Raul Grijalva
Raúl Grijalva

Is PR the mastermind behind nefarious campaigns bankrolled by Big Oil designed to torpedo legislative action to combat climate change? Inquiring Congressional minds want to know.

A Congressional committee is exploring whether Big Oil and its trade associations used PR “to influence public opinion and policymaking” in ways to prevent the US from addressing the climate crisis.

Congressman Raúl Grijalva, chair of the House Committee on Natural Resources, and Representative Katie Porter, Oversight and Investigations subcommittee chair, sent letters to CEOs of five communications firms on June 12 asking for information about campaigns pertaining to global warming PR.

Those lucky letter recipients are FTI Consulting CEO Steven Gunby, Singer Associates’ Sam Singer, DDC Public Affairs’ BR McConnon, Story Partners’ Debra Cabral and Blue Advertising’s Bob McKernan.

Blue Advertising, which used to be part of Edelman, touts work for the American Petroleum Institute on its website.

“Buffeted by a challenging public opinion environment, the U.S. oil and natural gas industry hired Blue to create an education campaign unprecedented in the industry’s history,” said the ad agancy.

That effort “focused on showcasing both the benefits oil and natural gas bring to all facets of American life, as well as the industry’s innovation and technological prowess.”

Grijalva and Porter would love to hear all about that award winning campaign for API.

They also are eager to receive all documents and communications from 2013 to the present concerning PR, marketing, influence campaigns (including supporting background and analytics) for companies and trade groups in the oil, natural gas and coal sectors.

The Congressional pair is raring to go. They want to receive the stuff by June 27.

And now for something completely different: a spot of good news. With stocks crashing, inflation soaring, recession looming, global tensions rising, COVID-19 persisting, Ukraine war raging, global famine impending, Biden sinking and Trump looming, WPP’s GroupM issued a rather upbeat forecast for 2022 ad spending.

It sees 8.4 percent ad growth, excluding political spots. That’s off a bit from the 9.7 forecast made in December but a sign that the apocalypse has not taken root in adland.

In its June 13 forecast, GroupM takes a shot of overheated press accounts of economic collapse. “Economic conditions are actually not quite so bad as headlines might suggest,” it says.

Let’s hope GroupM isn’t just whistling past the graveyard.

It’s open season on environmental, social and governance investing, with critics ranging from big mouth Elon Musk to low-key former vice president Mike Pence.

Musk ripped ESG as “a scam that has been weaponized by social justice warriors" after S&P Global booted Tesla from its ESG Index. Sour grapes, perhaps.

Pence wants to reel in ESG investing because it elevates “left-wing goals” over the interest of businesses and their employees. That will be one of the hallmarks of the Pence presidency, which is a long-shot at best.

There is a new champion of ESG. Preet Bharara, the former US attorney for the Southern District of New York loves ESG.

The 53-year-old Bharara has just been named partner at the prestigious WilmerHale law firm.

His description of his new gig sounds more like that of a top-level corporate PR executive. He is going to advise CEOs and board members about “how to do the right thing in the first place and how to stay out of trouble."

Bharara also told the New York Times’ Dealbook that he expects to focus on ESG issues, saying companies ignore ESG at their peril. “Simple-minded criticism of this issue fails to appreciate its complexity and its emerging importance,” said Bharara.

Welcome to the ESG world, Preet. It needs you.