Just what the Republican-led Voter ID effort in Pennsylvania needed - another link to GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney.
The Philadelphia City Paper posted a story over the weekend about how the Corbett administration, through the Department of State, has awarded a $260,000 contract to a consulting firm called the Bravo Group to help do community outreach for the state's new law requiring voters to show identification at the polls.
As City Paper journo Daniel Denvir noted, Bravo is run by Chris Bravacos, a former state GOP party exec and a Romney fundraiser.
This new wrinkle comes as the GOP-controlled legislature and Gov. Corbett, a Republican, continue to fend off criticism that the state's new Voter ID law is little more than a thinly-veiled attempt to suppress the Democratic vote in an election year. Critics of the law have argued that the measure will disenfranchise the poor, the elderly and other groups that tend to check the D column at the polls.
Department of State spokesman Ron Ruman said in an interview Tuesday that the $260,000 contract was competitively bid, and that it requires Bravo to conduct research, develop outreach materials and coordinate with community groups across the state to help educate voters on the new law.
The contract is being funded through roughly $5 million in federal Help America Vote Act dollars. The rest of the $5 million, said Ruman, will be used on a separate and much more lucrative contract - with an as-yet-to-be-named firm - to develop print, radio and television ads, as well as for the ad buys.
Bravo, along with five other companies, has also bid for the advertising contract, which Ruman said should be awarded by the end of the month. But a few of the sample ads that were developed in-house by Bravo as part of their application for the ad contract were posted on the firm's Vimeo page and picked up by City Paper. One talks about the importance of voting and includes black-and-white images of important moments in the U.S. voting history, including the suffrage movement.
Sean Connolly, a senior director at Bravo, called that video a "draft concept, created for internal use." It was not, he said, included in the firm's formal bid for the state ad contract, and not part of the public record, for that matter.
As for the firm's $260,000 state contract for public outreach, Connolly said Bravo "was selected through a competitive state procurement process."
"We have a proven track record," said Connolly.
Asked whether Bravacos' personal political views would influence any of the firm's community outreach efforts, Connolly said: "Not at all."
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