Usually, political consultants battle it out behind the scenes as they run campaigns and advise candidates. This week, claims of plagiarism brought two Central Coast political consultants into the public view — but no candidates are involved this time.
Andrew Russo, founder of Salinas-based Paramount Communications, sent out an email Friday to about 5,000 people in the political community and news media exposing a “despicable and reprehensible act” by San Luis Obispo-based consultant Cory Black of Public Policy Solutions Inc.
Russo spotted seven blocks of text describing campaign services — his text — on Black’s website late last week. He took a screenshot and then drafted first an email, and later a news release, to take Black to task in the public arena.
“I can’t believe this wasn’t deliberate,” said Russo, whose clients have included Republican Assembly competitor Matt Kokkonen, Atascadero Mayor Tom O’Malley, and former San Luis Obispo County Supervisor Harry Ovitt.
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Black — whose clients have included San Luis Obispo Mayor Jan Marx and Sheriff Ian Parkinson — said the incident was an honest mistake and a simple phone call from Russo would have had the same result: he removed the text from the website as soon as it was brought to his attention.
Black said he was on Russo’s email list and at one point had received an email with some marketing points, which Black forwarded on to his web designer as an example of what he’d like to do with his site.
The designer instead posted some text in the email without talking to Black.
“There were no nefarious intentions on my part,” he said. “It could have easily been solved with a phone call and an apology on my part.”
When asked why Russo didn’t call Black after he saw the text, Russo said: “I didn’t think a phone call would serve any productive purpose,” adding that Black should have called him.
No legal action has been taken; Russo said he hasn’t ruled anything out but has not decided whether he wants to pursue legal action.