Critics take OH, IL to task over PR programs

SPRINGFIELD, IL: PR programs in two Midwest states have come under criticism that they might politically benefit state elected officials.

SPRINGFIELD, IL: PR programs in two Midwest states have come under criticism that they might politically benefit state elected officials.

Illinois canceled a contract with Chicago firm Dori Wilson Public Relations after media reports noted that the assignment mentioned enhancing the image of the state's secretary of human services and of the governor.

The firm's president, Dori Wilson, is demanding a public apology from the governor's office for the implications that the firm might do something other than educate residents about the earned income tax credit, its original assignment.

"I feel they have done me irreparable damage," Wilson said. "All of this hoopla over $7,500 is ridiculous. I don't enjoy being beat up by the press."

In Ohio, the state legislature is looking into the awarding of a $15 million ad and PR contract to Burson-Marsteller for voter education. Some there have said the program would benefit the image of Ohio secretary of state Ken Blackwell, who might run for governor in 2006.

Richard Mintz, the chairman of Burson's US public affairs practice, said of the charges that Burson might try to help Blackwell, "It is a bit preposterous. When we design campaigns, that is what they are, communications campaigns, not political campaigns."

Blackwell's press secretary, Carlo LoParo, said criticism had come from people with a lack of understanding about the voter education plan.

In Illinois, Rebecca Rausch, a press officer for the governor's office, said she was not aware that Wilson had asked for a public apology. The state canceled the $7,500, three-month assignment to Wilson because it thought the work could be done more cost-effectively in-house, she said. "The governor deemed it unnecessary," said Rausch.

The cancellation came after reporters called the governor's office asking for comment on the contract.

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