Richard Levick — The Age of Transparent Political Donations Is Upon Us


Richard Levick, Esq., Chairman & CEO, LEVICK

On July 27th in 1974, the House Judiciary Committee recommended that Richard M. Nixon be impeached and removed from office. By January of 1975, there were 93 new members of Congress, including 49 seats in the House and Senate which had flipped Republican to Democrat.

In the mid to late 1960s, when I was in elementary school, I would play with Chase Church, whose house was just a quick shortcut through the woods from our elementary school. Too young to think much of the fact that his father was the United States Senator, Frank Church, I would just hang out at his house after school, say hello to his mom and, on the rare occasion, hear his father’s sonorous voice. A few years later, while in high school, I couldn’t avoid the recognition as Senator Church would become one of the “Watergate Babies” ushering in remarkable transparency reforms – Sunshine laws – that would become part of the national fabric, though increasingly whittled away over the decades.

The Great Experiment – the American system of democratic rule – is only fully appreciated when viewed through the lens of the 18th century. Authority was the exclusive domain of royalty and self-rule was utterly inconceivable. For all its limitations, American democracy largely self-corrects through Hegelian transitions, like a pendulum in a slow moving Grandfather clock that takes years to go from side to side. Watergate led to Sunshine laws. So too – if our democratic process still works – will the current environment lead to reforms. Companies engaged in the political process need to prepare for it now.

In light of the recent unrest, many companies have been calling for diversity, equity and inclusion but are unsure of how to lead and what to do. There is a dawning realization that corporate responsibility is not just to the shareholders but the stakeholders as well.

We have been suggesting that this is a complex wave of change, not healed through symbolic efforts, and that every component, from recruitment to advertising, public affairs to Corporate Social Responsibility, sustainability to investments, and more, need to be reexamined through fresh eyes. Corporate political donations play an out-sized role. Already, many companies have been embarrassed after being lauded days earlier for powerful and righteous tweets and statements only to be revealed to have been financially supporting opposite actions.

On Friday, I interviewed Bruce Freed, co-founder of the Center for Public Integrity, on our daily podcast In House Warrior, for the Corporate Counsel Business Journal, who has just released a new report entitled Conflicted Consequences which follows corporate donations to “527” organizations (527 is the IRS designation). Among the advantages that 527s provide over traditional political spending is that they are opaque. If companies and individuals want to fund someone or something, how much better to do it than in the dark, without accountability? Or so the thinking went for years.

The Center provides maps of which companies spend how much through 527s to fund campaigns and candidates that fuel racial gerrymandering, attack the Affordable Care Act (20 million Americans still rely on it for their health insurance), fight climate change reform, oppose LGBTQ and more. In other words, if you are a company that wants to do the right thing and tweets, advertises or speaks on #BLM, climate change, LGBTQ, DEI or other social issues, now is the time to get your house in order. Companies need to review their entire political spend, not just donations made through PACs and other more transparent methods, but the entire legislative agenda. Support whatever you think is in the company’s interest, just make sure you know it will see the sunshine. A note about the Center. They work with companies. Imagine when others figure out how to trail the breadcrumbs?

During the financial crisis of 2008-2009, AIG brought in an outside expert to review and remake their entire public affairs division. That in itself is a fascinating story, but for today, just a short circuit to the conclusion. AIG recognized it was a new day, with new priorities and, for them, blinding transparency because the whole world was watching. They remade their entire department, leaving few idols standing. For companies wanting and proclaiming to do the right thing, now is exactly the time to put your house in order because, as Abraham Lincoln said at his party’s acceptance speech for United States Senate in Springfield, Illinois, “A house divided against itself, cannot stand.” He lost that election in 1858 to Stephen A. Douglas, but, of course, won a bigger office two years later. This transparency change is coming. Time to take the lead.

Listen to the podcast

Richard Levick – Speak Truth With Love, Not Anger


“As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.”

— Nelson Mandela (born July 18, 1918)

The anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s birth would, by minutes, have been the same day as John Lewis’ death, separated by 102 years. As one light goes out, others must rise.

It was the last thing I remember reading before falling asleep late Friday night, the sad news that John Lewis, the conscience of a generation, had passed away. A few hours later at 3 a.m., I read the daily essay by the brilliant Boston College historian, Heather Cox Richardson, commemorating Congressman Lewis. Her daily essays are as powerful as she is indefatigable, and this one, as always was well worth the read, made all the starker by the early hour.

In a Washington Post interview, after Congressman Lewis’s last public appearance at Black Lives Matter Plaza across from the White House on June 7, just over four miles from my home, he summed up the #BLM movement by saying, “I can do something. I can say something.” So can we all.

As if on cue, nearly 12 hours later, as I sat in a rocking chair in the backyard, facing Rock Creek Park reading, the passionate New York Times editorial board remembrance, John Lewis Risked His Life for Justice, on came “When,” from the late Richie Havens, a soft but powerful song about a deeply challenged future (“I don’t have a future, cried the children in the streets”). God does indeed work in mysterious ways, even if it means Pandora finding exactly the right song — one out of roughly 100,000 possible songs — at precisely the right moment.

We are at a crossroads, again. America’s original sin; 1855-64; 1963-72; and right now. We are in the midst of another great Civil Rights movement. For those on the far right who would deny it and claim it is anarchy; for those on the far left who want to intimidate through cancel culture and cultural appropriation shaming; and for those in the middle who would choose to ignore it, this. is. it. The great arc of history will judge us by what we do next.

