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'Pratt Fall' In Engine Wars

Pratt & Whitney's lobbyists have been working hard all through this congressional session to finally put the kibosh on the GE/Rolls Royce program to build a competing engine for the F-35. As part of that battle, we now have a near perfect mid-summer story about a video criticizing the second engine and just who really paid for it.

The story, as laid out by Bloomberg's redoubtable Pentagon reporter Tony Capaccio and colleague Rachel Layne, lays out in detail how a YouTube video arguing against the a second engine originally listed Pratt as the sponsor behind it. But wait! The advertising firm Sullivan Higdon & Sink and the company that produced the video for them now say they goofed and the real client is Citizens Against Government Waste, a nonprofit group.

In very careful language, the Bloomberg story says both Pratt and the nonprofit group "are separate customers and are billed as such," according to Lathi de Silva, who bears the wonderful title of brand-recognition director at Sullivan Higdon. And a Pratt & Whitney spokesman says they didn’t pay for the video.

Call this the case of the mislabeled video. The Bloomberg story has Heath Balderston, creative director for Intake Studio, producer of the video, saying it "came in from Sullivan Higdon at the same time as one from Pratt & Whitney and they were erroneously labeled together during production." (I hope they don't fire the poor clerk who is doubtless responsible.)

In the best Washington fashion, this could well be a case of the ties that bind companies, ad agencies, PR firms and some of those who crusade against "waste and fraud" coming to light by accident. Citizens Against Government Waste gets about one-fifth of its income from corporations, according to its website. Of course, there's nothing wrong with one company throwing barbs at another -- I often benefit from information supplied by competitors who spend vast amounts of money on lobbyists and consultants to dig up this stuff -- and there's nothing wrong with nonprofits accepting money from companies.

And even if everyone involved is telling the truth about this, it's August and who can resist such a tale.


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