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Former Obama Hispanic advisor lands stimulus contract

From the Hill: Freddy Balsera, a former adviser to President Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign received nearly $70,000 from a federal stimulus bill contract to help alert television viewers in difficult-to-reach communities that their TV's would soon no longer receive broadcast signals.

"Republicans on Tuesday criticized the federal spending on the advertising project as a waste of taxpayer dollars. They noted that the advertising campaign took place on May 5, only 39 days before the digital television transition was scheduled (June 12)."

The newspaper noted that two firms -- including Burson-Marsteller -- run by Mark Penn, Hillary Clinton’s pollster in 2008, got $6 million out of the stimulus fund for the PR campaign and Balsera's firm got paid from that contract.

Burston Marsteller today called the report "fundamentally inaccurate."

Cassandra Andrade, a senior associate with Balsera Communications, told the Hill: "I can see where there’s concern, but the contract was strictly based on our merits. We’ve been working on multicultural outreach for many years."

"Andrade said her firm worked to contact Hispanic television viewers in Philadelphia, Chicago and Los Angeles.

Andrade noted that according to Nielsen, a media-research company, there was a sharp decline in the number of unready homes in the week leading up to the digital transition and that 97.5 percent of households were ready for the switch."

Burton-Marsteller posted this reaction on its website: "The story appearing in today's Hill newspaper is fundamentally inaccurate. Burson-Marsteller was awarded a competitive bid contract in 2009 to support the FCC's efforts to educate and advertise the congressionally mandated switch to digital television.

Burson-Marsteller, and the approved set of vendors including its sister company Penn, Schoen and Berland LLC, successfully completed the work with the FCC on time and under budget. The contract allowed for $6 million, but only $4.36 million of that total was spent to complete the initiative. Of the $4.36 million actually spent, most went for the media buy and to a long list of 3rd party vendors.

Penn Schoen Berland total fees for creation of the ad campaign were $142,000. The rest was disbursed to a media buy of $2.439 million that went to newspapers and local radio stations around the country and $147,000 to advertising production houses. Its total fees were $142,000.00.

Burson Marsteller received a total of $1,375,000 in professional fees to manage and support this time sensitive national and local effort with a large team of professionals. They disbursed the rest to firms around the country in local communities.

The remainder of the budget went to the following entities: Balsera Communications: $90,000; Multiview Incorporated: $58,000; Strauss Radio: $43,000; Nine Sports Holdings: $5,500; PR News Wire: $4,7000; Video Monitoring Services: $13,800; Marketplace Solutions: $8,000; Kaiser Solutions: $8,000; Perry Harper: $3,000; Impact Management Group: $8,000; RDW Group: $8,000; Arnold Group: $8,000; Main Street Strategies: $8,000; Meridian Pacific: $16,000; Strategic Public Partners: $8,000; Moore Consulting Group: $8,000; Saint Moore Consulting Group: $8,000; Larson Shannahan: $6,000; McNeely Piggott and Fox: $8,000; Arena Strategy Group: $8,000; Golnik Strategies: $8,000; Brylski Company: $8,000; Fink Communictions: $9,000; Hubbel Communications: $8,000; Steve Gibbs Consulting: $8,000

Burson-Marsteller and Penn, Schoen and Berland, part of a public company, is a bipartisan firm with thousands of employees worldwide, including figures like Charlie Black, Karen Hughes and Dana Perino. Mark Penn, who is Chief Executive Officer, was not involved in any aspect of this assignment, from the procurement through execution. 

Burson-Marsteller was awarded a contract by the FCC on May 5, 2009, after going through a competitive bidding process. Burson-Marsteller participated in the bidding process after learning of the "request for proposal" through the

The contract was to support the FCC and help educate Americans about the congressionally mandated switch to digital television that was occurring on June 12, 2009. The FCC had determined that millions of American were unaware and un-equipped to meet this deadline.

Our efforts, with the FCC, was targeted to communicate to millions of Americans residing in thirty-two markets around the country. The initiative included an emphasis on seniors, minorities and hard pressed communities."