Creative Response Concepts
Creative Response Concepts also known as CRC Public Relations  and CRC Strageties(CRC), an Alexandria, Virginia-based public relations firm with clients such as Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, Americans for Prosperity, General Motors, the Federalist Society, Chevron, Americans for Tax Reform, PhRMA, the Republican National Committee, the National Republican Congressional Committee, the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the Christian Coalition, the National Taxpayers Union, the Media Research Council and Regnery Publishing.
Founded in 1989 by Leif E. Noren, CRC billed itself as "as the "blue-collar" communications arm for the conservative movement." CRC rose to "prominence" in 2004 to eventually has been called "a powerhouse," the firm "been behind the curtain for nearly every conservative cause" and "the go-to communications firm for conservative organizations in Washington and across the country."
CRC is best known for its work with Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, an advocacy organization formed in 2004 by opponents of John Kerry's U.S. presidential campaign. In 2018, CRC helped conservative legal activist Ed Whelan "set Washington abuzz with the promise of exonerating Brett Kavanaugh" from accusations of sexual assault, "only to be met by mockery and then partially retracted," prior to Kavanaugh's confirmation to the US Supreme Court. CRC additionally played a "pro-bono" role supporting Stephen Moore's failed nomination to the Federal Reserve.
According to the HuffPost, "CRC’s links to the conservative movement are numerous." CRC's president, Greg Mueller, was communications director for Pat Buchanan in the 1990s. Eugene B. Meyer told The New York Times "that he received media training from CRC."
- 1 News and Controversies
- 1.1 Role in Support of Stephen Moore's Nomination to Fed
- 1.2 Role in the Confirmation of Brett Kavanuagh
- 1.3 Promotion of Authors
- 1.4 CRC and Rick Scott
- 1.5 IndyMac Bank and Charles Schumer
- 1.6 Swift Boat Veterans for Truth & CBS
- 1.7 Alito Confirmation Hearings
- 1.8 Romancing Viewers for Stone
- 1.9 WI Supreme Court Race
- 1.10 National Abstinence Education Association
- 2 Personnel
- 3 Income and Employee Totals
- 4 Clients
- 5 Contact Information
- 6 Articles and resources
News and Controversies
Role in Support of Stephen Moore's Nomination to Fed
CRC was promoting Stephen Moore's appointment to the Fed to reporters and conservative leaders. Reportedly, CRC was "manag[ing] the media" for Moore. Moore said "Everybody's just in this pro bono," according to Politico, he continued, "It's been very nice. I've got a lot of good friends. CRC's put a lot of time into this. CRC Senior Vice President Keith Appell confirmed that the firm was not paid to help Moore, who is a CRC former client. Moore said CRC President Greg Mueller was a "great friend."
Role in the Confirmation of Brett Kavanuagh
In 2018, CRC helped conservative legal activist Ed Whelan of the Ethics and Public Policy Center "set Washington abuzz with the promise of exonerating Brett Kavanaugh" from accusations of sexual assault, "only to be met by mockery and then partially retracted," prior to Kavanaugh's confirmation to the US Supreme Court. Whelan insulated that Kavanaugh had doppelgänger and that person was responsible for the alleged assault of Christine Blasey Ford. Ultimately, Whelan called his tweets which prompted this accusation "an appalling and inexcusable mistake of judgment."
CRC and Whelan reportedly spent two days working with together "to figure out how best to share" Whelan supposed "evidence."
Promotion of Authors
CRC states on its website that it "has promoted more than 75 New York Times bestsellers. Our innovative programs create interview opportunities on radio and television as well as with print and online news outlets that help drive book sales." Those authors include: Newt Gingrich, Matt Drudge, Michelle Malkin and Mark Levin.
CRC and Rick Scott
Rick Scott is a multimillionaire former hospital CEO who, in 2009, emerged as a prominent leader of the opposition to U.S. President Barack Obama's healthcare reform plans. Scott founded a group called Conservatives for Patients' Rights and put $5 million of his own money towards a television advertising campaign aimed at trying to build resistance to any proposal for a government-run health insurance program. Creative Response Concepts is running the campaign.
