Saturday, April 2, 2016

Weiner did consulting work regarding foreign investment in broadcast industry; Teneo handled press for $17.7 billion Cablevision deal

(Editor's note: I added this update today to my original article called "Controversial firm linked to Clintons handles press for $17.7 billion Cablevision deal", but decided to also make it a new post so that readers can easily find it.)

4/2/16 Update: Last October, former New York Congressman Anthony Weiner - who is married to former Teneo consultant Huma Abedin - told me that he never worked for that consulting firm because he likes to be his own boss.

Very little is known about Weiner's post-Congress lobbying firm, Woolf Weiner Associates, and he acts angrily when questioned about it. In May of 2013, I did a story called "Anthony Weiner company led by former board director for firm investors blasted as 'CROOKS'", which has a lot of information about his consulting, that no other journalist ever seems to probe.

In regards to this story, this is what Michael Barbaro reported for The New York Times on April 30, 2013:
Mr. Weiner has advised Covington & Burling as it seeks to persuade the Federal Communications Commission to relax its long-standing objections to major foreign investment in the broadcast industry. He has tutored the firm on the key players and their political sensitivities, using knowledge gleaned from his tenure on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Mr. Weiner said he had reached out to federal officials at the Energy and Agriculture Departments, as well as members of Congress, on behalf of his clients. But he insisted that the work did not meet the legal definition of lobbying, which he said his contracts made clear he would not do.

The executives who have worked with him said the raunchy online banter with women that cost Mr. Weiner his post in Congress posed no problem for their employers.

“Nobody said don’t do this,” Mace J. Rosenstein, a partner in Covington’s telecommunications practice, said of hiring Mr. Weiner. 'He’s got this thing he has to deal with and it appears he is dealing with it in his own way.'
A controversial consulting firm connected to the Clintons scored a bigtime client under the radar recently. And even though Teneo was founded by two Hillary Clinton fundraisers - including CEO Declan Kelly who she appointed as Economic Envoy to No. Ireland while she was Secretary of State - the D.C. press ignores the news. The specific person handling the press for the multi-billion dollar international cable deal once worked for a firm whose owner consulted former President Bill Clinton.

The New York Times appears to have published a "scoop" they received from a public relations firm tied to the top presidential candidate - but omitted mentioning either in their article - just to get an exclusive a few hours early. And since it's related to the creation of what will be the "#4 cable operator in the US market", which affects millions of US voters, this omission of news might be disturbing to watchdogs. Teneo sometimes gets paid hundreds of thousands of dollars a month by clients, and both entities inherently have common ground to make each other look good to the public.

"Teneo is a senior-led advisory firm with deep collective experience working at the highest echelons of the public and private sectors," the Teneo Holdings website states. "Our team has a rich knowledge base and global network of relationships that we bring to bear on behalf of our clients every day."

If that "global network of relationships" includes New York Times reporters, then - in a sense - this rapidly growing international firm, which has been criticized for using government connections across the world to woo clients and accused of milking those links, controls the media on multiple levels. Teneo is especially secretive about their long list of clients - including "the CEOs of many Fortune 100 companies across a diverse range of industry sectors" and "senior leaders of many of the world’s largest and most complex companies and organizations" - and notorious for not commenting on controversies involving itself.

"Cablevision has agreed to sell itself to Altice, an acquisitive European telecommunications giant, for about $17.7 billion, including debt, people briefed on the matter said on Wednesday," Michael J. de la Merced, Andrew Ross Sorkin and Emily Steel reported for the new York Times on September 16. "It is the latest deal to reshape the broadband and cable television landscape. An announcement could be made on Thursday, these people said."

The story adds, "Talks between Altice and Cablevision began in June, weeks after the Suddenlink deal was struck and after bankers had deluged the European company with pitches for additional deals to pursue, according to the people who were briefed."