A path forward

Over the past week, we recorded three broadcasts to provide companies and executives with insights on actions we can take to lead:

For companies investing in Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) efforts (if not now, when?), Paul Anderson-Walsh, co-founder of The Center for Inclusive Leadership in London, in a powerful broadcast, reminds us to “speak truth with love, not anger.” This is a time for “radical acceptance, not judgment.” So many of us are entering the conversation on race as if we are in a bad marriage, fearful of every word so that we stutter rather than embrace, we judge rather than listen. I could have spent the day with Paul, with his voice radiating acceptance and his wisdom providing pathways. We will have him on again but these 40 minutes help us on the journey. We all need to listen.

For those reviewing their CSR through fresh eyes, we interviewed DC SCORES and America SCORES (the official charitable partner of DC United and the Washington Spirit, respectively), including recent alumni and Morehouse College rising freshman DeAndre Walters, whose poem, “Letter to the Movement” he reads on air and will cut you to the quick. He concludes with these lines:

“I don’t wanna be hashtag

I wanna be remembered”

DC Scores calls them “poet athletes,” teaching the most beautiful game at the same time they teach how to nurture a beautiful mind.

CSR can make a difference in people’s lives — lives that enrich and empower.

In a broad ranging conversation via Wake Forest’s Center for the Study of Capitalism, called Doing the Right Thing: How Companies Lead in the New Age of Diversity and Inclusion, a panel including former Monsanto GC and Akerman partner Bill Ide; Neil Foote, CEO of Foote Communications and President of the National Black Public Relations Society; Kurt Bardella, a contributor to MSNBC, USA Today and NBC; Chris Jackson, of the global polling company Ipsos; and Derede McAlpin of LEVICK, explore specifically what companies can do. We will follow this soon with more articles and checklists to help companies build long term, institutionalized efforts.

All of us need look as much in the mirror as we do with judgment. We need to be the change we want. This is a moment about holistic justice, not personal power. For those still insistent on blaming the “other” rather than embracing the other, remember the futility of ostracism and that it often backfires. Emperor Nero blamed an obscure religious cult for the Great Fire of Rome in 64 AD. That obscure cult? The Christians.

“You have to have the capacity and the ability to take what people did, and how they did it, and forgive them and move on.”

—  John Lewis

Embrace the journey.

Come take the next step with us.

Richard S. Levick, Esq.
Chairman & CEO

Richard Levick – “We Want to Do the Right Thing”


Recently we ended an article with the question we are so regularly asked by companies in this new Civil Rights era – “Can you help us to do the right thing?” Weighed down by historical actions or inactions or simply overwhelmed by the enormity of the task before us, many companies and institutions are seeking guidance to get this right. We have started putting together a series of resources, some already published or broadcast, others forthcoming. As we work through these, we will provide a compendium of best practices to assist companies and organizations in building a more equitable present and future.

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden captured in a weekend op-ed the right tone that applies conceptually as well to companies as it does for our country:

“Our democracy rose up from the ground when we ended slavery and ratified the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments. It rose higher when women fought for suffrage — and won. It was fortified when a lawyer named Thurgood Marshall persuaded the Supreme Court to strike down ‘separate but equal’ and blaze a trail for opportunity in Brown v. Board of Education. And when our nation opened its eyes to the viciousness of Bull Connor and the righteousness of the Freedom Riders — and responded with outrage, and a new Civil Rights Act and a Voting Rights Act — we built it stronger still.”

In the  Winston-Salem Journal, I join Christina Elson, Executive Director of the Center for the Study of Capitalism at Wake Forest University, to outline the importance of honest and transparent communications from brands during the Black Lives Matter movement and beyond.

In a webinar hosted by Primerus, I discuss what lawyers need to know to be highly effective crisis and litigation communications members in the age of transparency and division.

Barrett Avigdor and Duc Trang of Major, Lindsey & Africa Transform Advisory Services, one of the nation’s leading consultants to law firms and legal departments, provides insights into diversity, inclusion and leadership on our podcast, In House Warrior. 

This Thursday, July 9th, I join bestselling author and one of the world’s leading experts on brand and culture transformation, Martin Lindstrom, along with Christina Elson of the Center, to discuss “The End of Brand Neutrality: How to Be Good Corporate Citizens in an Age of Civil Unrest.”

On July 15th I join a panel of communications and legal experts to discuss “Doing the Right Thing: How Companies Lead in the New Age of Diversity & Inclusion.”

Come take the next step with us.

Richard S. Levick, Esq.
Chairman & CEO

Richard Levick -The Page Has Turned

Richard Levick -The Page Has Turned


Almost exactly 56 years ago, on July 2nd, 1964, after Lyndon Johnson’s Herculean triumph, passing the Civil Rights Act, he allegedly told aides, “We have lost the South for a generation.” How is it that a conservative, white southern President, never known as a champion of Civil Rights, would rise to the moment, risk everything, including his party’s majority, to seize the moment not once but twice, following it up in 1965 with the Voting Rights Act?

Johnson was a remarkable student of power, politics and personality and understood the uniqueness of the moment – made possible, in part, by the tragic assassination of President Kennedy (those same two years saw nearly 250 pieces of legislation pass in the greatest Civil Rights era since Reconstruction). We are entering a similar moment today, which comes but once every few generations, if that.

Recently, in a stunning series of reversals, Mississippi suddenly announced that it was removing the Confederate icon from its State flag. It is easy to lose sight of why this happened while trying to just digest the news. This is Mississippi. The GOP dominates both state houses and the Governor’s mansion. The legislation passed overwhelmingly. Governor Tate Reeves not only reversed his position, but called for immediate action, not just another referendum, saying it’s time “to resolve that the page has been turned.” When was the last time you saw a politician do a complete reversal over the course of one weekend and call for immediate action. This. Is. History.