IndyMac Bank and Charles Schumer
In August 2008, former employees of the failed California IndyMac Bank began working with Creative Response Concepts (CRC), in an attempt to hold Senator Charles Schumer responsible for the bank's collapse. Schumer, who chairs Congress' Joint Economic Committee, went public with his concerns about the bank on June 26, 2008. His negative assessments of IndyMac led to a run on the bank, "with depositors taking out a net $1.3 billion in the following two weeks," according to the Los Angeles Times. With help from CRC, 51 former IndyMac employees are accusing Schumer of "a malicious, politically motivated act." CRC circulated a letter from the employees to California Attorney General Jerry Brown to major media. "The letter, signed mostly by former staffers at IndyMac's now-shuttered mortgage operation, asks Brown to investigate Schumer and to prosecute him under a state law making it a misdemeanor to spread false and damaging statements or rumors about a bank." 
Swift Boat Veterans for Truth & CBS
PR Week reported on September 20, 2004: "Creative Response Concepts (CRC), the VA-based agency promoting the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, used right-wing blogs and news sites to turn a CBS report casting doubt on President George W. Bush's National Guard service into a potential black eye for both the network and the Democrats. A CRC client, the Cybercast News Service (CNS), was among the first to voice suspicion that documents suggesting Bush had received preferential treatment in the Guard were forgeries. ... 'After the CBS story aired, [CNS] called typographical experts, got them on the record that these papers were fishy, and posted a story by 3pm Thursday,' said CRC SVP Keith Appell. 'We were immediately in contact with Matt Drudge, who loved the story.' CRC worked with CNS and the Media Research Center, another media watchdog client, to push the story into the mainstream press." 
CRC "was paid $165,000 for repping both the Swift vets and the conservative book company Regnery Publishing, which issued a tome about Kerry's military service, Unfit for Command," William Triplet wrote in Variety, February 5, 2006.
CRC, "run by former Pat Buchanan communications director Greg Mueller, with help from former Pat Robertson communications director Mike Russell, sent out a media advisory [September 9, 2004] to hawk a right-wing news dispatch: '60 Minutes' Documents on Bush Might Be Fake.' Creative Response Concepts has played a crucial role in hyping the inaccurate, secondhand Swift Boat allegations, with Russell serving as the group's official spokesman. A company spokesman could not be reached for comment," Eric Boehlert wrote September 10, 2004, in Salon.
"That was just one day after the '60 Minutes' installment aired," Boehlert said.
Alito Confirmation Hearings
During the January 2006 U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee's confirmation hearings on Supreme Court nominee Samuel A. Alito, Jr., his wife, Martha-Ann Bomgardner, left the hearing in tears. (She left as Senator Lindsey Graham was apologizing for Democratic Senators' questions about Mr. Alito's membership in the ultra-conservative group Concerned Alumni of Princeton.) Time magazine reported that, following this incident: 
- The always-alert Creative Response Concepts, a conservative public relations firm, sent this bulletin: "Former Alito clerk Gary Rubman witnessed Mrs. Alito leaving her husband's confirmation in tears and is available for interviews, along with other former Alito clerks who know her personally and are very upset about this development." In case that was too much trouble for the journalists, the firm also e-mailed out a statement from the Judicial Confirmation Network calling "for the abuse to stop."
Romancing Viewers for Stone
In July 2006, O'Dwyer's PR Daily reported that "Viacom's Paramount Pictures is using Creative Response Concepts ... to build support among conservatives and evangelicals for Oliver Stone's World Trade Center film that opens nationwide Aug. 9. ... CRC arranged a screening in Washington last month for conservatives such as Washington Times columnist Cal Thomas, National Review's Jack Fowler, Media Research Center head Brent Bozell and Foundation for the Defense of Democracies' Cliff May." 
