Guns Drawn on K Street After Video Game Survey

Take 2 Interactive's video game
Take 2 Interactive's video game "Mafia" takes players through the ranks of organized crime in "Lost Heaven." (Associated Press)
By Jeffrey H. Birnbaum
Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Entertainment Software Association -- better known as the lobby for video game producers -- thought it was living in an alternate reality last week when a major public relations firm released the results of a national poll about its industry.

The PR firm, Hill & Knowlton, sent out a press release that blared: "H&K survey shows 60% of respondents agree that the government should regulate the sale of video games." Suffice it to say that was the last thing that the lobby wanted to read.

In fact, it had read the result before. This fall H&K competed for the association's PR business and conducted the survey as a way to show how eager it was to get the association as a client.

The association chose a different firm, however, and that's where the controversy begins. A statement by the association suggests that Hill & Knowlton's action smacks of retribution.

"Hill & Knowlton's decision to release these findings was both unprofessional and unethical," said Dan Hewitt, the association's spokesman. In addition, he said, "the release of only part of the findings paints an inaccurate picture of the entertainment software industry."

Among the poll's other findings: More than two-thirds of 18- to 34-year-olds play video games and fewer than one in five Americans think playing video games is a negative way to spend time with friends and family.

H&K denies that it released the survey out of vengeance. Joe Paluska, who heads the firm's technology practice, said Hill & Knowlton had planned to produce the survey later in the year as a way to show its "thought leadership" on the topic, but moved it up to meet the association's deadline for hiring a PR firm.

"We had always planned to conduct and publish a gaming survey," said Paluska, who describes himself as "an avid gamer."

The full poll results, Paluska added, are available upon request, and the press release says so.

The association isn't buying that explanation, however. "Its timing is questionable," Hewitt complained.

Clinton's D.C. Connections

No presidential contender has more friends on K Street than Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.). The list of volunteer advisers to her campaign is a who's who of corporate lobbyists.

They include Steve Ricchetti of Ricchetti Inc.; Patrick J. Griffin of Griffin-Williams Critical Point Management; Joel Johnson and Susan Brophy of Glover Park Group; Charles M. Brain of Capitol Hill Strategies; Harold Ickes of Ickes and Enright Group; Steven A. Elmendorf of Elmendorf Strategies; Howard Paster of WPP Group; Timothy Keating of Honeywell; Michael S. Berman of the Duberstein Group; Peter Jacoby of AT&T; John A. Merrigan of DLA Piper; Jeffrey A. Forb e s of Cauthen Forbes & Williams; Daniel C. Tate Jr. of Capitol Solutions; Sandra Stuart of Clark & Weinstock; R. Scott Pastrick of BKSH & Associates; Anthony T. Podesta of Podesta Group; and Frederick H. Graefe.

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