A Thanksgiving story for the lobbying and public relations world of Washington:
Last year, Pamela Keeton was heading the defense practice at the influential and busy Powell Tate public relations shop. Her team helped AgustaWestland/Bell/Lockheed Martin win the prestigious federal contract to build the next presidential helicopter. And then the Army called.
Eight days before being eligible to retire from the Army Reserve -- she was a lieutenant colonel with 10 years of active duty and 14 as a reservist -- Keeton got notice that she was being mobilized. She left her cushy job and went to Afghanistan as director of public affairs for U.S. and coalition forces. When she returned earlier this year, Powell Tate was welcoming, but Keeton decided the private sector wasn't for her anymore.
"I kind of wanted to make a change from the corporate/commercial world to something contributing to making the world a better place," she said in an interview. "Afghanistan was such an incredibly satisfying experience. Powell Tate took me right back in, but it didn't hold the same excitement."
Keeton said she was impressed by the improvements she saw in the lives of the people of Afghanistan. She observed elections there and toured new schools.
After looking around and talking to friends, Keeton recently took a job as director of public affairs and communications for the U.S. Institute of Peace, the government think tank created about 20 years ago as a counterweight to the Defense Department. The institute has trained peacekeepers in the Balkans, for instance.
Keeton is helping to develop institute programs to train State Department and military folks in peace-building activities for Iraq and in making the institute's experts more available to reporters.
While she says she was prepared to take a pay cut by leaving private-sector PR for the government, "in the end I didn't have to," she said, although she did have to give up Powell Tate bonuses and employee stock purchases.
Will peace take hold inside the Beltway? Stay tuned.
$5 Million Farm Flavor
It wasn't about Chunky Monkey or Cherry Garcia. Just Vermont dairy farmer Mike Eastman in the television ad airing in the Washington area and several other big markets talking about America's endangered family farms. But when the ad came to a close, the logo was that of Ben & Jerry's, the activist Vermont ice cream company.
The ad is part of Ben & Jerry's $5 million, year-long campaign to lay the groundwork for support for family farms in the upcoming 2007 farm bill as well as to support renewal of the Milk Income Loss Contract (MILC) Program that helps dairy farmers when prices drop below a certain level. The company is also urging consumers through a Web site in cooperation with the National Farmers Union (www.benjerry.com/familyfarms) to press their lawmakers on Capitol Hill to support 2007 legislation as well as MILC, and encourages its employees to write in as well.
"We actually believe in this stuff," says Walt Freese, chief executive of Ben & Jerry's. Ben & Jerry's brings in ag experts to talk about farm issues with its employees.
MILC, which expired Sept. 30, apparently is likely to get a reprieve, after a House GOP leadership decision this past weekend to support it.
Freese says backing legislation to support family farmers is part of the company's mission to be a progressive force. The loss of family farms would devastate the economy and way of life in rural America and result in less diversity in the food supply, he says.
Ben & Jerry's, which was bought in 2000 by the consumer goods giant Unilever, worked on the content of the TV ad with the Union of Concerned Scientists.
Says Freese: "We're really good at making ice cream but we're not scientists."
New Moves Also out and about town . . . Don DeArmon, a 28-year denizen of Capitol Hill and most recently legislative director for Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.), has signed up with Cavarocchi Ruscio Dennis Associates as senior vice president.
JMG Direct, founded by Jeff Gumbinner, and Group360, headed by Max Brown, have combined to form a new strategic communications firm, 360JMG. Brown earlier served as deputy chief of staff and legal counsel to D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams and worked in the Clinton administration.