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Top GOP Ad-Maker Fired Via Email at Elsass' Firm | Shop Talk

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.”

New Party Line in the Old Line

Maryland Republicans selected a new chairwoman, real estate agent Diana Waterman, on April 20 to finish the term of their former head, Alex Mooney.

Waterman and her executive director, David Ferguson, plan to implement a long-term strategy to rebuild the state party with an eye on 2020 — the cycle before the decennial redistricting process begins again.

Republicans remain furious about how Democrats redrew the state legislative and congressional boundaries in 2011. They hope that with more Republicans in the legislature, and possibly in the governor’s mansion, Republicans can “reverse course” on the redistricting process, Ferguson said in an interview.

To accomplish this, the duo plans to focus on downballot races for the legislature and county offices in a reverse-coattails mission. The strategy will push local candidates to build bridges with voters that will help Republicans statewide and in the 6th District, which is a marginally competitive Democratic seat.

The beleaguered Maryland GOP boasts only one Republican member of Congress. Democrats have dominated state politics there for a generation.

Waterman lives on the Eastern Shore. She served as the interim chairwoman during the time between Mooney’s resignation and the April 20 chairman elections.

Ray of Light

Ben Ray, former press secretary to Sen. Joe Donnelly of Indiana, is the new director of rapid response for the North Carolina Democratic Party.

A Kentucky native, Ray’s new gig marks his third stint at a state party. Previously, he worked for the South Carolina and Indiana Democratic parties.

Stepping Stone-Ridge

The Stoneridge Group, a Republican firm in Georgia, hired Anthony Bonna as senior digital strategist.

Bonna will be based in Orlando, Fla. Previously, he was Harris Media’s Florida director, working with Florida Republicans Rep. John L. Mica and former Rep. Allen B. West. In 2010, Bonna was a senior researcher for Republican Gov. Rick Scott’s gubernatorial campaign.

Haley’s Comet

Democratic spokeswoman Haley Morris joined Rep. Gary Peters’ office last week as his new communications director. Peters is the top Michigan Democrat considering a bid for retiring Sen. Carl Levin’s seat in 2014.

Most recently, Morris helped freshman Rep. Bill Enyart, D-Ill., set up his office on Capitol Hill. In 2012, she served as the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s Midwestern press secretary. Prior to that gig, she worked on campaigns in Ohio and Wisconsin and for Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H.

How Sweeney It Is

Former Rhode Island GOP Executive Director Patrick Sweeney has joined Cranston Mayor Allan Fung’s burgeoning GOP gubernatorial campaign, according to WPRI television affiliate.

Gov. Lincoln Chafee, an independent, is up for re-election in 2014. Former state Auditor General Ernie Almonte filed to run for the Democratic nomination nearly a year ago. State Treasurer Gina Raimondo is also mulling a Democratic bid.

Please send news of developments in the political industry to shoptalk@rollcall.com and follow us on Twitter @RCShopTalk.

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