In another sign of confidence in the tech industry's money-minting promise, former public servants looking to "cash in" on their experience are turning to startups where they once might have knocked on Wall Street's revolving door.
Late last night, Robert Gibbs, Ben LaBolt, and Adam Fetcher—former flacks for the Obama administration—formally announced the launch of their new communications firm, The Incite Agency, on Facebook. Sources tell Valleywag that the firm has been soliciting startups and tech companies as potential PR clients and recently made a trip down to New York City, trotting out the party rhetoric that they "just ran the most successful startup in the world!" (i.e. Obama's re-election campaign.)
Gibbs was a close confidant of Obama, serving as a campaign adviser and press secretary; LaBolt was the press secretary for Obama's 2012 presidential campaign and communications director for Rahm Emanuel; Fetcher worked as a former deputy national press secretary for the Obama campaign.
One source told Valleywag that the agency, which will focus on "brand development, media relations, crisis communications and engagement with social and digital media" was attracted to tech companies because of the industry's increasing investment in (craven!) lobbying and because of recent battles with regulators. Uber and Airbnb, for example, regularly tangle with legislators. Facebook has been under investigation by the SEC, settled with the FTC and Google has had issues with both the FTC and FCC.
After all, when you need a carefully-worded Prism denial, who better to write it than a guy who spent time behind the White House lectern?
The source told Valleywag:
"[Gibbs and LaBolt are] clearly seeing the amount of dollars that are starting to be spent by tech companies, especially in Silicon Valley, in Washington and they’re going after it. And they came to New York to see if there was any in New York."
But at least one Silicon Alley stalwart didn't take too kindly to the visit from LaBolt and Fetcher:
It personally disgusts me what they’re trying to do. Because it’s a revolving door that Obama promised that he would try to shut, which is basically members of his administration using their networks and their influence to try to make money after they’ve been in office or held positions of power. Basically this group is acting as unregistered lobbyists. And I think it’s exactly what’s wrong with this country.
People like Gibbs and his team are going to try to exploit that naivete and they’re going to try to make money for it, for themselves, and they’re gonna use their positions from knowing the way the game works to try to you know get rich and frankly they’re mercenaries, they’re just mercenaries.
The source doubted that Incite Agency would focus exclusively on the tech sector: "I frankly think that they’d work for anybody if somebody would write them a check."
To contact the author of this post, please email email@example.com.
[Top image via Getty]