Mississippi’s dramatic reversal, of course, did not happen because suddenly there was a change in philosophy. The legislature and governors had been ignoring calls from the African-American community for generations. It happened now because of a growing mercantile activism. If this can happen, let alone this quickly, in Mississippi, power has shifted from government to the boardrooms and the C-Suites.

In a brilliant analysis, James Hohmann, in the Washington Post provides a step-by-step account. Leadership came from Walmart, the NCAA, the Southern Baptist Convention, NASCAR, the Mississippi Economic Council (the state’s leading business lobby), the list goes on. Power is not about philosophy, voting, or marching in the streets – though all play a critical role. Power, at least for the time being, rests in the boardroom. Facebook (a company that has been playing from behind for years and still doesn’t understand its moment) is now feeling the same heat from its advertisers, as a Fortune 500 list of advertisers sign on for the #StopHateforProfit campaign and begin their boycotts of Facebook.

In the 1960s when we marched we thought – simply and naively – that business and the military were never to be trusted. Today, both have risen to historic moments with business leading in ways it hasn’t in well over a century. We have written for the last four years about the rise of this new mercantile activism. It is now growing at a pace even we did not predict. It is a brave new world of corporate activism, leadership and responsibility and represents the largest percentage of the conversations we are having with companies these days. Each conversation is remarkable with corporate leadership asking us a version of, “We want to do the right thing but we need help in knowing what that is and how to do it.”

We have begun a series of extraordinary broadcasts, the first is with Primerus, a global alliance of law firms, getting to the heart of this issue. More are scheduled in the coming weeks.

Enjoy the listen, ask the hard questions, and lead into the void.

Watch the webinar

Richard S. Levick, Esq.
Chairman & CEO

Richard Levick – Into the Breach

Richard Levick - Into the Breach


Take a listen to a special edition of In House Warrior, the daily podcast of the Corporate Counsel Business Journal, as John Mullen, of the law firm Mullen Coughlin, which handles approximately 2,500 cyber incidents a year, provides insight into best cyber practices. It’s 25 minutes well-spent.

Please also take a look at NewsWhip/Axios’ analysis of social media conversations since the murder of George Floyd. Online engagement is greater than the five other leading social conversations in the Trump era, combined, and 15 to 120 times greater than each of them at their respective apex. This includes discussion of gun control after Parkland, backlash to the president’s policies on immigration, abortion, global warming and #MeToo. Anyone who thinks this isn’t a seminal moment is missing the signposts of history.

In a somewhat related story, American Heritage magazine, a journal about history and therefore seldom if ever one to make news with an exclusive, does just that with a story of how many Confederate likenesses are actually in the U.S. Capitol, nearly twice as many as widely reported.

Kudos to our friend Ed Grosvenor, the publisher and editor of AH, for his methodical review of congressional art and architecture databases. Is it any wonder that this country has systemic racial issues when fully 16 percent of the men honored in Congress’ Statuary Hall championed white supremacy and led an armed insurrection against the Republic?

In case you missed it, Ross Douthat, columnist for the New York Times, makes a remarkable point about the judicial arc, arguing we are now a juristocracy.

It was quite a week. Don’t expect it to slow down.

Enjoy the listen.

Richard S. Levick, Esq.
Chairman & CEO

Richard Levick on the Changing U.S.-China Relations

Richard Levick on the Changing U.S.-China Relations


Not too long after 9/11, LEVICK was asked to defend the Kuwaiti detainees at Guantanamo. As staunch U.S. allies, the Kuwaitis wanted to distinguish their detainees who had been swept up in the U.S. dragnet that had detained many hundreds of Arab men, in some cases, with little or no information connecting them to terrorism. The U.S. Supreme Court would rule on behalf of these detainees’ rights on three separate occasions but it would take a sustained media campaign to change the will of the U.S. government.

In the shadow of this historic tragedy, it is understandable why initially few American politicians, editorial boards or citizens were concerned about due process and the presumption of innocence. It would take several years, but in time, a majority of Americans and nearly all major editorial boards recognized that you could have justice and due process. There would be some uncomfortable moments – the recognition that we were being followed and recorded or when the Wall Street Journal devoted its entire Op-Ed page (the only time I know of in the past 40 years) to severely criticize our work and that of the lawyers defending these detainees. Through back channels the Bush Administration made it clear that, “We have a job to do; you have a job to do. We think we have the better argument, but let’s see.” Through the courts and media the two sides made their arguments. In time, all but one of the Kuwaiti detainees would be rendered and released. It was a difficult but fair fight.

Today, when we represent Chinese companies, it feels much different. There is more fear among Chinese companies and their American consultants. In recent conversations with journalists, lawyers and others, we have been discussing why it is so much more challenging now for Chinese companies already in and trying to enter the U.S.

Many of the press releases and allegations I have read from U.S. regulators against Chinese companies are a combination of extreme vagueness and extraordinary histrionics. Traditionally, they have been written the other way around.

U.S. companies – even those competing in China – as well as lawyers and academics no longer want to comment on the record in defense of Chinese companies for fear of getting crosswise with the U.S. government.

Threats of criminal charges reduce or eliminate the desire by Chinese companies in the U.S. to lobby or communicate on what just a year or two ago felt like business as usual in Washington.

