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Clinton Pollster Takes Helm of Global Firm

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By Judy Sarasohn
Thursday, December 8, 2005

M ark Penn , pollster extraordinaire to President Bill Clinton, is crunching some new numbers. He has been named the new worldwide chief executive of Burson-Marsteller , a major global public relations company.

Penn is a founding partner of the opinion research firm Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates (PSB), which was acquired by WPP Group PLC , Burson's parent company, four years ago. Burson, which earns more than $200 million in revenue, announced yesterday that Penn succeeds Thomas R. Nides , who left to be Morgan Stanley's chief administrative officer.

Although Penn, 51, is best known in Washington for his political work, he and Howard Paster , WPP executive vice president for public relations, note that the vast bulk of Penn's work is corporate, for clients such as Microsoft, Verizon, BP and Ford.

But Penn said in an interview that he will continue to work for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), as well as do corporate work for other clients. PSB will be a division of Burson, and Penn will remain its president; partner Mike Berland becomes chief executive of PSB.

"I won't be giving up politics. . . . To put me just in administration would be a loss," Penn said.

Paster says the global company is in good shape and Penn's job is to provide innovative, strategic thinking to move it even further forward. Or, as Paster said, "knock it into orbit."

Chemistry Council's Realignment Underway

Five months after taking the helm of the American Chemistry Council -- and four years after the group merged with the American Plastics Council -- Jack N. Gerard has unveiled his plan (mostly) to make the trade group into a lobbying power.

The realignment of the ACC, which has been in turmoil for most of the time since the merger, is not without pain. Late last week, 41 employees were wished well on their retirement or new opportunities, or otherwise shown the door. In-house, people were transferred to make better use of their skills or to emphasize certain issues.

The ACC, which has about 212 remaining staff members, has dropped from 13 to five vice presidents, and there will be only one senior vice president for advocacy -- Gerard is looking for "a heavy hitter" for that job. Two ACC lobbyists remain: Martin Durbin and Robert Flagg .

Among those leaving ACC, Charles W. Van Vlack , executive vice president, is retiring after 25 years, effective March 4. Rodney Lowman , executive vice president, left Friday to become president of the Abundant Forest Alliance, a new trade association for paper and forest products. Clifford T. "Kip" Howlett , a vice president and executive director of the Chlorine Chemistry Council, retired Friday. Lobbyists Mary Bernhard and Claude Boudrias are among the 41 leaving.

Gerard, who plans to review the group's use of outside lobby shops, said the realignment will bolster ACC's advocacy mission. In an interview in October, Gerard said the ACC needs to become more political and to mobilize its rank and file. "It's been clear to me that the American Chemistry Council has been punching below its weight," he said then.

Ridge Says He's Not Lobbying

Active on the speaking tour circuit and looking into some business opportunities, former homeland security secretary Tom Ridge has joined the Council on Competitiveness as a "distinguished fellow." What that means is he will be explaining to U.S. executives that "increased security creates market opportunities . . . and preserves competitiveness," according to the council.

Although the council says that Ridge will be carrying its message of homeland security as a competitiveness issue to industry and policymakers, Ridge says he will not be lobbying the Hill or the administration. "There's nothing wrong with the lobbying business. . . . But it's not something that I'm a part of," Ridge said.

Financial Dynamics Acquires Dittus

Financial Dynamics , a business communications firm with offices around the world, has acquired homegrown Dittus Communications .

Dittus Communications, led by Gloria Dittus , will remain a separate entity under the FD umbrella. A 12-year-old PR shop with more than 50 professional staffers, Dittus specializes in public affairs, issue advocacy and grass-roots campaigns. Its clients have included Home Depot, Qwest and Tyco.

"I never did start my company to sell it. I love this business," Dittus said. But she was persuaded to sell to FD because "they sounded a lot like us. . . . I can focus on clients."

FD's Washington office, opened nearly two years ago, is led by Stanley Collender , a veteran of the House and Senate budget committee staffs.

Career Moves

Grass-roots specialist Les Francis , vice president for communications and public affairs at the Educational Testing Service, is joining Goddard Claussen Strategic Advocacy as executive vice president, effective Jan. 1. Earlier, Francis was chief of staff to then-House member Norman Y. Mineta (D-Calif.), deputy chief of staff to President Jimmy Carter and executive director of the Democratic National Committee.

Jean M. Bunton will leave Policy Impact Communications Inc. for the Securities Industry Association, where she'll be vice president for strategic communications. Bunton earlier was an aide to President George H.W. Bush.


© 2005 The Washington Post Company

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