Sunday, February 7, 2016

Operation Clean Sweep

Operation Clean Sweep


The Corbett administration is certainly not afraid of turnover. Since taking office in January 2011, for instance, the governor has shaken up his inner circle twice, and has seen a half dozen cabinet secretaries take leave.

So it should come as little surprise that the governor's press office has quietly gone through an extreme makeover of its own over the last few months.

It started at the tail end of summer, when Corbett, battling sagging polling numbers, brought in longtime Republican strategist Leslie Gromis-Baker to help score much-needed legislative wins - but also improve his public image. Gromis-Baker set out to do just that, and her staffing moves showed she believed the governor's press operation - and message -- needed a top-to-bottom change.

The first - and highest-profile - casualty was longtime Corbett press secretary Kevin Harley, who had also worked for Corbett when he was attorney general. During his tenure, Harley had earned the reputation of being overly-protective of the governor and dismissive of reporters.

In his shoes, Gromis-Baker brought in Lynn Lawson, a former campaign press secretary to Gov. Tom Ridge, as Corbett's communications director. And Lawson, in turn, has done her own house cleaning over the last few months. Corbett press office staples Kirsten Page, Janet Kelley, Eric Shirk and Kelli Roberts are no longer in his press office (all have shifted to other state agencies).

Corbett officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

But privately, others contended the changes were sorely needed, and that the governor has been, perhaps for the first time in his tenure, actively trumpeting his agenda and defending his policies.

-Angela Couloumbis

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About this blog

Commonwealth Confidential gives you regularly updated coverage of the state legislature, the governor and the workings of the state bureaucracy. It is written by Angela Couloumbis in the Inquirer's Harrisburg bureau, based in the statehouse, and by the newspaper's far-flung campaign reporters.

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