The silence is deafening and it means that most of the debate on Chinese companies in the U.S. is now one-sided.

There is no question that technology raises all sorts of questions about national security. Chinese companies should be thoroughly vetted for these purposes. But now the power of the federal government is so draconian that Chinese companies are increasingly skipping the American market; those that are here are not participating in the public debate.

I had a fascinating conversation with Robert Lewis of docQbot – which aims to improve the delivery of legal services in China with advanced technology – that ran on The Weekly, our podcast for Asian-MENA general counsels in partnership with In House Community. We cover a lot of ground, and his views on U.S.-China relations are well worth the listen.

Enjoy the listen.

Richard Levick

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Richard Levick: “Show Me, Don’t Tell Me”

Richard Levick: “Show Me, Don’t Tell Me”


“When you have seen hate-filled policemen curse, kick, brutalize, and even kill your black brothers and sisters with impunity … then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait.”

– Letter From Birmingham Jail, Martin Luther King Jr., 1963

That same year, when I was almost six years old, I was listening to AM radio and on came the news. White political commentators debated the merits of Martin Luther King, Jr’s civil disobedience. It struck me at the moment because it was the first time, at that tender age, that I thought “How come everyone is not in support of these changes? Maybe adults don’t always know what they are doing?” Less than five years later I was struck by the outpouring of adulation of white pundits after the tragic assassination of Reverend King. Even at ten years of age, I thought, though I didn’t know the word, “Where were you before martyrdom?” Support, it seemed, was always safer after the fact.

This past week is monumental in a year of endless historic moments. But make no mistake about the blinking signpost we have just passed. The corporate community can no longer remain neutral.

I’ve spent the past week and through the weekend speaking with publicly traded and private companies all asking, “How can we be good corporate citizens in an age of civil unrest?” It’s hard today and it’s going to get harder.

Study Sony’s $100 million dollar commitment “to support social justice and anti-racist initiatives around the world.”

Study AT&T Chairman Randall Stephenson eloquently calling for corporate action on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”

Study Nike’s move last year with its ‘Just Do It – Dream Crazy’ ad campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick. They analyzed the risks and benefits, understood they were going to spark controversy, withstood the initial sharp criticism, and subsequently experienced a 10% increase in revenue to $9.4 billion after it heroically used advertising to address social injustice issues. ‘This is what our brand stands for.’

The solution is not about advertising, donations or tweets, though they will play a role. It is about reviewing and reimagining your organization’s values, culture, corporate and brand purpose. It’s about having the courage to walk the walk, or in this case, taking a knee and meaning it for the long haul. If all you’re going to do is issue some variation of “We support Black Lives Matter” without more, you might as well keep standing.

Companies need to look at their leadership, their CSR, ESG, core purpose, history, future markets, political donations, internal and external brand and re-evaluate with fresh eyes. We are at the stage where companies need to show, not tell, who they are and what they stand for.

Make no mistake, when the NFL admits it was wrong in its handling of Colin Kaepernick’s bended knee protest – four years after the fact – it means that some of America’s most conservative, white, flag-waving corporate titans are saying that they recognize the moment. Suddenly, they are acting as if they want to be near the front of the train, not the caboose. As if to underscore the point, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s PR guru is none other than White House communications counselor Hope Hicks’ father, Paul.

Patience is no answer to injustice. Corporate America is going to have to lead the way.

In the coming weeks we will be producing a great deal of guidance for companies in these challenging times. We look forward to speaking with you.

Richard Levick

Richard Levick: “Show Me the Money”

Richard Levick - Show Me The Money


Did Homer ever want to turn back? Was the Unsinkable Molly Brown tempted by exhaustion at the oar of Lifeboat No. 6 as it navigated the frigid waters of the North Atlantic Ocean after the sinking of the Titanic, awaiting rescue? Did Louis Zamperini have days of hopelessness, lost at sea for 47 days and a prisoner of war for two years? Did Frederick Douglass grow doubtful of his dream of freedom and equality?

Over two months in, we are well past the moment of over-confidence that the pandemic would be a thing that would pass like a bad blizzard. While some states are opening up, the fear of a recurrence or an even worse fall flu / Covid-19 season are hanging over our collective consciousness. Wall Street is jumping on some days and the sales of some luxury goods are finding upticks. But airlines are cautioning that it may be 2023 before air traffic returns to pre-pandemic norms and some economists believe that we are two years away from recovery.

We are past the point of corporate communications just being about camaraderie, stimulus plan analysis, and our guesses about what’s next. We also need to share with our employees, clients, and vendors what to do when the money runs out. For that reason, we devoted our Monday Mornings broadcast last week – a show called “Show Me The Money” – to a discussion with National Foundation for Credit Counseling‘s (NFCC) CEO Rebecca Steele and General Counsel Matthew Ribe and asked them how the NFCC can help people – millions of us – in financial distress. It’s a half-hour you won’t want to miss and will likely want to share with someone you know who could use the help. The NFCC can literally change lives with just a phone call. With hundreds of chapters nationwide, the help is always local.

Enjoy the show.

Richard Levick



Richard Levick: “I’m Not Messing Around”

Richard Levick - I'm Not Messing Around


Richard S. Levick, Esq., Chairman & CEO, LEVICK

Elon Musk is “not messing around,” vowing to sue Alameda County, California, where its main plant is headquartered. Texas and Nevada are aggressively angling to snatch his business. A boycott is threatened against COSTCO over the company’s nationwide mandatory mask policy. Low tax states have relaxed lockdowns earlier than other states and are recruiting for corporate headquarters post-pandemic. Apparently, we aren’t all in this together.

