Youngkin ad-maker gets state contract for tourism video
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Republican Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin faced criticism from Democrats on Wednesday after news outlets reported that his political ad-maker recently received a six-figure contract to produce a state tourism video featuring the governor.
Richmond-based Poolhouse made the single, winning bid for the project and received a $268,600 contract to produce the “Governor’s Welcome Project” ad, The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported.
Poolhouse produces ads for Republican campaigns and political action committees, as well as companies and advocacy groups. It worked on Youngkin’s winning campaign last year and continues to work with his PAC.
The ad was designed for distribution and display in airports and tourism welcome centers, according to a contract obtained by the newspaper. It depicts popular tourist destinations around the state and includes a welcome and some narration by Youngkin.
The Virginia Tourism Corporation reached out May 5 to Poolhouse and another agency, offering them a chance to bid on the project, the newspaper reported. Days later, it reached out to a third agency.
Poolhouse responded with a bid May 5, according to state records the newspaper obtained through an open records request. One firm didn’t respond and another said it couldn’t meet the scope of work, the Times-Dispatch reported.
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According to VPM News, the tourism agency initially gave Poolhouse the contract without soliciting any bids at all. The change in course came after Youngkin’s office expressed concern about the perception that the procurement process was biased, Mike McMahon, vice president of operations and finance, told the station in an email.
The tourism agency is not subject to the state’s public procurement law, which covers purchases by Virginia of goods and services and the execution of contracts using state funds.
Will Ritter, the co-founder and CEO of Poolhouse, said in a statement to the newspaper that the company was thrilled to partner with the agency “to brag on the state we love and call home.”
“We were ecstatic to win the bid and get a chance to showcase our favorite people and places in the ‘Welcome to Virginia’ campaign. We look forward to more opportunities to make top-shelf creative work for Virginia,” his statement said.
Democrats raised questions about the award and criticized Youngkin, who has been crisscrossing the country in recent weeks to campaign with GOP candidates for office and is increasingly considered a future contender for national political office.
“This is government corruption at its height,” tweeted Democratic House Leader Don Scott.
Democratic Party of Virginia Chairwoman Susan Swecker said the “scheme” to use taxpayer dollars for “what is basically a presidential campaign video” raised ethical and “possible criminal” questions. She urged an investigation.
Rob Damschen, a spokesperson for Youngkin, said in a statement to The Associated Press that tourism is an important part of Virginia’s economy and that the governor was excited to take part in the ad.
Rita McClenny, president and CEO of Virginia Tourism, defended the project and its procurement in a statement to AP.
Poolhouse was selected because “they are a local, talented, Virginia-based company that has done exceptional work for other corporate clients from Anheuser-Busch to Honda to GE. They were able to commit to a quick timeline in order to deliver a product during our busy summer and fall travel seasons,” the statement said.
The ad will only be shown in Virginia, with no paid media behind it, according to the statement.