Jason Rose: 15 Highlights For 15 Years of Memorable Arizona Public Relations, Public Affairs, Elections and Crisis Communications Moments

RMANews

Yes, their tutelage was excellent.  Four years with Bob Robb and Kevin Demenna at what was then the largest public relations/public affairs firm in Arizona prepares you for many things.  Still, when you’re 26 years and sitting alone with a fax machine in an executive suite at the Camelback Esplanade one can wonder if the just established Rose & Company was the right decision.  Fifteen yeas later there is no question it was.

I have had the great fortune to sit at some amazing tables, learn from phenomenal people and work alongside the extremely talented and interesting.

Anniversaries are opportune times for reflection.  So on this 15th Anniversary of our company I thought it would be fun to look back on 15 of the most memorable highlights, recognizing that if space permitted all clients should be listed because each have provided special moments . . . and revenues, which we always appreciate.

Tangelo Grove:  I can’t remember the exact date, somewhere around 2003 maybe.  I got a call about a home in North Central Phoenix that provided care for the elderly.  People, I learned, are allowed to care for up to 5 individuals in a residential setting.  This particular home wanted to expand elsewhere in North Central.  By all accounts they had done a terrific job caring for their residents.  And by many accounts the neighborhood they sought to expand into did not want it, because the owner was a lesbian.  No one was quite able to explain what her sexual preference had to do with the good and needed care she was providing the elderly.  But we were able to expose and explain how offensive the opposition was.  The new home was subsequently approved.

Pink Taco:  This was five years ago and I still get asked or reminded about this restaurant opening once a week or more.  There was the opening night party (crazy) and the nonsense that took place with former Mayor Mary Manross (fun) but it was the offer to name the then nameless Cardinals football stadium — Pink Taco Stadium —  I will remember most.  Here’s the real story.  Most think the audacious proposal was my idea.  It was not.  One day I was asked to participate on a call with Harry Morton but this time his father was on too.  I had met Peter Morton – founder of the Hard Rock Café and Hard Rock Hotel — but had not talked business with him.  I knew it must be important.  They described a letter received from a Scottsdale resident suggesting they go after the football stadium naming rights.  What did I think of the idea, they asked?  I wanted to know if they were serious.  They were, sort of.  Peter was not wanting for money and had been interested in buying a team.  So, we came up with a plan that we would win or lose – no matter what the Cardinals decided.  We offered $30 million – what Heinz paid in Pittsburgh.  We presented a large check to the Cardinals during our meeting.  And we even had a Pink Taco Stadium logo at the ready for our press conference two days later.  It was a big idea and a big execution.  And it worked, big time.  But their kitchen never did.

Los Arcos:  I grew up in South Scottsdale.  The chance to revitalize the decaying Los Arcos Mall site with a new arena for the Phoenix Coyotes arena was personal as well as professional.  And, it was my idea – for better or worse.  We were representing both the Coyotes and Ellman (owner of Los Arcos) at the same time.  It was one of those, have you guys ever thought of this idea . . . conversations.  The rest is history.  Tumultuous times.  Glendale.  Gretzky.  And everything in between.

McGovern v. Kaites:  John Kaites has become one of Arizona’s finest lobbyists.  But in 1998, he was the State Senate Judiciary Chairman and candidate for Attorney General against my guy, Tom McGovern.  The latter wasn’t just a job.  McGovern was cool and compelling.  Late in that Republican primary campaign all hell broke loose.  Kaites had gone up on television with a commercial touting McGovern’s marijuana use and arrest in Philadelphia many years before.  Only problem?  Everything had been dropped the day after.  But details and truth are often casualties in campaigns.  We had to act.  With the help of then Attorney General Grant Woods and Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio we organized a press conference BEFORE Kaites’ own to highlight and defend his television spot.  We had heard rumblings that Kaites may not have been as innocent on the subject as that which he was accusing McGovern.  So, we decided to have Woods, Arpaio and McGovern sign an affidavit swearing they had never used drugs.  We were then going to challenge Kaites at his own press conference, in front of the fourth estate, to do the same.  It could not have gone better.  McGovern did directly challenge Kaites, who actually fled his own press conference rather than commit to our challenge.  His campaign essentially ended that moment and we won in a blowout.  But I have a feeling John is OK with the loss.  Life has turned out quite OK for him.  He has gone from politician to successful businessman, even attempting to purchase the Phoenix Coyotes with big time backers.  Good for him.  I thought his spot was over the top but it takes a lot of guts to step into the arena, whether political or business.

