You may have seen the latest commercial from Attorney General Dustin McDaniel on his new “Got Your Back, Arkansas” campaign. This is a new consumer education and awareness initiative “to equip Arkansans with the information they need to navigate the consumer marketplace and avoid scams and fraud” according to their press release.
But the $350,000 advertising campaign for the initiative – much of it to Stone Ward Advertising – has drawn criticism from some Republicans, including Lieutenant Governor Mark Darr.
“I wish my office had millions at its disposal to run my campaign ads,” tweeted Darr after the announcement. “It’s nice to know that Government official ‘got your back’ but unfortunately they really ‘got your back pocket.’”
“I just think legislature should appropriate funds,” said Darr in follow-up interview. “These are all worthy causes but no one person or official should get credit. GIF funds from representatives or senators have to go through agencies. Constitutional officers should be held to the same standard.”
Darr’s criticism reflects an ongoing criticism – particularly from those in the state legislature – of McDaniel using settlement funds, not necessarily improperly, but in a way he chooses with little legislative oversight. He has also been criticized for promoting projects that also promote him personally.
McDaniel’s office tells me the $350,000 initiative has $250,040 budgeted for “paid media, production and focus groups” and $99,960 for “personnel.”
The vendor for the project is Stone Ward Advertising, where chief of staff Blake Rutherford worked prior to being hired by McDaniel. A division of Stone Ward Advertising was also the vendor that produced a $6,000 video for McDaniel to announce settlement funds for an Arkansas State Police training facilities while he was out of town in Hawaii.
“Last fall, our office issued a request for proposals. A five-member team (including three employees from our Consumer Protection Division and two from the Communications Division) evaluated the proposals that were submitted and selected that agency,” said AG spokesman Aaron Sadler.