WorldCom tries to improve its standing in Washington

WASHINGTON, DC: WorldCom is sharpening its PR efforts in the US capital in the hope of shoring up support as it faces increasing legislative hostility.

Hill & Knowlton – brought in to help rebrand the beleaguered telecoms company in April – along with sister group

Walker & Wexler Public Policy Associates and lobbying firm Patton Boggs have been meeting to discuss new means of turning around the company’s image in the Washington, DC area.

The company had previously worked with APCO Worldwide on a project basis, although the firm is not believed to be involved in the current effort.

A WorldCom spokeswoman confirmed that the company was, ‘as a normal course of business, working with groups that will help strengthen our position in Washington... because it’s where we are headquartered’.

Others involved in the effort confirmed they are working with WorldCom on a public affairs campaign to improve its reputation with legislators.

The company, which is currently going through a process of changing its name to MCI, filed the largest bankruptcy claim in American history last year after admitting to criminal practices in its accounting activities.

Since then, in addition to a spate of public and investor revolts, several members of Congress have introduced efforts that could make life difficult for the company.

Republican senator Susan Collins has launched an investigation into its federal contracts, while fellow Republican senator Orrin Hatch is challenging the company’s efforts to shed £2.2bn in debt by filing for bankruptcy.

Among the efforts currently being considered are a ‘war room’ at WorldCom’s headquarters, where agency representatives and company staff can quickly and aggressively field media calls.

The company’s 55,000 employees are also reportedly being asked to write letters of support to their members of Congress.

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