A top Republican media consultant and two associates were suddenly terminated earlier this month from The Strategy Group for Media, a prominent GOP advertising firm.
Until recently, Nick Everhart was not just the president of the firm, he was one of the most prolific ad-makers in GOP politics. And now he is out at the SGM, a firm run by CEO Rex Elsass.
The Ohio-based company made television spots for Republicans all over the ballot, and Everhart was at the center of many of those productions. But that changed with a late-night email, according to a message Everhart sent to his GOP contacts and that was obtained by CQ Roll Call.
“After being forced to sign a non-compete 12 days earlier Rex fired myself, Matt Parker, & PJ Wenzel (the founders of the phone company Frontporch Strategies that we’d just bought) last Saturday night at 10:08PM via email from a lawyer,” Everhart wrote, referring to the April 6 missive that ended his time at the SGM. “12 years of commitment, loyalty, & work just tossed aside.”
Everhart declined to comment to CQ Roll Call, but his email to colleagues quickly spread around. Nearly every Republican operative CQ Roll Call contacted in Washington and elsewhere had either seen or heard about Everhart’s email.
“He was fired with cause,” SGM Chief Creative Officer Brian J. Berry said in an April 19 interview. “Just like any business in America, we have standards and rules. If those are violated, we take appropriate action.”
Berry declined to discuss further the cause for termination. A request to interview Elsass was returned by Berry.
The SGM is a dominant force in Republican politics, counting many House and Senate members as clients. Last cycle, it aided seven freshmen and more than 20 incumbents with their victories, according to the firm’s website.
“They are one of the major GOP firms now,” a GOP strategist said of the SGM. “You look at any sort of measure of their client list and where they do races, and they’re up there.”
But Elsass has been a controversial figure before, and Republicans have registered several complaints against him. In a 2007 GOP House primary, Elsass used B-roll footage of a former client’s commercial shoot in negative ads for another client.
Recently, Republicans griped over the firm’s work for then-Rep. Todd Akin, who ran for Senate in Missouri in 2012. Akin’s team failed to contain the political fallout from his infamous “legitimate rape” comment, and soon his candidacy became a contagion that hurt Republicans in other states and races.
Everhart’s separation is sudden, especially given that Elsass elevated him to president of the firm 13 months ago. Elsass crowed about him in a March 16, 2012, news release still on the company website, writing that Everhart “earned his way to the top” of the SGM.
“I’m just stunned, given that he was just recently promoted,” a competitor said.
This week, the SGM struck a different tone on Everhart.
“All I know is that if company rules and procedures are violated, then an employee forfeits their right to be on staff,” Berry said. “No matter if they’ve been there one day or 19 years.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., carries a musket on stage as he speaks during the American Conservative Union's Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Md., on Thursday March 6, 2014.