Christine Stuart file photo
The House Democratic caucus hired the Hartford public relations firm of McDowell Jewett Communications last week to review its public relations operation

The evaluation will include a review of how the communications staff for the House Democratic caucus uses social media and communicates with news organizations. The caucus will use $15,000 of its state taxpayer funds to pay for the contract, which runs to Nov. 1.

“Conveying a message no longer involves simply sending out a press release; it needs to be communicated in a multi-modal and visual way,” states the proposal McDowell Jewett Communications sent to the House Democrats. “Further, it needs to be targeted to different audiences and to the outlets people are most comfortable with and trust.”

McDowell Jewett Communications is named for its principals, Duby McDowell and Steve Jewett.

“Periodically it is helpful to evaluate our communications efforts, and Steve and Duby are people who we have worked with in the past,” House Speaker Brendan Sharkey said in a statement.

Gabe Rosenberg, communications director for the caucus, said he’s known McDowell for 10 years and trusts her to do a thorough review of the operation.

“It’s not easy to ask someone to evaluate what you’re doing well and what you’re not doing well,” Rosenberg said Friday.

There are 10 people in the communications office and six in the digital media office, Rosenberg said.

House Republican Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, said she’s never heard of a caucus hiring an outside firm to evaluate their communications operation.

She said each caucus gets a budget to hire legislative assistants, communications staff, and a legal team. She said hiring an outside firm signals that the caucus is in “trouble” and are “scared to death” that their message is failing.

But she said it’s hard to sell a $2 billion tax increase.

“Why are they spending $15,000 in taxpayer money to spin something they should have known a long time ago?” Klarides said Friday.

She said she’s “sick of the posturing and not listening to people in this state.”

Rosenberg said the decision to review its communications efforts had nothing to do with the state budget.

McDowell said Saturday that she’s known Sharkey for more than 10 years and has consulted with him on an informal basis from time to time.

“I’m happy that when the caucus decided to evaluate its communications efforts we got the call,” she said.

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