Sugar Ray Leonard:  I’m a big sports fan, and followed boxing closely growing up.  If Sugar Ray Leonard wasn’t my idol, he sure was close.  He didn’t duck fights and wanted to go up against the best.  I like to think we have a little of that attitude in business.  So when he came to town years back and we were tapped to provide public relations for the fights he was promoting, it was one of those times when you couldn’t believe pay was forthcoming for such work.  Emceeing press conferences with him.  Media tours.  And the chance to visit with him about some of the greatest moments in boxing history.  And to have him answer those questions like it was the first time he had ever been asked.  Pretty amazing.  Pretty cool.

The Canals of Scottsdale:  It’s often said one learns from loss.  I agree.  And this downtown Scottsdale revitalization plan in 1999, involving hundreds of millions of public dollars, is still my most disappointing election loss.  Yes, it was sandwiched between two Los Arcos hockey arena elections lessening public appetite for public assistance.  Still, I feel we should have won rather than lose 54%-46%.  Our opposition was funded but it was also based on legitimate, conscientious citizen activism.  They hit us with unexpected, grassroots tactics.  They changed the discussion.  They had us playing too much defense.  No one has a monopoly on good ideas in this business.  I, we learned from our opponents during this election.  So much so that we incorporated many of their tactics just a year later into our successful defeat of a major project near Grand Canyon National Park.

Phoenix Coyotes:  It helps any business to have a signature victory early on.  And that was certainly the case for this 27-year old, just a year into his own business.  I got the chance to represent a sports franchise. That was pretty cool and so was the issue, which was quite odd.  The team kept running into neighborhood opposition for a proposed practice arena that was to be a public amenity when the team was not using it.    No matter, this was Scottsdale in the late 1990s.  Anything perceived as growth was considered by many to be bad.  But we organized a diverse coalition, including many slower growth advocates.  The project was approved and a subsequent referendum election attempt was subsequently quashed after we discovered fraudulent activities by the out-of-state petition company.  The case went all the way to the Arizona Supreme Court.  They sided with us.  I think nearly every person in Scottsdale would now consider the Ice Den a tremendous addition to the community.  It has made its mark in that part of the world and the project certainly put us on the map as a company that could get things done on the public affairs front.

Canyon Forest Village: Starting in 1996 I had two clients:  top Valley trial attorney Patrick McGroder and Red Feather Properties, a locally-owned business and property owner near the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park.  I’m very proud they are both still clients.  And I will always be indebted to them for placing their confidence in me at a young age.  Red Feather was allied with many in northern Arizona against a massive land exchange and development proposal slated next to the South Rim boundary known as Canyon Forest Village.  The Italy-based backers were playing to win.  They had spent tens of millions and had a varsity team of national and local consultants and lobbyists.  But the multi-year debate ended as we had predicted early on.  Despite being outspent 8:1 (or more) the plan was defeated in Coconino County-wide referendum election by a grassroots coalition and unholy alliance ranging from the Sierra Club on the left to then Congressman J.D. Hayworth on the right.  David beat Goliath soundly.  Just as occurred when we were fortunate to be a part of an electoral success weeks ago representing a neighborhood and area businesses on a city-wide referendum in the City of Phoenix.  QuikTrip, a $9 billion corporation, was unexpectedly defeated by our campaign group, by a wide margin.  We often represent Goliaths in debates.  It can be a lot more fun, and many times more rewarding, to do the same for David.

