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12/12/2011

Cut us and run: Why are so many 'marriage protectors' so outwardly sheepish?

by Jeremy Hooper

When looking at the National Organization For Marriage's newly leaked 990s, this line really jumped out at me:

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The nearly $2.7 million compensation is hefty, which would cause any NOM Watcher to take second look. But that's not really what caught my eye here. What made me take pause was the vague name given to the service. "Marketing Communications" rather than a company name.

Let me fill in some holes: The unlisted company is actually Criswell Associates, a multi-focused firm that serves a whole slew of marketing-type functions. The firm has been working with NOM for a number of years, working alongside production outfit Coyote Films to craft notorious commercials like 2009's infamous "Gathering Storm" ad, as well as that year's "Yes on One" spots in Maine. And judging by the almost $2.7 million listed in the 2010 990, Criswell has remained quite active in the time since.

So this is why I find the anonymity so telling. It's a pattern we've seen from Criswell ever since this site and others began directing focus their way. When the connections first came to light, the company started scrubbing videos and other site elements from the Net. And interestingly, when you look at the company's content-rich demo reel (also shot by Coyote), there's no mention of its work with NOM, even though one can assume the multi-million dollar contract makes NOM a star client. Why are they so quick to distance themselves from their bread and butter?

Coyote Films is the same way. Even though we know they've shot a good number of NOM's spots, one won't find the National Organization For Marriage among the company's thirty-six listed clients. Even though "Gathering Storm" was surely featured (and mocked) in the national media more than the company's other work, there's no acknowledgement of it in the company's own video gallery. It's as if none of it ever happened.

We see this other places too. Schubert Flint Public Affairs, while once known for general campaign work, has become best known nationally for combating equality in California and elsewhere. Google the firm and 3/4 of the results mention the ongoing Prop 8 fight that Schubert Flint largely masterminded. Though when choosing twelve campaigns to highlight, the team pointedly overlooked its most prominent battle:

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Its demo reel is equally Prop 8 deficient. I found Prop 8 mentioned exactly one time, part of a firm scorecard. Kind rude, actually, considering that's the campaign that got the firm heads all over national TV.

So what does this tell me? Easy: That the other side is simply not as proud of their work as we are. I will gladly highlight my work on even our biggest legislative setbacks or referenda losses, because I have nothing but belief in the righteousness of our civil rights fight. If I owned a firm like Schubert Flint and my successful work on something like a Prop 8 (or its inverse) earned me so much attention, I would wear that as a major badge of honor. Front and center. Yes, please, let all of history remember my considerable outreach. More to the immediate: Let me prospective clients of the present know that I stood for what was right, since fighting for basic fairness is a boon, not a burden.

But with Criswell we get anonymity, hiding behind "Marketing Communications Services" vagary? With Coyote, we get multiple ad spots with "Alan Smithee" branding. With Schubert Flint, we get a firm that is still engaged in this nationwide, high profile battle (there are signs of engagement already in MN), but one that would much rather you know about its lesser light fights.

These firms all want to reap the lucre -- but do even they know such crude and cruel work is sowing the seeds of a very unfortunate future?

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*RELATED: I've noticed this in the business world too. Pro-equality companies routinely press release their stances while anti-equality companies tend to hide or run from their own work (no mater how obvious): Pride in sponsorship: Regardless of intent, all companies need to own advocacy [G-A-Y]

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