December 11. 2013 12:36PM

John DiStaso's Granite Status: Top NH political pros to head new Boston office of nationally-known consulting firm

By John DiStaso
Senior Political Reporter

WEDNESDAY, DEC. 11: DEMERS, GRIFFIN HEADING "PURPLE STRATEGIES NEW ENGLAND." Two veteran New Hampshire political, media and government relations experts have joined a nationwide strategic communications and consulting firm as it expands into New England.

The Granite Status has learned that Jim Demers, president and CEO of Concord-based Demers & Blaisdell, Inc., and Patrick Griffin, chairman emeritus of Manchester-based GY&K Marketing, will lead a new Boston office of Purple Strategies when it opens on Jan. 15.

A formal announcement is expected on Thursday.

Purple Strategies, founded in 2008 and headed nationally by Republican consultant Alex Castellanos and Democratic consultant Steve McMahon, is based in Washington, D.C. and also has offices in Chicago and Houston.

Its name reflects the bipartisan nature of its founders and of its broad reach in strategic communication, public affairs, issue advocacy, public opinion research, advertising, media relations and new media for corporations, trade associations and non-profit organizations.

"After Purple's successful growth in Chicago, we took a look at where we needed to grow to best serve our Fortune 500 base," Purple Strategies chairman Castellanos says in a statement provided exclusively to the Granite Status.

"With the impact of the health care, technology, energy and financial sectors, we knew New England was the right move," Castellanos said.

For Griffin, the move marks the end of a chapter in his own professional career and the firm he founded many years ago.

The long-time Republican advertising executive and political and media consultant has sold his remaining interest in GY&K, the largest communications/advertising firm in northern New England, to current company president Travis York, effective early next year. Griffin, though, will continue to provide consulting services, according to GY&K.

Griffin said GY&K "will always be family to me," while York cited his "strong personal and professional relationship" with Griffin.

Democrat Demers will continue as president and CEO of the lobbying firm Demers & Blaisdell, and will take on co-leadership of Purple Strategies New England as an additional venture.

He called the launch "an exciting next step."

Long-time friends Griffin and Demers have rich political histories in the first-in-the-nation primary state on opposite sides of the partisan divide.

Demers was the co-chair of President Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign in New Hampshire and was involved in the earlier presidential campaigns of President Bill Clinton, Vice President Al Gore and former U.S. Rep. Richard Gephardt.

Griffin has been a media consultant for Presidents George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush, Sen. Lamar Alexander and Mitt Romney, in addition to former U.S. Rep. Charlie Bass. He has also authored several books, including the recent "Primary Columns," which reviews the 2012 Republican presidential primary campaign.

(Earlier Granite Status reports follow.)


WEDNESDAY, DEC. 11: NHDP: "SHADOW LOBBYIST" BROWN. In advance of former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown's next appearance in New Hampshire next week, the state Democratic Party is launching web ads, an online petition and "organizing tools" challenging him to disclose his client list.

Brown joined the law firm of Nixon Peabody earlier this year and although he is not a registered lobbyist, the firm said he would use his Washington contacts to create business for the firm.

The NHDP says that makes Brown a "shadow lobbyist."

Brown has not ruled out the possibility of running for the U.S. Senate from New Hampshire, has sold his home in Massachusetts and is expected to eventually become a resident of New Hampshire. He has long owned a home in Rye.

He has set up a political action committee in the state and has helped raise money for Republicans.

Although Brown is not a candidate for office in the state, the Democrats say "the people of New Hampshire deserve to know which special interests are lining shadow lobbyist Scott Brown's pockets since he left the Senate."

The party is "calling on Brown to release a list of his post-Senate clients that he has been working for" since he lost the Senate seat to Democrat Elizabeth Warren in 2012.

During that 2012 campaign, Brown called on attorney Warren to release a list of her legal clients.

The NHDP says it will be using "paid advertisements and online organizing tools," including an online petition, "to convince Brown to disclose whose side he's on and tell New Hampshire how he has been getting rich selling his government experience and influence to corporate special interests."

The NHDP said its ads will begin today and run until Brown visits the state on Dec. 19 to speak at a New Hampshire Republican Party fund-raiser in Nashua.

Brown did not immediately respond to the Democrats.

State Republican Party Chairman Jennifer Horn said the Democrats were "desperate to distract attention" from Democratic U.S. Rep. Ann Kuster and what Horn called Kuster's well-publicized "embarrassing attempt to dodge" a citizen's question about the 2012 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

A video of the Nov. 25 question-and-answer session at the Jewish Federation of New Hampshire, taken by a former Republican state lawmaker, had received nearly 270,000 views by Wednesday afternoon.

Horn also cited Kuster's former "career as a highly paid corporate lobbyist."

"For over 20 years, Congresswoman Kuster lobbied for big corporations and even for a foreign pharmaceutical company that manufactures 'roofies' – an illegal drug that has been used to sexually assault women," Horn said. "Nobody can take the Democrats desperate attacks seriously given Congresswoman Annie Kuster's lobbying record."

The Republicans also noted that Bill Shaheen, the husband of U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen is a self-described "government relations and lobbying attorney," which "would make him a 'shadow lobbyist' according to the New Hampshire Democrat Party," said NHGOP executive director Matt Mowers. "Nobody can take the Democrats seriously given the glaring hypocrisy of their desperate attacks."

(An earlier Granite Status report follows.)


TUESDAY, DEC. 10: FRIENDS OF HILLARY. A group of key Granite State Democrats were in the audience last Friday when former Secretary of State and potential 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was honored by the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice with its Lantos Human Rights Prize.

It's no surprise the Granite State was well-represented given that the foundation is the product of Katrina Lantos Swett of Bow, the daughter of the late U.S. Rep. Tom Lantos of California, and given that 2008 first-in-the-nation primary winner Clinton has friends and supporters in high places in New Hampshire.

Among those on hand were state Democratic Party chairman Ray Buckley, former party chair Chris Spirou, former state Supreme Court Chief justice and current UNH Law School Dean John Broderick, Executive Councilor Chris Pappas, state Sen. Donna Soucy and (of course) Katrina's husband, former Ambassador and U.S. Rep. Dick Swett.

The award recognized Clinton for her "tireless efforts to promote human rights for women around the world," according to the foundation.

Buckley attended a small Lantos Foundation breakfast, also honoring Clinton, prior to the event.

It's also White House Holiday Party season. Buckley attended one last Friday, personally hosted by President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, and attending separate White House parties this week will be state Senate Democratic Leader Sylvia Larsen and Concord political strategist and long-time Obama supporter Jim Demers.

(See earlier Granite Status reports elsewhere on this page or by clicking on "Granite Status" above.)