Nursing homes, insurance companies, private schools, colleges and universities, and, of course, cruise ship lines, among other industries, are and will be significant litigation targets in a post-pandemic world. Cruise ships and nursing homes are and will be accused of not being careful enough while COSTCO, the state of California and other defendants will be accused of being too careful. Universities and insurance companies are and will be sued for not providing what their buyers thought they were purchasing. What’s a company (or a state) to do?

There’s an old adage in our business, “Crisis abhors a vacuum.” While clear federal leadership would not have necessarily eliminated many of these lawsuits, the absence of clear guidelines has only added to the confusion. Most states that have reopened to some degree are not following federal guidelines. Confusion reigns and trust abates even further. And we haven’t begun to consider what happens if Covid-19 morphs into an even more lethal disease thanks to restaurants, beaches or meat packing plant relaxing their guidelines too soon.

We are going to see a rise in lawsuits against many defendants. We try and get at a few of these industries, starting with the cruise ship industry and expanding to the insurance industry next. What should cruise ship companies be considering now and what should they be doing to reduce liability and increase trust?

Richard Levick 2020About the Author: Richard Levick, Esq., @richardlevick, is Chairman and CEO of LEVICK. He is a frequent television, radio, online, and print commentator.

Richard Levick on Maintaining Mental Health During The Big Pause

Richard Levick on Maintaining Mental Health During The Big Pause


Have you considered why John Krasinski’s homespun video series “Some Good News” has proven so popular during the pandemic? Dan Gillison, Jr., CEO of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), would tell you it’s because so many of us are looking for signs of humanity, for a way to celebrate our front-line heroes, for reaffirmation that somehow, someway, if we all stick together, we’re going to survive this mess. Chuckling along with Krasinski once a week has become part of America’s antidote.

NAMI was established four decades ago. But when I interviewed Gillison on Monday Mornings – our new live broadcast with Turbine Labs – he told me that mental health services have never been more crucial than they are right now. People across the spectrum – parents, teenagers, bosses, workers, caregivers, all of us – are reaching out to NAMI and other mental health advocacy groups. The pandemic has triggered a 200 percent jump in the number of calls and queries coming in via NAMI’s helpline and its toll-free number, 1-800-950-NAMI (6264).

It’s all tied, Gillison says, to our collective sense of anxiety – an apprehension that the stress of living in isolation and working remotely has become overwhelming. Those fears are likely to get worse before they get better, Gillison believes, as people come to grips with the likelihood that social constraints are going to stay in place for a while longer. It may be many months before our society gets back to anything approaching “normal.”

The message that that NAMI conveys to people seeking help is simple: We’re in this together, you are not alone.

My co-host and founder of Turbine Labs Leigh Fatzinger and I asked Gillison how someone dealing with potential depression would know that they should seek professional help. If someone is worried that the pressures – whether emotional, social, economic, or whatever – have become too much, Gillison says, they should contact NAMI or another respected group right away.

What are the worrisome signs we should be looking for in ourselves, our friends, our colleagues, and our loved ones? NAMI’s danger signs include excessive worrying or fear, confused thinking, extreme mood changes, prolonged feelings of irritability, and avoiding friends and social activities.

NAMI believes that teletherapy can be effective during the pandemic, so no one should worry that they won’t be able to get treatment because of social distancing.

Gillison’s mantra is powerful: We all have responsibility to look out for each other, which begins with looking out for ourselves. Bosses need to recognize the extraordinary stress their employees are under. If they spot someone struggling a bit, they should suggest that it’s no shame to seek help.

Maybe one of the benefits of The Big Pause is that it will help de-stigmatize mental illness, Gillison hopes. Seeking help isn’t a sign of weakness, he says. It’s a sign of strength.

Richard Levick

Richard Levick 2020About the Author: Richard Levick, Esq., @richardlevick, is Chairman and CEO of LEVICK. He is a frequent television, radio, online, and print commentator.

Richard Levick Discusses Heartache in the Hot Zone

Richard Levick Discusses Heartache in the Hot Zone


Just over three weeks ago, on the last morning of his life, I couldn’t get into the ICU to visit my younger brother, Gary, one last time. We had sat vigil the night before, the entire family, blessed to be there, because doctors, nurses and security felt empathy for us in the extreme confusion of a White House still trying to convince the President that the pandemic would trespass our shores and to shift from his “hoax” mode, along with emerging and contradictory CDC and hospital rules. By the next morning, even the strict rules on visitors the night before had been supplanted by an even more draconian prohibition and now, a total ban. Goodbyes are best said in the present as tomorrow is promised to no one.

When I was in my senior year of high school, I needed a series of operations, none life threatening. I was struck by the pale yellow cinderblock of the room immediately outside the operating rooms, where all of us patients were wheeled in, just prior to sedation and surgery. I knew I was coming out but as I peeked at the man next to me, I knew his age alone made him less certain. If this was the end, then these pale yellow cinderblocks would be the last thing he saw. At 17, I realized death could have no dignity.

And here we are, the greatest country on earth, yet one of only eight, that largely refused to prepare for the pandemic.

While my brother did not die of the coronavirus, its timing just broke our hearts even more. And now the whole world is in mourning for our collective losses. In Israel it is said when one person dies, everyone mourns because in such a small country, it is only a few degrees of separation. We are now, all, only a few degrees of separation. Not even six.

