Protest filed over lottery's ad firm choice | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Protest filed over lottery's ad firm choice

Posted By on Thu, Dec 15, 2016 at 4:16 PM

click to enlarge arkansas-scholarship-lottery.png
Kyle Massey at Arkansas Business has a good rundown on a developing controversy in the advertising world — the Arkansas Lottery Commission's award of its advertising work to CJRW.

Ghidotti-Vines, which also had sought the work, filed a formal protest of the award of the $34.5 million contract. Its attorney: Steel, Wright, Gray and Hutchinson. (Yes, that Hutchinson is none other than Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson, nephew of the governor, who naturally figures in all things state government. The senator seems to wear his lawyer's hat at a lot of intersections with government work these days.)

The nub of the formal complaint is that CJRW didn't disclose a potential conflict of interest in its representation of Oaklawn Park, home to a casino and parimutuel gambling on horses. CJRW and a spokesman for Oaklawn say they see no conflict. This is somewhat interesting in that some lottery paperwork does mention Oaklawn as a competitor for gambler dollars. It is also interesting because of a dispute long ago over Hot Springs tourism promotion. An ad man who held the account lost it after picking up Tunica gambling interests as a client because of the conflict with Oaklawn.

Massey also quotes an executive of Mangan Holcomb, which held the account previously, as seeing a conflict between Oaklawn and the lottery.

This story has broader political tentacles, of course. A key consultant now to CJRW is Gary Heathcott, a long-time provider of campaign advertising work for Gov. Asa Hutchinson, both in his successful race in 2014 and in past races. His agency "merged" with CJRW after Hutchinson's election on undisclosed terms, though he has continued to maintain a separate agency that does political work, such as in support of the amendment to allow increased public spending in support of private business development and to legalize taxpayer subsidies of chambers of commerce. CJRW has long held the valuable state Parks and Tourism advertising work, due to be reshaped soon, and recently landed the Arkansas Department of Economic Development business, previously handled by Stone Ward. CJRW also has a state contract on marketing the state health insurance marketplace.

I'd understood that some questions about the lottery contract might come up at today's meeting of the lottery's legislative oversight committee. But the item was not discussed because of news of the protest filed this morning. Questions unasked include the fee structures under the old contract and the new one reached with CJRW.

UPDATE: Jeremy Hutchinson said the protest was filed by a law partner, unbeknownst to him, and that as a result he wouldn't participate in any legislative action on the matter of the coontract.

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