WASHINGTON: The Private Equity Growth Capital Council is pushing back against political attacks that are giving private equity firms a bad rap during the Republican primaries.
Rivals of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a former private equity executive, have called him “more ruthless than Wall Street” and a “vulture capitalist” for his work at Bain Capital, a private equity firm he co-founded.
To counter these attacks on the industry's reputation, the organization has launched a multimillion-dollar campaign called “Private Equity at Work.” Preparation for the effort, which launched this month, began last summer once it became clear Romney was a serious contender for the GOP nomination.
“This campaign isn't about defending a particular political party or candidate. It's solely about setting the record straight and correcting mischaracterizations,” said Ken Spain, VP of public affairs and communications at the council.
The effort's main audiences are policymakers and members of the media. Although it has a national focus, it also targets the states of lawmakers who are chairs of congressional committees that could influence policies affecting private equity, as well as swing states.
The campaign website, PrivateEquityAtWork.com, has industry fact sheets, a blog, an industry primer, and case studies. The initiative is also using Twitter and YouTube. Campaign videos feature the managers of companies that private equity firms have invested in.
“They can testify first-hand to the importance of private-equity investment and the growth it afforded them, allowing them the ability to create jobs,” Spain added.
In addition, the organization has a “war room” of staffers monitoring news sites for misinformation about private equity. The group produces a letter to the editor within hours of finding any.
To date, the council has briefed 60 reporters covering the election and has been referenced in 200 articles in recent weeks. It plans to continue the initiative throughout November.
“The biggest challenge that remains is that there is a real lack of understanding about what private equity is in terms of what it does, how it works, and who it benefits,” said Spain. “We've had some early success, but that's going to be the challenge over the next several months.”
Glover Park Group helped to develop the campaign's website and other promotional materials. It is also providing media relations assistance.