One who did die of coronavirus complications is singer John Prine, whose music I want so much to listen to as I have for nearly half a century. But now I find its soothing cords as painful as discovering a long lost love letter that still touches us so deeply that just looking at the weathered stationery turns on a time machine like the smell of grandmother’s favorite dish emanating from a kitchen decades after she passed. Whoosh. Sounds, smells, music and we are back in time.

If you only watch one thing on the pandemic this week, it needs to be this, Nicolas Kristof’s New York Times six minute video, “Heartache in the Hot Zone: The Front Line Against Covid-19.” If you want to understand courage, leadership, love and action, these six minutes have it all.

Each week since the pandemic began, I have been giving broadcasts to audiences of general counsels, lawyers, insurance executives, communications professionals and other executives, providing communications recommendations. Today will be no different, when I speak to Blue Cross/Blue Shield executives. Friday it was the Corporate Counsel Business Journal. I believe our advice is spot-on, but nothing is as powerful as those six minutes in an age of less than six degrees of separation. Leadership and action are key.

Starting next week, we launch two new broadcasts, a daily five-minute podcast called In House Warrior, distributed to most of America’s general counsels by the Corporate Counsel Business Journal and starting the following week, a Zoom broadcast co-hosted with Turbine Labs, called Monday Mornings. The In House Warrior show will provide five minutes each day on essential information for GCs about a topical issue, from cyber and litigation to FCPA and business interruption. On Monday Mornings, Turbine Labs will use its artificial and human intelligence capabilities to explore media trends for the week ahead and include guests to give us insight into what’s next. We have built these broadcasts so they can include guests from their home or office. If you want to be a guest on either one, please let us know and we will do our best to book you.

“So if you’re walking down the street sometime
And spot some hollow ancient eyes
Please don’t just pass ’em by and stare
As if you didn’t care, say, ‘Hello in there, hello’”

–John Prine

Never lose hope. Help one another. Keep calm and carry on.

Richard Levick

Richard Levick 2020About the Author: Richard Levick, Esq., @richardlevick, is Chairman and CEO of LEVICK. He is a frequent television, radio, online, and print commentator.

Richard Levick Discusses Essential Information

Richard Levick Discusses Essential Information


Richard S. Levick, Esq., Chairman & CEO, LEVICK

What compels us to risk dying for an idea, especially over irresistible love? What has happened to this collective spirit that for most of two centuries defined Americans and patriotic citizens the world over? Perhaps the collective sense of purpose will be one of the long-term benefits of the pandemic tragedy, overwhelming our current state of anger and selfish adoration. We can help each other.

While there are plenty of stories of vulture marketers leveraging this crisis (an issue we will cover soon), heroes are stepping up and need to be recognized and emulated.

Shortly after 9/11, the Washington Legal Foundation asked former Pennsylvania Governor and former US Attorney General Dick Thornburgh and me to speak on a panel to an audience of business executives. I misspoke on that day, when I said that 9/11 represented the most catastrophic casualties on American soil since the Battle of Antietam and Pearl Harbor. No one corrected me on that day or the years since and no wonder. Until I read Tim Gay’s masterful piece in American Heritage magazine this weekend.

I, like most contemporary Americans, failed to appreciate the carnage that took place on America’s three coasts at the start of World War II. In 1942 alone, German U-boats sank 233 ships in American waters and killed 5,000 seamen and passengers – more than double the number of fatalities at Pearl Harbor. It was the moment of greatest doubt about the course of the war for the indefatigable Winston Churchill. U-boats had infiltrated the mouth of the Mississippi, the mouths of the Connecticut and St. Lawrence Rivers, and – many suspect – Florida’s Banana River near what is now Cape Canaveral and Maine’s Kennebec River not far from Brunswick. Talk about close to home!

It was early in the war and the US military did not have the resources to protect the coasts so they called on civilian pilots, mechanics, sailors and others to volunteer. And volunteer they did, with over a quarter-million Americans of all races, religions, sexes, ages and social standing stepping in to protect America, under extreme hardship, including leaving or quitting their jobs, risking their lives, moving far away, usually for free, living in substandard housing and eating even lesser food. Some American companies stepped up too, among them the precursor to CITGO, to provide much-needed funding for these “citizen-volunteers.”

What is this spirit of selflessness, which compels some of us to risk all for others known and unknown? That compelled the “Greatest Generation” to volunteer by the millions to protect an idea? This idea, which we value more than life itself. Inspired by this call to grace, American Heritage addresses other crucial moments in our history in its special “America in Crisis” issue this spring.

Besides sheltering in place, how do we exercise leadership now? Many banks, law firms, insurance companies and others have been doing a great job sending out emails with empathetic and informative messages. With the federal government shrinking in the face of this generation’s World War, now more than ever, we need leadership from companies and institutions. More than three weeks in with many weeks to go, what information can we share that is more than “We are open for business but working from home” or “Here is what the latest stimulus package means for you?”

We have identified four remarkable stories and resources: what one private company is doing to handle the enormous inbound call volume confronting states; how one research facility has gutted its lab and reconfigured it into a massive private testing enterprise; and two non-profits that address our fiscal and mental health needs. One call to each for boundless resources and assistance. Before you send out your next company or client-wide email, please consider including some of these, especially the two nonprofits – NAMI and the NFCC – defined below. Lives depend on it.

University of California at Berkeley CRISPR Lab – Using their own labs, volunteer scientists and researchers and funding, they set up a testing lab to process thousands of tests.

The National Foundation for Credit Counseling NFCC has a toll free hotline 800-388-2227 and website that can assist you with all of your credit and financial concerns. One call to assist with all aspects of your financial situation, including the latest information on federal and state relief.

