GOP ad chief fires, sues protege as part of war on consultants’ greed

Slam of corrupt culture unrelated to civil suit

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Rex Elsass, chief executive of the largest Republican campaign advertising firm in the country, might have answered “yes” if he had been on the “Should we shoot all the consultants now?” panel at this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference.

With a current and former client list that includes Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and nearly 40 other lawmakers, Mr. Elsass, 50, sees himself as an ad man on a moral mission.

As part of his self-proclaimed war on consultancy greed and arrogance, he fired — and sued — his young protege, Nick Everhart, 33, the president of the Strategy Group for Media, the firm Mr. Elsass founded.

He is accusing Mr. Everhart, 33, of the greed, disloyalty and corruption that critics have said plague the political consultants’ craft in general.

Mr. Elsass says he has been steaming over having to watch Democrats barely hide their glee over Republicans’ criticizing their own consultants who spent and made big money on failed 2012 campaigns.

Mr. Elsass also spends and makes big money but wins races and recognition; last month he garnered 40 “Pollies” and 12 “Tellies,” the political ad industry’s top TV, video and film awards.

One day after winning the awards, Mr. Elsass fired and then sued the man he had chosen as president of his firm. Normally, the fired employee is the one who sues.

But Mr. Elsass, 50, the evangelical Christian founder and chief executive of the Strategy Group for Media, sees himself as an elections consultant cut from a different cloth — an image creator on a moral mission.

“The corruption of the consultant culture dishonors America’s values by honoring greed over philosophy,” he said. “It cheapens the sacrifice made by good men and women who serve in public office to protect the culture of our nation.”

Mr. Elsass, careful not to speak or comment on his legal action against Mr. Everhart, said his condemnation of “consultant culture” is unrelated to the civil suit.

Mr. Everhart is equally reluctant to comment publicly on the legal action, saying only that he is “taking this civil case very seriously.”

“Protecting my reputation, character and integrity against these claims, so that I can continue working in the political consulting field is very important to me,” Mr. Everhart said.

Mr. Everhart worries that the public accusations in the Elsass civil suit are meant to keep him from earning a living in the craft he knows best.

He said that before firing him, Mr. Elsass insisted he sign a legal agreement not to compete with anything Mr. Elsass‘ firm does.

The venom toward Mr. Everhart is obvious in the words Mr. Elsass‘ associates choose.

“It’s profoundly disappointing to us that a former executive in our firm sought to undermine our business,” said Brian J. Berry, chief creative officer for the Elsass firm.

“Such actions only help the Democrats since we are a ‘tip of the spear’ firm electing more Republicans to Congress than any other company.”

Some Republicans privately question the need to sue Mr. Everhart on top of firing him.

They say the legal action only serves to keep the consultancy craft in the public eye as though it were a criminal racket, instead of the necessary means for candidates to compete and make themselves known to voters.

Mr. Elsass‘ suit accuses Mr. Everhart of arrogant behavior and of stealing company direct-mail lists and computer programs.

Those close to Mr. Everhart said there are no such direct-mail lists or computer programs unique to Mr. Elsass‘ firm.

They say the real winners will be the Democrats, whose campaign techniques and machinery proved far superior to the GOP’s in the 2012 presidential election — and with few accusations of consultant rapacity.

© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

About the Author
Ralph Z. Hallow

Ralph Z. Hallow

Chief political writer Ralph Z. Hallow served on the Chicago Tribune, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Washington Times editorial boards, was Ford Foundation Fellow in Urban Journalism at Northwestern University, resident at Columbia University Editorial-Page Editors Seminar and has filed from Berlin, Bonn, London, Paris, Geneva, Vienna, Amman, Beirut, Cairo, Damascus, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Belgrade, Bucharest, Panama and Guatemala.

 

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