Fitzgibbon: How Entitlement Culture Is Ruining Political Consulting

I’m sure by now you’ve heard about the closing of the Fitzgibbon firm. The team was comprised of some of the best organizing minds inside or outside of the beltway. In my conversations with some of those team members who shall for their own protection remain anonymous there was one thing that I consistently heard from them.

There is an entitlement problem in political consulting.

This shouldn’t come as a shock if you’ve been a consultant for decades. I will admit that even I though I am a senior partner am privy of a level of entitlement that I initially didn’t even fathom recognizing. There is a level of access to power no one discusses in public. That “culture” has allowed for so called progressive spaces to be harmful ones for women and lgbt employees. That “culture” is why when 2pale2male pointed out how many white male run firms existed inside the beltway few paid attention. This entitlement culture eliminates safe spaces in consulting firms and allows for toxic environments. This is not a culture that is exclusive to Democratic firms either. That “culture” has allowed for entitled leaders of firms to do whatever harm they choose to their marginalized employees. When campaigns come calling for services the last thing they want to hear are repeated issues of internal strife at a firm.

When the Fitzgibbon story broke late last year I was torn at how to react. While I immediately empathized with their staff, I also didn’t want to immediately poach them for resources as I had already seen happen in the past with other firms. When the big banks were “too big to fail” and needed to acquire smaller banks to remain solvent the same happens in consulting when larger firms are notorious for poaching quality staff from firms breaking apart at the seams. There are many firms inside the beltway convinced that as long as the contract is complete they have done their job, to them it’s not about whether or not the client was convincingly elected. Campaigns and candidates should be concerned about the deliverables of firms.

More often than not, campaigns aren’t relying on the directory C&E provides to find the firm that will get them into elected office. Campaigns assume that limited research into the firms they work with is beneficial to them. Political consulting firms assume that corporate culture eludes them because of the services they provide. Obviously, both sides are wrong and both campaigns and political consulting firms could learn something from the Fitzgibbon situation. If you thought Republican spaces were the only ones that were breeding grounds for toxic workplaces, you’re wrong. “Progressive” unfortunately is not synonymous with safe. I’ve gone to plenty of conferences costing an exorbitant amount of money where campaigns could learn best practices to run and win. However, I am not shocked to see only cohorts in consulting at these events. The employees at Fitzgibbon took a major risk in being open and honest as to what was happening while they were working. The actions and those affected should be taken as seriously as the search for a consulting firm by a campaign. Fitzgibbon was one of the most powerful media-consulting firms in DC and its clientele was a who’s who in the mass media market. It doesn’t help that Trevor Fitzgibbon presented himself as a “progressive champion” and a “feminist” the hypocrisy in his actions proves that the entitlement culture is something that is incredibly problematic and must be addressed. He was in a position where his staff did most of the work and he took credit for. That lends itself to the entitlement culture that allowed for him to commit multiple acts of sexual violence on his staff while they worked and until recently stayed under wraps. The clients of Fitzgibbon were able to pick up the pieces and find a suitable replacement vendor. I am not in a position to make an indictment on Trevor because I didn’t work at Fitzgibbon, however his staff did not deserve this treatment.

Similar to the situation with Bill Cosby, many disregarded the Fitzgibbon staff and suggested, “Why bring up this information now?” With acts of sexual violence committed in the workplace often times the victims are silenced by their boss or the corporate entitlement culture itself. I can’t stress enough that campaigns do through research on vendors and don’t just go with what their party recommends or the large amount of clients that firm has. Is that a plea to “give small vendors a chance?” no it’s a chance for campaigns to do background checks on vendors and hold them accountable if there are grievances.