2010-06-10 / Family

GOP Aims Fire At Pa. Project On Rendell’s Policies

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) – State officials are defending a $30,000 research project aimed at illustrating the effect of Gov. Ed Rendell’s policies from Republicans charges that the effort is a waste of taxpayer money.

The project run by Philadelphia public relations consultant Kevin Feeley, who was Rendell’s spokesman when he was the city’s mayor, aims to put a face on Rendell’s education, economic development and environmental programs.

“Basically, it’s a collection of information that helps make the case that what we’re doing works,’’ Feeley said. “At a time when budgets are under stress at the state level – at all levels – it’s important for people to know that when you start the cutting game, you have to be careful of what you cut.’’

Republicans, however, called the contract a slap in the face as the governor warns of possible layoffs of state workers.

“Here he is signing a sweetheart deal to do something that he has dozens and dozens of public relations people on his payroll to do,’’ said Steve Miskin, spokesman for House Minority Leader Sam Smith. “What is the value to the commonwealth of this PR campaign?’’

Rendell last week denied there was a public relations campaign, telling reporters “there is no money for a campaign.’’ His chief of staff, Steve Crawford, said Friday the governor had not been given details, but noted that the administration has long taken the approach that budget cuts come with a human toll and Feeley’s work would help reinforce that point.

“He’s a skilled communicator and he does great work,’’ Crawford said of Feeley. “The value of what he’s doing for us is enormous.’’

Feeley said Friday that his report would contain many stories of those helped by state programs, such as an eighth grader from a school in Pittsburgh-area McKees Rocks at which Rendell announced a state grant for a tutoring program a few years ago.

That child, Feeley said, told the governor at the time “We’re not stupid anymore,’’ a comment he said “blew the governor away.’’ The governor told the boy “You were never stupid; it’s about having the resources for success,’’ and the child ended up staying in high school – in part because of the tutoring program – and now has a fulltime job, Feeley said.

“These are telling stories, stories that have had an impact and stories that support the approach that the governor and the Legislature have taken,’’ Feeley said.

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