Peeing on an informed public's leg and telling them it's raining is an insurmountable task for any public relations firm. But with Charles Ryan Assoc. at the wheel, the past three years have been a series of blunders and dumb ideas that has ended with a failed project. Not only has PATH failed to gain acceptance, it's actually ruined the reputations of its parent companies. Due to CRA's continual screw-ups and vapid ad campaigns that couldn't convince a 5-year old that PATH is beneficial, the PATH opposition's basic PR strategy worked like a charm. We simply told people the truth.
The only thing CRA is good at selling is themselves to their clients. Unfortunately, their foolish client in this case was funded by millions of ratepayers in 13 states who will be paying higher electric bills for years to finance the PATH PR fiasco.
CRA was dubbed "The Clown College" by the PATH opposition because making a mockery of their continual gaffes has been funnier than 52 clowns pouring out of a garishly decorated VW Beetle.
Let's take a look at some of their stellar moments in the life of PATH:
1. The "Green-shirted Goons" Open Houses - These CRA-engineered capital expenditures (on which we'll be paying 14.3% ROE for years until they depreciate) set the PATH project off on the wrong foot with the public. CRA staffed these PR disasters with a bunch of young kids from a temp agency who were still wet behind the ears and couldn't answer any questions that weren't on the script they were handed for preparation. Their subsequent directing of any hard questions to arrogant PATH employees with no social skills, or even more arrogant hired "doctors" from Exponent, spelled F-A-I-L-U-R-E from the word "go". Guess what? It was a green-shirted goon at one of these open houses who privately first suggested to me that citizen opposition could vanquish the project and gave me the generalized strategy I've been following for nearly three years. He thought PATH was a bunch of crap and obviously wasn't comfortable lying to people. These open houses provided the opposition with the perfect venue to meet and gather like-minded individuals for their campaign. It's just too bad that PATH's attempt to have me hauled off by the cops at one of them back in 2008 failed miserably. How many hard-working police officers' back yards had PATH routed its line through? Answer: one too many! CRA's strategy to overwhelm, divide and conquer frightened landowners was successfully countered by a small handful of sympathetic, knowledgeable, confident opponents hanging around the exit (even when PATH made the hotel take our table away in Frederick). The open houses also provided us with our first meetings of other local opposition group leaders, and our coalition began to grow. The open house technique reached a pinnacle at the Mt. Airy Charlie Foxtrot in 2010. Good job, CRA!
2. The astroturf front groups - Giving management control of PATH's "reliable power coalition" front groups in all three states, including management of their websites, to CRA's inept Clown College was a costly mistake. CRA's lack of internet knowledge and web design skill blew up in PATH's face last year when a quick investigation of domain ownership revealed CRA had publicly registered all the domain names and/or left enough information public to connect them all to CRA. Real "grassroots" coalitions are not owned/managed by expensive PR firms! CRA also didn't bother to create the actual legal entities to back up these "coalitions", enabling the opposition to legally claim and control them at will. One of my favorite "mistakes" was the claim that "Marylanders for Reliable Power is 501(c)3 corporation." Not only weren't they an IRS-registered 501(c)3 non-profit, they weren't even a corporation! That was a purposeful, illegal falsification that opened PATH up to a host of legal liabilities. When the front group farce was exposed, CRA took a hit with a huge layoff. But, PATH still continued pouring ratepayer money down the CRA rathole.
3. PEAT - The "PATH Education Awareness Team" got off on the wrong foot when their debut media campaign got panned by a bunch of reporters who didn't buy the bullsh*t. Not only were their "spokesmen" asked if they were paid and by whom, one of them actually gave it all away and made himself look like a greedy fool by admitting that CRA was paying him to "get out the real facts about PATH." CRA's "media event helicopter tours" that immediately preceded PEAT's debut and the public's reaction to them soured the media on being dupes for anymore of CRA's stupid PR games. One poor, scared reporter was afraid to leave the office after work and the newspaper took a huge credibility hit for falling for that one. It was a disaster for them, but fortunately the reporter recovered and is still among my friends. I only wish that CRA had come up with this concept during TrAIL so we could have been treated to a TEAT that actually sucked on us (or more precisely, on our wallets)!
4. "Pinky" Sutton - I don't know how much they were paying this clown-kid to "observe" the opposition at public events and come up with an appropriate "strategy" to defuse them but, in retrospect, it wasn't money well-spent. We're still here and Pinky has "strategized" himself out of a job. Not only did Pinky tell an opponent who he worked for, but Randy Palmer compounded the problem by arrogantly informing the same opponent that the ratepayers were picking up Pinky's tab through PATH's Formula Rate. That's just one of many intimidation attempts by Randy that backfired right in his face! The last time I saw Pinky (purposefully NOT wearing pink for a change, but a suit that looked like it came out of Goodwill's dumpster) he was bloviating about "the opposition" to an eager crowd of power company sycophants at the Purcellville Public Hearing. I thought I was going to lose it in guffaws of rude laughter as I walked by! :-) I wonder if CRA and Pinky also sold PATH a weekend get-away Snipe Hunt package?
5. Charles Ryan has a secret! Not really, because it's no secret that CRA sucks at web design. CRA proved that it's not PATH's best interests they have in mind, but covering up their own ineptitude. The "secret" campaign caused opposition website traffic to skyrocket; and fans, both old and new, were glued to their computers waiting to find out Charles Ryan's secret. That was one of our best tools ever to raise public awareness. CRA's incompetence coupled with our creativity was pure gold! It also provided Bill, Shelly and I with days of fun & laughter watching it unfold. CRA still has another "secret" related to their poor web design skills that we're just not ready to hand over quite yet. However, if I was PATH, I wouldn't pay for that last internet advertising campaign with the website videos that CRA did in 2011. It was completely worthless and not one representative of the targeted audience watched any of the videos. PATH got ripped off, big time!
Thank you, CRA Clown College, for all you did to assist the opposition's PR counter-campaign! We're going to miss you, especially if PATH hires a competent PR company when they rise from the dead next year.