Maricopa County Supervisor Fulton Brock:  Crisis communication can be exhilarating, exasperating, sad and rewarding all at the same time.  Just recently I was watching football with my family when I received a call from East Valley retail center magnate and philanthropist Michael Pollack that his son had been tragically killed in a hit-run accident.  Watching gave way to writing and organizing as an amazing family needed help, and it needed awareness about its son to help catch cowards that fled the scene.  Inconvenience is a hazard of this practice.  But it is what we do and remain grateful for the opportunities to help when we can.  We have been confronted with many horrific and challenging crisis communications issues but few may ever compare to Maricopa County Fulton Brock’s ordeal with his wife and daughter.  I had known Supervisor Brock a little bit.  We did some media relations work for his 2008 re-election campaign in a year Democrats were surging.  He ended up winning.  So when he called with the news that most are now familiar with, and subsequently phoned about his daughter when I was at Disneyland late last year, one just couldn’t help but feel for him.  I suppose one can get used to dramatic crisis’ in this business.  I just hope I never get that jaded.  That’s why I cut him an awful lot of slack when it comes to how he has conducted himself since all of this surfaced.  How would any of us react?  Surely our responses would run the gamut.  By all accounts Fulton Brock is a very decent human being.  Even if he was not no one deserves what has confronted him.

Ellman:  Steve Ellman is like Magic Mountain on a client roster.  Yes, there are times when you are just walking the pathways and all is calm.  But most of the time he takes you on intense roller coaster rides.  I wouldn’t change a minute of it.  He is distinctly somebody; the ultimate entrepreneur.  He pushes the envelope but he also pushes hard to do big things.  He is charitable.   Representing him off and on for nearly 14 years I don’t think I have ever had a fee dispute with him.  And that says an awful lot about somebody, especially in challenging economic times.

Allison Clinton:  Another David v. Goliath moment and no question a career highlight.  Via a small world I was referred to an Allison Clinton in Nashville.  She had worked for years as Sara Evans’ nanny.  But desiring a divorce from her husband the country music star and then Dancing With The Stars’ contestant publicly accused Allison of having an affair with her husband.  Allison said no way.  And we issued a very aggressive press release across the country saying so.  To this day my phone has never melted so much.  Entertainment Tonight, Extra, Access Hollywood, CNN, National Enquirer, People Magazine, etc.  We did them all, even doing 3 consecutive nights on Entertainment Tonight where Allison underwent a lie detector test with a former FBI agent.  We put up a web site.  We did many things.  And we cleared her name.  And let’s just say that I believe Allison and her family are doing very well today.

Name Changes:  I have had three partners since launching Rose & Company in 1996.  The name has changed twice along the way.  I have nothing but positive things to say about each of the experiences (but time will tell Jen!)  Besides it being the 15th Anniversary of our founding it is also the one year anniversary of Rose+Moser+Allyn Public & Online Relations.    Constantly pursuing greater resource, reward and innovation I am a big believer in experimenting, risking and trying new things.  All have made me a better business person and practitioner.  I will always be grateful to them.  This company is certainly better because of them.

My Forrest Gump Moment:  I don’t get nervous.  Well, most times.  God gives us all different skills and for whatever reason one of mine is to get calmer the more intense a situation.  But there was one glaring exception earlier this year.  After being quoted in the New York Times about the terrible shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords I got a call from the producer of Christiane Amanpour’s “This Week” show Sunday mornings on ABC. Over the years I have been a huge fan of hers, and the show.  They asked if I would participate in a Town Hall that would anchor their Sunday show shortly after the shooting.  I agreed.  But when I arrived it was somber atmosphere redefined, and understandably so.  I was unaware that many of the victims and their families would be present, as well Congressman Grijalva, Tucson Mayor Walkup, former Congressman Jim Kolbe and many other notables.  It was gut-wrenching.  So when Amanpour called on me to provide “political analysis” about the aftermath let’s just say my blood was ripping faster than Barry Bonds rushing towards supplements.  I think and hope I said something coherent and helpful. They did use a soundbite on the show.  Honor, humbling, memorable. I think I could write the amount of words in this blog entry on that experience alone.

Vestar Development Co.:  The kind of blue-chip client everyone should have the great fortune to work with.  Class act.  Period.

