to former President Ronald Reagan, leads the Accretive Health lobbying team.

He’s joined by Daniel Meyer, COS to ex-House Speaker Newt Gingrich and legislative affairs assistant to former President George W. Bush; Steven Champlin, former executive director of the House Democratic Caucus; Brian Griffin, aide to Sen. Bryon Dorgan (DND); Michael Berman, aide to former VP Walter Mondale, and Eric Ueland, COS to ex-Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist.

On May 15, Accretive hired Michael Leavitt, former Secretary of U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services and three-term Utah Governor of Utah, to lead a panel to create a national standard to deal with hospital patient payments.

Members of that group include Frist, Donna Shalala, ex-Secretary of the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, and Tom Daschle, ex-Senator from South Dakota and Majority Leader.


U.S. Customs and Border Protection has put out an agency feeler for communications and outreach services across categories like PR, advertising, media buying and marketing research.

The communications and outreach division of its office of public affairs released a request for information on June 11 in an effort to “refine” its agency needs for campaigns promoting policies, urging registration and compliance for enforcement programs, and other endeavors.

The CBP, based in Washington, D.C., wants to hear conceptual ideas from agencies by June 27 but stresses that no RFP yet exists.

More information is available at the government’s procurement site

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service, also part of the DHS, in October tapped ECU Communications of Virginia to handle PR outreach for two initiatives.


The United Arab Emirates has hired Edelman to help its Directorate of Energy and Climate Change unit build in-house PR and research capability over the next 15 months

The effort for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs unit begins with interviews in the U.S. to gauge awareness and message clarity of the UAE’s position on climate change and energy, according to Edelman’s agreement with the UAE.

Edelman staffers will then provide formal training and a “how-to” manual will be developed during a Communications 101 course."

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs says facing the challenges presenting by climate change is a major priority for the UAE.

According to its website: “The UAE is a low lying coastal country with an arid climate and which already faces high temperatures. At the same time, we play a central role in the world's energy economy as a supplier of fossil fuels, which gives us an important stake in finding solutions to cutting emissions while still providing the world with the energy it needs.”

Edelman reports to Thani Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, who heads the Directorate. The UAE’s Abu Dhabi hosts the International Renewable Energy Agency, which was formed in 2009, to accelerate the growth of solar, wind and hydro power.


A senior associate for Mercury Public Affairs handling its Wal-Mart account has left the firm after she posed as a journalism student at an event urging workers at the retailer to unionize.

Mercury staffer
Photo: WWU

Stephanie Harnett told warehouse workers at a June 6 press conference she was a journalism student and gave the name “Zoe Mitchell.” A week later at another press conference, she revealed her identity, according to Warehouse Workers United, a union-backed group, which posted a picture of the 26-year-old PR staffer on its website.

“The action taken by Ms. Harnett was in no way approved, authorized, or directed by Walmart or Mercury,” said a statement from Mercury. “Stephanie is a junior member of our team who made an immature decision. She showed very poor judgment and Mercury takes full responsibility. We are taking the necessary disciplinary actions. This is an isolated incident that has never happened before and will not happen again.”

Wal-Mart tapped Mercury as it hopes to build a Los Angeles store in the city’s Chinatown neighborhood, where opposition has sparked in the labor and political community.

Wal-Mart also criticized Harnett’s conduct in a statement. “Our culture of integrity is a constant at Walmart and by not properly identifying herself, this individual’s behavior was contrary to our values and the way we do business,” said Steve Restivo, senior director of community affairs.

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