Much like it is down in Florida with Gov. Ron DeSantis, the Virginia/D.C. press corps spends obscene amounts of time trying to cook up nontroversies about Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin partly because he’s good at what he does, and partly because he’s rumored to be considering a 2024 run for president.
The latest one, as reported by multiple media outlets including the Associated Press (AP) and the Richmond Times-Dispatch (RTD), revolves around a political ad agency being awarded a $268,000 contract to produce a tourism video where Youngkin was featured prominently.
The ad agency, Poolhouse, was “behind Glenn Youngkin’s successful bid for Virginia governor, which created his branding and specializes in work for Republican candidates,” according to the RTD, who really hyped up the “favoritism” angle in their headline:
“Virginia paid Gov. Youngkin’s political ad agency $268K to make a tourism ad — featuring Youngkin.”
But when you read down deep into the fine print of the RTD’s piece, you get hints that this really isn’t much of a scandal at all:
Virginia Tourism Corporation reached out to two advertising companies on May 5, offering them a chance to bid on the state tourism commercial as well as seven large billboards designed for display on airport walls. The competition for Poolhouse, which branded Youngkin’s logos and images in his successful 2021 run for governor, was limited.
In the case of what it called the “Governor’s Welcome Project,” Virginia Tourism Corporation reached out to Poolhouse and The Martin Agency, based in Richmond; and then on May 10 to Arlington-based Henninger Media Services, after a Martin Agency representative said the company couldn’t bid, according to Virginia Tourism Corporation.
According to the RTD, the Martin Agency could not meet the deadlines so they declined the bid offer. The other agency, Henninger, never submitted a bid. So Poolhouse won it by default. A spokesman for the Viginia Tourism Corporation (VTC) also told the RTD that they “reached out to Virginia-based entities it believed could produce a high-quality product within a short time frame,” which might explain why the competition was, as the RTD suggested, “limited.”
Switching over to the AP’s write-up, a dive into the details of the article further nukes the favoritism narrative by noting that Youngkin’s office specifically asked the VTC to reopen the bidding process after Poolhouse had initially been offered the contract, because the Youngkin administration didn’t want to give off the appearance that they were playing favorites (bolded emphasis added):
According to VPM News, the tourism agency initially gave Poolhouse the contract without soliciting any bids at all. The change in course came after Youngkin’s office expressed concern about the perception that the procurement process was biased, Mike McMahon, vice president of operations and finance, told the station in an email.
In other words, this supposed scandal is a big nothingburger, unless you ask Democrats in the state who are accusing Youngkin of cooking up a “scheme” to produce a taxpayer-funded campaign video:
“This is government corruption at its height,” tweeted Democratic House Leader Don Scott.
Democratic Party of Virginia Chairwoman Susan Swecker said the “scheme” to use taxpayer dollars for “what is basically a presidential campaign video” raised ethical and “possible criminal” questions. She urged an investigation.
Hmm, well let me see here. It’s not uncommon to see state tourism videos and/or literature feature governors from time to time. It’s the nature of the beast. So if that equates to a “campaign ad” then I guess those governors are guilty of using taxpayer dollars for “campaign ads,” too. Further, as the AP and VPM reports confirm, Youngkin’s office specifically asked the VTC to open up the bidding to other Virginia-based ad agencies because they didn’t want the process to come off as biased. The timeline didn’t work for one ad agency and the other one didn’t respond.
So Poolhouse got it. End of story. Or so it should be.
The VTC’s ad dropped in early September. It’s pretty good, and at one point features Youngkin in a racecar:
In Virginia there's a million ways to say welcome, and @GovernorVA wants to be one of the first! We hope your holiday weekend was filled with Virginia adventures, and we can't wait to welcome you back again next time. #VisitVA pic.twitter.com/E4ncef9Zm1
— visitvirginia (@VisitVirginia) September 6, 2022
As it turns out, Virginia is not only for lovers – as the state slogan indicates – it’s also for triggered Democrats who just can’t deal with Republican governors like Youngkin who project poise and strength, and who know how to lead.
The world’s smallest violin is playing for you right now, Virginia Democrats. It truly is.