At 8:46 PM last Wednesday, @NYTimes tweeted a link to the exclusive article. A little over five hours later - at 2:08 AM - @M_delamerced bragged in a tweet, "As @andrewrsorkin and I reported (, Altice is buying Cablevision for $34.90 a share. Release:" The press release in Merced's tweet mentions that David Vermillion from Teneo is handling media relations, and lists his phone number and email address.

At 2:03 PM on September 17, New York Times journalist Michael J. de la Merced celebrated a huge link he received for a story that didn't mention that a PR firm tied to top Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was handling press for a $17.7B deal that will affect millions of Americans. "DRUDGE SIRENS GALORE," @m_delamerced tweeted.

"Teneo Strategy's David Vermillion is handling press for Altice, which has cable systems in France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Portugal, Switzerland, Israel, Dominian Republice and French Caribbean," Kevin McCauley noted at O'Dwyer's PR on Wednesday, which shows that New York Times journalists Merced and Sorkin almost certainly knew about Teneo, but left them out of their story.

Both Merced and Sorkin have ignored my tweets.

Last year, on December 8, 2014, Michael J. de la Merced, "scooped" the world on a story directly related to Teneo, reporting, "Teneo, a corporate advisory firm with an unusually broad array of businesses, has secured backing from the big private equity firm BC Partners, the company plans to disclose this week."

However, Merced's article doesn't make any reference to how he learned about the "company plans". The New York Times reporter doesn't mention a source, named or unnamed, which might be a violation of the paper's rules on journalism ethics.

Merced does paraphrase an exclusive quote he apparently got from one of Teneo's presidents, but, again, there are ethical concerns, if a top business journalist for - arguably - the most important paper in America is publishing stories - that omit key information - based on tips from a powerful P.R. firm. "The investment from BC Partners came about through friendships that some of the firm’s senior executives have with Teneo’s management, according to Richard Powell, the head of Teneo’s communications arm."

"Since its founding by two former FTI executives, Declan Kelly and Paul Keary, and a former Clinton administration aide, Douglas J. Band, the firm has garnered clients like Coca-Cola, Dow Chemical and the Chinese Internet giant Alibaba Group," Merced wrote in December, but didn't mention that both Kelly and Kerry were fundraisers for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who was beginning to rev up her presidential campaign, at the time. It also didn't mention that former President Bill Clinton once consulted for the firm, but was reportedly pressured to stop earning money because it was damaging to his wife. So, he instead became a client, allegedly. There also isn't any mention of longtime Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin, who controversially worked for Teneo, the Clinton Foundation, the State Department and Hillary Clinton, herself, from June of 2012 to February 1, 2013.

According to his LinkedIn resume, Managing Director David Vermillion has been working at Teneo since 2013, after a year as Executive Vice President for Edelman, and it notes, "In 2005, Dave played a central role in the landslide reelection campaign of New York City Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum, writing and producing all television and radio commercials and direct mail as well as serving as spokesman for her campaign." Vermillion also worked for Sheinkopf Ltd. as Vice President from 2003 to 2006, for former Democratic strategist Hank Sheinkopf, who consulted for President Bill Clinton on his successful 1996 re-election campaign. In 2004, Vermillion was the Treasurer and Chairperson for a 527 called Better Government Committee, with the stated purpose of which was to contribute to other political committees, but no contributions or expenditures were ever recorded.

The New York Times journalists also noted last Wednesday, "But the takeover of Cablevision — one of the last trophies of the American cable industry and the longtime province of its founding family, the Dolans — could also draw significant concern from regulators, particularly as control of the telecom market shrinks to fewer and fewer players."

In their rush to publish an exclusive a few hours early, the reporters didn't even apparently attempt to contact any critics of the deal. And a day later, any story already is in danger of becoming old news. Business journalists reporting on firms that have deep political ties and that will affect how many Americans receive their news should leave room for criticism in all their articles. But not quoting critics might have been a condition of the "scoop", as well.

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