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) offers a toll free number and text for anyone feeling the stress and impact of these challenging times. 800-950-6264 or text NAMI to 741741.

AnswerNet, a company providing call centers, has been assisting states under extraordinary pressure to handle unprecedented call levels, assuage residents’ concerns, and set up Covid-19 testing.

They have they been hiring during this financial downturn, remotely training hundreds of new employees so they can work from home and assist the states and other companies under massive inbound calling. CEO Gary Pudles has also been working with “non-essential” companies who have been forced by economics to furlough their staffs, hiring most to all of them so that the states get their trained call center professionals and the distressed companies stay in business.

This is a new age of “citizen-volunteers.” Please help these heroes by getting this information out and let us know of others so we can spread the word. These are the times that define our lives.

Never lose hope. Help one another. Keep calm and carry on.

Richard Levick 2020About the Author: Richard Levick, Esq., @richardlevick, is Chairman and CEO of LEVICK. He is a frequent television, radio, online, and print commentator.

PR Masters Series Podcast, Episode #4 – Richard Levick


The Stevens Group is pleased to present a new podcast series that salutes the masters of public relations and revels in their observations, insights and advice to PR professionals.  This new series is part of the ongoing partnership between The Stevens Group and CommPRO to bring to PR, digital/interactive and marketing communications agencies the wisdom of those who have reached the top of the PR profession.




Richard Levick - The Aberration Becomes the NormAbout Our Guest

Richard S. Levick, Esq., Chairman & CEO, LEVICK | @richardlevick 

Under his leadership, LEVICK has set new standards in global communications and brand protection for corporations, countries, and major institutions. Mr. Levick is one of the communications industry’s most important spokespersons and thought leaders.

A powerful advocate for the strategic initiatives that companies must pursue in today’s perilous environment, he regularly addresses corporate boards as well as industry and government leaders around the world, providing guidance on their most complex communications and reputation management challenges. He is featured in, and authors, countless articles, and is a frequent guest on prime time national and international television programs.

Mr. Levick is a much-sought after keynote and graduation speaker and is a columnist for the top business blogs including Forbes.

Mr. Levick has co-authored five books including, The Communicators: Leadership in the Age of Crisis; Stop the Presses; The Crisis and Litigation PR Desk Reference365 Marketing Meditations; and Lessons for Absent Children.

Communications Best Practices: How to Anticipate & Avoid a Crisis – Richard Levick (VIDEO)

Editor’s Note: Richard Levick, Chairman and CEO of LEVICK, a crisis and public affairs-focused communications agency, shares perspective on the importance of integrity, anticipating issues and being proactive to avoid crises. He discusses the importance of risk mapping to identify potential issues and highlights the risk to PR and communications firms of not using ethical or credible tools. Simon Erskine Locke, Founder & CEO of CommunicationsMatch, caught up with Levick at the recent CISION Social Journalism Livestream webinar organized with

Richard Levick on Communicating Trust in an Age of Crisis (Video)

Editor’s Note: Richard Levick, CEO of LEVICK PR takes a deep dive into strategic crisis communications management on a recent episode of SmartPros from the Financial Management Network


The Stevens Group PR Masters Podcast Acquispectives – Richard S. Levick

Richard S. Levick, Esq., Chairman & CEO, LEVICK 

“A real challenge in crisis communications is that too many people are tactical. It really requires for us to be strategic, to understand the business and the law and global implications and see where issues are going next.. to read the tea leaves. We should always be operating in the strategic and not the tactic and I think to stay in the tactical is to stop growing.”

Listen to the Podcast

LEVICK 2019 Year in Review

“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”
— William Faulkner

Richard S. Levick, Esq., Chairman & CEO, LEVICK

LEVICK 2019 Year in ReviewIn 1790, George Washington referred to the new American government as “…the last great experiment in promoting human happiness.” Through nearly two and a half centuries it has been tested by every generation, sometimes more than others, though one would be hard-pressed to find too many threats to our democracy greater than today. The Civil War, the Great Depression, Pearl Harbor and World War II — this current period will surely find its way to that list in testing this “Great Experiment.”

The United States is the confluence of three great systems: democracy, capitalism and theology (or non-theology, as the case may be). The perfect imperfection of our government — for the longest-lived national constitution in the world — is how it struggles to keep these three systems in balance.

Our rose-colored rearview mirrors make history appear well ordered, while the present is almost always messy. Rather than genuflect daily, we take history for granted. Of course: General Washington would surprise the British at Trenton; General Rommel would run out of oil in North Africa; Senator Joseph McCarthy would be undone; and President Johnson would pass the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts. History’s arc progresses in one direction, pointing ever-upward — or so the thinking goes. Yet as the Mayans learned almost 2,000 years ago, an Iron Age can, and often does, follow a Golden Age.

What happens when the federal government largely stops working, as it has in the United States for the past 30 years? When the federal government falters, business leaders historically have stepped in. In 1909, when a period of federal inaction occurred, J.P. Morgan and Wall Street literally created the Federal Reserve. Harriet Tubman rescued slaves; Cornelius Vanderbilt established shipping; Clara Barton founded the Red Cross; John D. Rockefeller built the oil business; Andrew Carnegie gave rise to the steel industry, and Henry Ford mass-produced cars, all changing America dramatically. Crisis abhors a vacuum; when the federal government is static for long enough periods of time, industry has stepped in. But what now? Who will be the great leaders to step up and provide the vision that the federal government no longer seems capable of supplying?

