I once met a guy who did commercial window instillation. He had a two-tiered system for bidding on contracts. When it involved a private company, he offered his everyday low price. But when it was a government bid, he doubled it -- and still won. That's because his competitors couldn't resist tripling their bids.
That conversation came to mind when I heard about Nashville PR firm McNeely, Pigott & Fox ripping off taxpayers for nearly a half-million dollars
. Its original contract with Metropolitan Development & Housing Agency (MDHA) was a $75,000 deal to propagandize on behalf of the Music City convention center. But through lax oversight, larcenous billing, and a keen sense of knowing a mark when it saw one, the agency managed to run that tab to $458,000. Until it was unceremoniously caught.
The money went to conduct opposition research, monitor blogs, send out emails, planting stories in The Tennessean, etc. In other words, it was largely work a college marketing student could have done for 100 bucks and a bucket of Buffalo wings. But while it's easy to castigate McNeely, Pigott & Fox as thieving little bastards -- because they are -- this one rests entirely on MDHA and Mayor Karl Dean.
There's little doubt they felt the need to propagandize on behalf of the convention center, since the project barks like an unfed dog. In the end, the city will likely spend $1 billion traveling a worn path of failure.
And when you can't win on ideas alone, better to drum up artificial support. But even if this seems unethical, it was also unnecessary. You see, taxpayers are spending even more money on an in-house propaganda arm. That would be the Nashville convention bureau.
With 60 employees and a demonstrated gift for fabricating arguments
, we're already subsidizing an arm of government to shill for this dog. Think of it as having your bank account looted once, then hiring McNeely, Pigott & Fox to clean out whatever pennies remain.