Pierre Falcone:  OK.  So you get a call from the top investigative reporter at the Arizona Republic asking you to comment on the French detention of someone who had attended your wedding . . . for alleged arms dealing . . . in Angola.  Don’t get those calls every day.  And I wanted to run from the association.  But then a lesson learned kicked in.  It’s easy to be friends with people at high tide.  It’s a lot more difficult, and they sure need it, when the tide is low. So I called back the reporter after declining comment and said kind things.  I alerted Mr. Falcone’s wife Sonia about what was occurring.  She was well-known in the Valley doing good charitable work.  That night as I was grocery shopping she tapped me for assistance and I started taking notes next to the noodles.  Media interest turned out to be global.  Media inquiries were received from four different continents and I even got a call from Michael Isikoff.  I suppose it was a risky decision to represent the Falcones.  But they were and are friends.  I am glad I did.  They are blessed with great wealth but they suffered greatly as a result of overly aggressive prosecutors across the Atlantic and right here in Arizona.  After a nearly decade long legal battle Mr. Falcone was exonerated last year.

J.D. Hayworth:  I can’t say I knew former Congressman Hayworth that well before the latter part of 2009.  I contributed a few times during his political career but my most vivid recollection was him yelling at me for something I wrote in a Republican newsletter back in 1993.  But a couple of years after his defeat he called to refer me a public relations case that turned out to be a pretty good client.  Some time went by and he called again about helping to retire his debt incurred defending himself during his final year in office from the Jack Abramahoff-lobbying scandal.  It was over six figures.  We ended up putting together a successful event at our house that almost wiped out the debt entirely.  Around the same time Hayworth and U.S. Senator John McCain were sparring over remarks the former was making on his radio talk show.  Speculation was rampant that Hayworth might take on the 2008 GOP presidential nominee in the Arizona Republican primary the next year.  I was somewhat agnostic on the race.  I had learned to really like J.D. but had nothing against Senator McCain.  But as it turned out, presumably hoping to avoid a race against Hayworth, McCain advocates actually prompted one by forcing him off the air with various complaints.  The resulting two months helping to birth Hayworth’s insurgent campaign were some of the most rewarding and challenging of my career. I like to spar.  And sparring with Brian Rogers’ was a lot of fun.  I have worked with and against a lot of the best in Arizona and across the country.  Rogers is right up there.   The results going from nascent campaign to within four points of the Senator were not insignificant.  Yet, I had never enlisted for the significant role that I found myself in.  Circumstance had thrown everyone together.  And that circumstance led to a financial agreement that was not finalized nor a role as Senator McCain’s chief public critic that I was comfortable with. Senator McCain is a tremendous public servant.  J.D. Hayworth is a friend. I ultimately left the campaign but not without an awful lot of lessons and memories for such a short period of time.

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio: Everyone has an opinion about him.  Here’s mine.  I love the guy.  Even when he has opposed me on things.  History will place him alongside Wyatt Earp.  I have certainly witnessed and discussed with him many of the reasons why that will be.  But I have also received notes upon the birth of my children, seen his tireless work for charities throughout Arizona and otherwise seen a side of him that most do not.  I am grateful.

Fifteen highlights for 15 years is of course limiting. Well, that was actually 17 but when you get to recollecting as such proper editing can be a casualty.   An expanded list might include the challenge of representing Kinder Morgan after their Tucson oil spill, or providing public relations support to actually get something like Decades Music Theme Park through the state legislature and signed by Governor Napolitano, the tireless braniac that is the amazing public servant known as Hugh Hallman, the constant, colorful promotional ability of an Eddie Matney, the distinct voice that is Michael Monti, the presidential campaign of Mitt Romney, the grace of Sam Campana, the rise and ride of Barrett-Jackson, nightlife and “daylife” innovators like Spanish Fly, getting calls to help with Dan Harkins and dogs or Phil Gordon and girlfriends.  It’s a long list, thank goodness.  I, we have been lucky – and I like to think very good.  There are always things you would do over.  But that’s a topic for another time.  A 15-year recollection would also not be complete without highlighting the pleasure of working side by side with standouts like Cassidy Campana, Jennifer Seivert-Hall, Tom Evans, Michelle Donati, Melissa Rein, Lisa Perez, Robbie Sherwood and the loquacious but extremely talented Stacy Pearson, among many others, who have passed through our doors.

Wise like Yoda I am not, but grateful I am for all of it.  I hope you enjoyed the read.  We have enjoyed the ride. 15 years worth, so far.