Porter Novelli, Gov. Mike Pence Tight-Lipped on ‘Religious Freedom’ Relationship

Just when you thought rainbows were supposed to symbolize love.

Earlier in the year, Gov. Mike Pence (R-Indiana) signed the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act when he thought the idea of gay rights would interfere with businesses across the state that may not have wanted to extend an “open-door policy” to those looking to enjoy gay rights.

And so, the RFRA was signed into state law.

The understated goal was to give business owners a stronger legal defense if they refused to serve LGBT customers by allowing them to defend these policies by arguing that they were standing behind their faith. Immediately, this became a discrimination justification issue…and a big PR stink.

Indiana took a major perception management blow. Observers tagged Indiana residents as gay-haters, thereby forcing Pence to do something about this black cloud image issue.

PN rainbow logoAnd so, he hired Porter Novelli for about $2 million…and then “fired” the firm after three months. Now, according to the Chicago Tribune, the state Democratic party wants details of their clandestine relationship, which has apparently not been added to state records:

Steve Key, executive director of the Hoosier State Press Association, told The Indianapolis Star the exception doesn’t allow the state to issue an across-the-board denial of all records.

“I have trouble imagining that all the documents and every part of those documents was opinion or speculation,” he said. “There should be a document showing they did some work.”

Still, the payday for three months of work wasn’t too bad: it was $365,000. PN’s North American President Brad MacAfee has done the right thing to put on the business face:

“We respect this decision by the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC) as it recalibrates its resources and spending priorities. We know that the State will continue its efforts to strengthen Indiana’s global brand reputation.”

Regretfully–according to many sources covering the story–it seems PN got caught in the middle of an onslaught that Pence wanted to avoid at all costs…so he dumped them as fast as he could.

Welcome to the world of client-agency relations.