MWW Group’s Michael Kempner, a staunch supporter of Hillary Clinton, who is shown with him on Kempner’s Facebook page, may get a greater role if she wins the Democratic presidential nomination.
MWW, hit with bad publicity last year when it hired former U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner who resigned in 2011 after revelations he sent sexually-suggestive emails to women, appears to be adopting a lower profile.
The firm, after five years of being in the O’Dwyer rankings, rising to No. 7 with $51.7 million in fees, dropped out this year. It has yet to submit its entry of staff and accounts for the 2016 O’Dwyer’s online Directory of PR Firms which was due Jan. 1, 2016.
An MWW ad schedule for O’Dwyer’s was cancelled and the firm appears to be placing no ads in other media. Reports that Kempner might be selling the firm to devote full time to Clinton’s campaign were dismissed by Kempner via a statement issued by chief of staff Gina Cherwin. Citing "privacy," she would not give the names of the two women shown in the photo with Clinton and Kempner. They are his daughters.
Kempner said “People speculate constantly about me leaving MWWPR for the world of politics. And while I consider it flattering, I am not considering anything except growing MWWPR into the biggest and best mid-sized PR firm in the world.”
Cherwin was formerly director of campaign services for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. She was a fund-raiser for former Vice President Al Gore’s Alliance for Climate Protection from May 2009 to May 2011. Gore led a second of two marriage ceremonies for her and Joshua Jay Cherwin May 15, 2015 in Bridgehampton, N.Y.
Kemper Top Democratic Fund-Raiser
Kempner is a top fund-raiser for President Obama and Clinton. He is listed as a Clinton “Hillblazer,” having raised more than $100K for her campaign in 2015. He is deputy finance chairman, Democratic National Committee, and was deputy finance director for President Obama’s campaign. He is a member of the Democratic National Finance Council.
Such political activism by a PR firm CEO is almost unheard of. Firms usually steer clear of identification with any political party in order to be attractive to company and association managements of all political persuasions.
Kemper’s close ties to Hillary and her No. 1 aide, Huma Abedin, the wife of Weiner, got the firm a bloody PR nose last year and could be the reason for attempts to lower its profile.
Abedin has known Clinton since she was a 19-year-old college student and is sometimes referred to as Clinton’s “surrogate daughter.” She was deputy chief of staff for her when she was Secretary of State.
Abedin Helped Weiner Comeback
She was the “linchpin” of his attempted political comeback after Weiner’s resignation from Congress,” said a New York Times article Jan.19, 2016. It says Abedin “is best known as the closest aide to Hillary Clinton.”
Republican lawmakers have “questioned Abedin’s arrangement to accept outside income as a consultant while working for Clinton at the State Dept.,” said the article. The Dept. made an “inquiry” as to whether she was overpaid nearly $10,000 by the government while on maternity leave in 2012.
Abedin had a leading role in a film on Weiner’s run for mayor of New York in 2013. But instead of helping Weiner, the film gave “an unfettered look at the implosion of Weiner’s mayoral campaign and a wrenching inside account of the couple’s interaction in the aftermath of his second explicit texting scandal,” said NYT.
Despite those two episodes, MWW in July 2015 named Weiner to its board of advisers, saying he will provide counsel on “the workings of Congress and the City of New York.” He was described as a “brilliant strategist [with] expertise on many issues” who would be “a great asset to our firm.”
The New York Post story of July 23, 2015 by Carl Campanile covered details of Weiner’s emails for which he used the name Carlos Danger. Campanile wrote that Weiner was “the last person in the world that most people would call on to dispense advice on dealing with a scandal.”
Obvious conjecture is that Kemper hired Weiner as a favor to Abedin but the move backfired. Two stories ridiculing the appointment of Weiner to MWW ran in the NYP. “If you find yourself in a p.r. nightmare, there’s a swashbuckling new hero you can turn to—Carlos Danger,” wrote Campanile July 23, 2015.
“Disgraced former Congressman Anthony Weiner is out of work again after just two months on the job at the powerhouse PR firm MWW,” wrote NYP’s Arthur Schwartz on Sept. 16, 2015.
