Great Moments in PR Comedy, Starring Rick Perry and the B of A

Plus see delicious Act Three update, at bottom.

This is a drama in two acts. Act One was an "ooops, that microphone was still on???" moment at the end of a Rick Perry appearance in New Hampshire. A man who could be cast as a lobbyist in a DC-based potboiler movie, and who actually turns out to be Director of Public Policy for America's biggest bank a lobbyist*, walks past Perry. He barely breaks stride or looks directly at Perry but says right into his ear. "Bank of America. We'll help you out." Courtesy of Zero Hedge and then the WSJ here is a C-Span video of a moment that might seem crude and too obvious if it actually were in a movie. (Let's say with Josh Brolin or Jeff Bridges as the candidate and of course Bruce Greenwood as the silky lobbyist.) It's right at the start of this clip, which is cued to the 40 minute mark. The bank official lobbyist approaches from the left -- he's the guy in glasses.

Now here is Act Two, the beauty part. Lawrence Di Rita, formerly known as head spokesman for Donald Rumsfeld at the Pentagon, is now the spokesman for Bank of America. And his explanation will enter the classic ranks of PR-dom. According to the WSJ he said (emphasis added):

>>"Bank of America does not endorse Presidential  candidates.  The reference was about following up on the substance of his speech about job creation and economic growth.  Discussing policy issues that affect our company and our customers is something we do with policymakers  of both parties routinely at the local, state, and Federal levels."<<

Yes, that is entirely convincing! I am sure everyone who gets a look at this scene, including Governor Perry, will instantly understand that when a senior bank official financial lobbyist whispers "We'll help you out" into the ear of a rising politician, that's a simpler way of saying "I am interested in following up on the substance of your speech." Who could think anything else?

There is enough in the political news to make you unhappy. It's worth treasuring an occasion to smile, even guffaw.
* According to Politico, the man in the scene actually "does policy" for B of A, rather than officially lobbying. OK. But: "Bank of America. We'll help you out."???  Come on.

UPDATE ACT THREE: In addition to its convincing "follow up on substance" explanation, Bank of America was at pains to make clear that its official was not a registered "lobbyist," but in fact a "policy" expert. Thus the corrections carefully noted above, which don't change the nature of the interaction.

But it turns out that the "policy director," James Mahoney, is the chairman of Bank of America's Political Action Committee in New Hampshire. This according to the official PAC filing with the New Hampshire state government, which Ben Smith of Politico obtained. Political Action Committees, just to be clear about it, exist to hand out money. So it wasn't a "lobbyist" who said in a candidate's ear, "Bank of America. We'll help you out." It was the policy director, who heads the PAC, which gives politicians dough. In that sense, a kind of super-lobbyist.

I didn't think the previous PR savvy could be topped, but now it has.

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

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