WI Supreme Court Race
The Spring 2007 election for Wisconsin Supreme Court pitted conservative Annette Ziegler against progressive Linda Clifford. On February 23, 2007, Madison reporter Dave Zweifel wrote about a pro-Ziegler pitch "from a public relations flack named Tim Scheiderer." Scheiderer's email stated: 
- "The court's impact on taxes, employment, health care, and many other areas will be felt by all. Recently, the court has had a propensity to re-create laws rather than enforcing them. This is very problematic for Wisconsin because it turns the law into an unpredictable guessing game and produces no confidence in the judiciary's neutrality."
Scheiderer is a staffer with Creative Response Concepts. "Scheiderer acted surprised when I asked him who was paying his firm," reported Zweifel. "He ducked the question, claiming instead that CRC works closely with the 'Federalist Society,' a group comprised mainly of conservative lawyers, but not known for shelling out money on election campaigns. I asked if they were filing campaign finance reports and, remarkably, he insisted that his clients aren't promoting a candidate, merely providing 'information' about the race. And I've got a bridge to sell." 
National Abstinence Education Association
Writing on a reproductive health blog in April 2007, Scott Swenson reported that, "Using membership dues paid in part by federal tax dollars, the National Abstinence Education Association (NAEA) hired the Washington, DC, public relations firm, Creative Response Concepts."  On behalf of the NAEA, CRC will be heading a "proactive rapid response initiative to counteract negative attacks on abstinence education," reported O'Dwyer's PR Daily. 
Writing on The Nation blog, Richard Kim noted that the formation of NAEA and its hiring of a well-connected conservative PR firm like CRC comes after "a frigid winter for the abstinence-only crowd." The Government Accountability Office criticized the funding of abstinence-only programs without checking their "education materials for scientific accuracy," while the Institute of Medicine faulted abstinence programs in the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief as jeopardizing "the vitally important end of saving lives."  In addition, abstinence-only programs "favored by Republicans and their conservative allies have lost momentum with the Democratic takeover of Congress," observed O'Dwyer's, adding: "The Prevention First Act, for instance, introduced by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Rep. Louise Slaughter (D.-N.Y.) backs state level sexual education programs that provide information about abstinence, contraception and disease prevention." 
Critics of abstinence-only education warned that the PR work could entail "Swift Boat"-like smear attacks on politicians and groups supporting comprehensive sex education. Swenson wrote, on the "RH Reality Check" blog: 
- Given CRC's well known track record, as well as an outline of NAEA's plan sent to recruit members and obtained by RH Reality Check, it is a safe assumption that Creative Response Concepts is less likely to promote abstinence only as they are to attack supporters of proven, evidenced-based, comprehensive sexuality education.
- Specifically, the membership recruiting letter from NAEA outlines "unlimited legislative lobbying" and mobilization in "key Congressional Districts" as well as a "Rapid Response" initiative that is intended to "counter attack negative attacks on abstinence education". That last part makes one wonder if at one time a memo circulated outlining the Swift Boat ads as "rapid response to negative attacks on George Bush's military record", broadly interpreting "negative" as John Kerry simply discussing his exemplary service in Vietnam.
- Gregory R. Mueller, President
- Keith Appell, Senior Vice President
- Adam Bromberg, Senior Vice President
- Peter Robbio, Senior Vice President
- Mike Thompson, Senior Vice President
- Eric Ciccone, Media Relations Account Associate
- Virginia Robinson, Digital Specialist
- Jesse Dylan Sutphin
- Willie Deutsch
- Hadley Williams
- Mari Buttarazzi
- victoria Kucharski
- Alyassa Hackbarth
- Michael Russell, Senior Vice President
- Maria E. Hatzikonstantinou, Vice President
- Leif Noren, Chairman
- Elizabeth Ray, Vice President of Accounts
Income and Employee Totals
PR Week ranked CRC Public Relations as the fiftieth largest independent PR agency in the United States in 2008, with 2007 revenue of $7,604,274, a 24% increase from the previous year's total revenue of $6,117,110. The ranking also notes its staff total of 27 (2006 total: 24), with $281,640 in revenue per employee.