For our entire professional lives, businesses have largely stayed out of politics. The steadfast rule has been: Focus on shareholders and customers.

There were always exceptions and controversies, but the bright lines between business and government were, well, bright. No more. Nearly 40% of Americans — and two thirds of Millennials — expect their brands to be “woke.” They expect companies to stand for something beyond the product, to take just political positions, to be sensitive and diverse in advertising, to be minimalist in its carbon footprint and to engage in sophisticated corporate social responsibility. What’s a company to do?

Over the past year, the most common theme in our columns was “Mercantile Activism” — the new age of activist corporations. How do companies lead — or follow adroitly — in an age of heightened ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) expectations and instantaneous and viral online judging?

How is it that Modelo can advertise its beer on television with a strong “hire an immigrant” message but Peloton is penalized $1.7 billion in value in a week over a television advertisement that online critics considered sexist?

How can Dick’s Sporting Goods execute a ban on handgun sales nationwide and quickly recover while WeWork — “Do what you love” — crumbles?

How does Uber go from cool to clueless and Lyft, sensing the void, markets “woke” but quickly appears unresponsive and hypocritical over female passenger safety?

Why do people largely forgive Chick-fil-A for their historical anti-LGBT stance while other companies are excoriated for not being diverse enough in a single advertisement?

There are rules and case studies, and we covered many of them in 2019 to help guide companies during this increasingly damning — and judgmental — time. With apologies to William Faulkner, the past may not be dead — but it can provide some prologue.


Richard Painter, Minnesota’s Democratic Senate Candidate; Corruption and the Great Partisan Divide

Watch Richard Painter and Other Top Talent in Legal, Media and Communications on June 13th at #TruthonTrial.

Richard Painter, Former White House Chief Ethics Counsel & S. Walter Richey Professor of Corporate Law at the University of Minnesota  sits down with Doug Simon for a quick preview of the upcoming live-stream “Truth on Trial: Implications for Communicators Ethics and the Collapse of Institutional Trust”. Featuring: Ty Cobb, Former Special Counsel to the President during the Trump administration; Major Garrett, Chief White House Correspondent, CBS News; Richard Painter, former Chief White House Ethics lawyer during the George W. Bush administration; Ambassador Norman Eisen; Richard S. Levick, Chairman & CEO, LEVICK, and others …

Douglas Simon will be interviewing them about how today’s communicators need to navigate story-telling in a world where fake news and biased-information can affect the truth and institutions in the United States. Register for the FREE webcast here.


Doug: Richard, If you were talking to leaders in business in the community, why they should be tuning into this piece we are doing “Truth on Trial: Implications for Communicators Ethics and the Collapse of Institutional Trust”?

Richard Painter: Business owners have a great stake in what goes on in our government. If we don’t have sound management in our government and ethics in our government, we have conflicts of interest in government, unpredictability. That creates an economic climate that is at best uncertain for business owners and at worst catastrophic. We need to focus on the quality of our political regime as well as on economic growth because instability in the political arena, corruption in the political arena-ultimately will bring down the economy and will be all of us much poorer as a result.

LEVICK Responds to Hurricane Maria Destruction with “PR for PR” Fundraiser

CommPRO Editorial Staff

LEVICK is uniting the Washington, D.C. public relations industry in support of Hurricane Maria disaster relief efforts in Puerto Rico with the PR for PR Fundraiser, a happy hour fundraiser at District Anchor on Oct. 11.

At its core, the industry-wide event is intended to make the largest possible impact for the people of Puerto Rico. A percentage of all drink proceeds from the “PR for PR” (public relations professionals in support of Puerto Rico) event, guest donations and raffle ticket profits will aid the Foundation for Puerto Rico.

Chairman and CEO Richard Levick, who recently wrote an article for Forbes about Puerto Rico’s recovery plan, commented: “The devastation that has struck Puerto Rico is nearly unimaginable. In response, we’ve seen the Island community rally together with a level of leadership, courage, and energy that is as extraordinary as it is inspirational. When you bring together a group in support of a common goal you can make a much greater impact—and that is what PR for PR is all about.”

Foundation for Puerto Rico is one of the largest endowed public charities on the island and is currently fully dedicated to relief, recovery and rebuilding efforts with the “Hurricane Maria Relief Fund.”

Once Hurricane Maria hit, the charity immediately began deploying funds to provide food, water and resources directly to people with urgent needs. FPR is also providing sustainable relief by supporting small businesses and restoring the island’s natural resources.

According to FEMA, currently 9.2 percent of customers have access to electricity and more than 55.5 percent of customers have access to potable water in Puerto Rico.

Those who are unable to attend the event can make a donation via Venmo to @PRforPR.

LEVICK’s fundraiser is open to the public from 5:30 to 10 p.m. All guests are encouraged to donate what they can to the Venmo account “PRforPR.”

Getting to Yes – Kelley Howes, Vice Chair of Morrison & Foerster’s Investment Management Group

Getting to yes


Kelley Howes, vice chair of Morrison & Foerster’s Investment Management Group with deep experience with a wide range of legal, regulatory, compliance, corporate governance, insurance and other matters and the former Executive Vice President and General Counsel of Janus Capital Group Inc., a NYSE-listed global asset management holding company, joins host Richard Levick of LEVICK. She discusses some of the significant changes being introduced by SEC Chairman Gary Gensler including on ESG, crypto and blockchain, Material Non-Public Information and more. She also covers the strong capital markets, the challenges of the brain drain at the SEC, which has led to a loss of institutional memory and the importance of finding a way to get to yes for your clients. Listen here