O’Dwyer Editor Who Joined MWW Praised Weiner
“MWWPR made a shrewd and gutsy move that puts the New Jersey born (East Rutherford) firm on the Big Apple’s radar,” he wrote, adding, “Weiner is a straight-talking no BS, street-smart guy, a personality-type found lacking in most large PR firms. Before triggering his own downfall via the texting fiasco, he was the most powerful Democratic politician in the city. He’s NYC through and through. A guy who gives street cred to MWW.”
Kempner’s personal Facebook site has numerous political items including those about Donald Trump who may face Clinton for the Presidency in November.
Kempner Praised 2015 Chair Joe Cohen
Kempner in 2013 had high praise for 14-year staff member Joseph Cohen who was named to the PR Week/U.S. “40 under 40” list, described by the magazine as “Among the industry’s most prestigious honors.”
Kempner himself was PR Week’s “PR Professional of the Year” for 2015.
Cohen in 2013 was chair-elect of PR Society of America. He supported giving Society chief of staff Bill Murray the additional title of CEO. That title is usually in the hands of the elected head of a professional association. Murray then handed in his resignation in March, 2014. Cohen's past positions at the Society are listed in his LinkedIn entry:
- National Chair (2014)
- Director, National Board (2011 to 2015)
- Tri-State District Chair (2010)
- President, New Jersey Chapter (2009)
- Vice President, New Jersey Chapter (2008)
- Board Member, New Jersey Chapter (2006/2007)
Kempner, commenting on the PRW/U.S. award in 2013, said that since joining MWW 14 years ago, “Joe has risen to become a leader at MWW and in the communications Industry. He embodies MWW’s culture and values which focus on providing strategic, results-driven innovative thinking that sets new best practices for our firm and our clients.”
Cohen was called “a shining example of MWW’s ability to retain and cultivate our best talent and is a role model and aspiration to our young professionals who have seen Joe grow his career at MWW.”
Cohen joined Kind Snacks, New York, in September 2014 as senior VP of communications.
Kempner, Cohen Unbothered by PRSA Boycott
Cohen, active in PRSA chapter and then national leadership since 2006, never had anything to say about national’s policies which bar reporters from accessing the audit each April and have barred the O’Dwyer Co. from exhibiting its five news and informational products at the national conference since before 2000. He refused to deal with any O'Dwyer staffer either by email, phone call or in-person visit during his year as chair.
A complaint charging the Society with anti-competitive activities was filed March 18 with the Federal Trade Commission. FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez on Aug. 13, 2015 announced FTC would use its “Stand Alone” Section 5 Authority to “address unfair methods of competition.” Complainants do not have to file a lawsuit to get FTC action.
“The promotion of consumer welfare is a cornerstone of the FTC’s antitrust enforcement,” she said.
Abusive PRSA Practices Ignored
Both Kempner and Cohen must have known about the “beat-you-to-a-pulp” threat to Jack O’Dwyer by an Assembly delegate at the 2010 conference in Washington, D.C.
They must be aware of the anti-New York policies of national leadership dominated by Accredited members (who hold 16 of the 17 board seats) that has resulted in one national conference in New York since 1992—a 24-year period. Nor are any planned for the future. Meanwhile, the conference has been in Washington, D.C., twice (2010 and 2014) and Philadelphia twice (2007 and 2013).
The New York chapter accepts this and other instances of being treated like a “poor cousin” including the 2004 move of h.q. downtown to 33 Maiden lane after being in midtown and midtown South from the Society’s founding in 1947 to 2004.
Neither O’Dwyer reporters nor any reporters are allowed access to the annual audit published each April. Adequate coverage of the Society is not possible without access to the financials in a timely fashion. Reporters are barred from joining the Society and therefore to the 22,000 membership list. Up until 2005, when the members’ directory was discontinued, free copies of the directory were sent to many reporters and provided to any who asked for it.
Laura Kane, who was named chief communications officer of the Society earlier this month, has continued to enforce the O’Dwyer boycott, refusing to respond to phone calls or emails. She must be aware of the Society’s history with the press and New York chapter and its refusal to provide timely financials to reporters.
She spent most of her career, from 2003-2014, with Aflac insurance in Atlanta, rising to VP-corporate communications. She was at Marsh (insurance) in New York from October 2014 to March 2016 (18 months) as global head of media relations and external affairs.