Public relations firm MWW has gotten quite a bit of attention for choosing an unlikely name as its newest expert adviser: former Congressman Anthony Weiner.
But while many have laughed at Weiner's supposed transition from tabloid centerpiece to PR fixer, the reality is sadly less ironic: He'll serve on the agency's board of advisers, MWW tells Adweek, and he won't be working with clients.
In case you've been living under a very large rock for the past four years, Weiner earned more than his share of notoriety thanks to personal scandals that received extensive media coverage in both 2011 and 2013. The underlying controversy involved suggestive pictures and text messages sent by Weiner to a series of contacts far from his congressional circle, and later reports revealed that this behavior continued well after the news first went public.
After Weiner resigned from his position as a House Representative from Brooklyn, N.Y., in 2011, he attempted to return to politics by running in the '13 New York City mayoral election. But his proclivity for problematic texting came back to haunt him again as more examples surfaced, and his mayoral bid fell short under the weight of related headlines and campaign infighting; Weiner finished the Democratic primary in fifth place with less than 5 percent of the vote.
This morning, The New York Post claimed that—irony of ironies—he would be joining MWW as a "fixer" of PR problems for clients.
According to the East Rutherford, N.J.-based firm, however, that's not quite accurate. Weiner is an an advisor, not an employee, and he was brought on for his political acumen and deep knowledge of policymaking practices rather than his familiarity with enduring scandal, MWW said.
A spokesperson wrote: "MWWPR is pleased to welcome Anthony Weiner as a member of our Board of Advisors. Anthony brings to MWWPR a deep background and understanding in the workings of Congress and the City of New York. … As a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Anthony was a leader on many issues ranging from the future of healthcare to national technology policy. His public policy expertise on many issues will be a great asset to our firm. Anthony is not a consumer marketing expert and will not be giving advice on this category of client."
Weiner himself made light of the news on Twitter.
For my first trick, I will make sure Uber/BdB is not on the front page of the Post.
— Anthony Weiner (@anthonyweiner) July 23, 2015
Politics is not a new area for MWW. Founder Michael Kempner has long been an active supporter of various candidates and causes close to the Democratic Party: He served as both a deputy finance chair for the Democratic National Committee and a national finance co-chair for Hillary Clinton's 2008 campaign. And Kempner's Twitter profile features a prominent image of him with then-Senator Barack Obama.
The firm also reaches across the aisle. In 2013, MWW created the "Stronger Than the Storm" campaign starring New Jersey's Republican Governor Chris Christie; its TV/radio/out of home ads were intended to encourage tourism in the state by highlighting its governors' leadership following 2012's Hurricane Sandy. Controversy followed, however, as the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development launched an audit of the state's $23 million expenditure amid claims that Christie had improperly used federal funds to promote his own career. Nearly a year after his subsequent re-election, the audit concluded that, while his appearance in the ads along with his family was not ethically questionable, the state did not fully comply with procurement rules in awarding the business to MWW.
The firm had no comment on the back story behind Weiner's hire, but there's little doubt that Kempner's circles of political influence happened to overlap with those of the now-former congressman. After the Weiner story first broke in 2011, MWW hired his former communications director Dave Arnold as a vice president. Arnold left the firm three months ago to serve as director of corporate communications at Virgin America.