- Swift Boat Veterans for Truth
- Americans for Prosperity
- General Motors
- the Federalist Society
- Americans for Tax Reform
- Republican National Committee
- National Republican Congressional Committee
- National Republican Senatorial Committee
- Christian Coalition
- National Taxpayers Union
- Media Research Council
- Regnery Publishing
Articles and resources
Related SourceWatch articles
- Federalist Society
- Media Research Center
- Swift Boat Veterans for Truth
- The Donatelli Group
- Wendell Potter
- Michael Hobbes The Selling Of Judge Brett Kavanaugh HuffPo July 24, 2018
- Elina Johnson PR firm helped Whelan stoke half-baked Kavanaugh alibi Politico Sept. 21, 2018
- CRC home organizational site, accessed May 15, 2019
- Kevin McCauley CRC Buys Kellyanne Conway’s Firm ODwyers Septmeber 28, 2017
- Eric Boehlert Swift Boat flacks attack CBS Salon September 10, 2004
- ZACHARY WARMBRODT Stephen Moore gets PR firm's help to 'manage the media' in bid to join Fed Politico April 26, 2019
- Jane Coastan Conservative activist Ed Whelan apologizes for insinuating a Kavanaugh doppelgänger assaulted Ford Vox Sept 20, 2018
- Jane Coastan Brett Kavanaugh is confirmed and Ed Whelan is back Vox Oct. 23 2018
- CRC Case Studies organizational website, accessed May 14, 2019
- E. Scott Reckard, "Ex-IndyMac workers' complaint against Sen. Charles Schumer may have political undertones," Los Angeles Times, August 16, 2008.
- Greg Mueller Greg Mueller Social Media Profile, accessed May 15 2019
- Linkedin CRC Public Relations Current People Linkedin, accessed May 15, 2019
- "2008 Agency Rankings," PR Week, 28 April 2008.
- CRC home organizational site, accessed May 15, 2019
- Robert B. Bluey, "'60 Minutes' Documents on Bush Might Be Fake," Cybercast News, September 9, 2004.
- Eric Boehlert, "Swift Boat flacks attack CBS. As the controversy over Bush's military record builds, a right-wing firm that works for the RNC pitches in," Salon, September 10, 2004.
- Douglas Quenqua, "Two DC firms ramp up efforts over latest presidential controversies," PR Week, September 20, 2004.
- Todd Johnson "Swift Boat PR Team Reassembles to Market Bush Supreme Court Candidate," ePluribus Media, July 5, 2005.
- Deb Reichmann, "Activists Priming for Supreme Court Battle," Associated Press (Committee for Justice), June 9, 2005.
- William Triplet, "'Swift-boat' pros in demand in D.C. Spinmeisters go negative," Variety, February 5, 2006.
- Mike Allen, "GOP Confident as Alito Hearings Wrap: Despite frustrating Democrats with his answers, the nominee has made no major slip-ups," Time, January 11, 2006.
- "CRC Gets Praise for Stone," O'Dwyer's PR Daily (sub req'd), July 25, 2006.
- Dave Zweifel, "Swift Boat firm aiding Zeigler campaign," The Capital Times (Madison, WI), February 23, 2007.
- Scott Swenson, "When Abstinence Only Policies Fail, Bring In The Hatchet Men to Preserve Bush's Billion Dollar Boondoggle," RH Reality Check blog, April 04, 2007.
- Richard Kim, "Abstinence Takes a Blow," The Nation blog, April 5, 2007.
- "CRC Supports Abstinence Education," O'Dwyer's PR Daily (sub req'd), April 10, 2007.
- Andrew Clevenger, "'Legal experts' weigh in on U.S. Supreme Court's Benjamin ruling," "Managed Outrage" blog of The Charleston Gazette (West Virginia), June 9, 2009.
- Kathy Kiely, "Duelling health care ads," USA Today "The Oval", June 16, 2009.