On KUOW's Weekday this morning, Seattle Times columnist Joni Balter and a couple of callers wanted to know more about the Mercury Group, the quiet political consulting firm that just helped Mike McGinn win the mayor's race (and also helped Mike O'Brien take a city council seat).
As we wrote in this week's Stranger:
Go to the website of Seattle's Mercury Group, and you'll find very little except an address and phone number. The firm is quiet about itself, and its successes, but this year the outcomes of two local races spoke volumes about Mercury's skill at making winners out of relative unknowns.
One KUOW caller wondered: Is this the same Mercury Group that represents the NRA and has a headquarters in Virginia? Another caller wondered: Is this the same Mercury Group that helped conservative oilman T-Boone Pickens with his dreams of a giant Texas wind farm?
Behind it all was a basic curiosity: Who are these guys? And why haven't we ever heard of them before?
Seattle's Mercury Group is run by Seattleites Bill Broadhead and Julie McCoy, who have known Mike McGinn for a long time and worked with him on several campaigns—including his successful effort to defeat a statewide road-building initiative in 2007 and his successful effort to get the Seattle parks levy passed in 2008.
No, Broadhead and McCoy are not the owners of this Mercury Group (the one that's based in Virginia and works with the NRA). Yes, they do corporate work (for AT&T, for example) and they recently did some work helping T-Boone Pickens—with a web site for his wind farm initiative, not with his conservative political pursuits.
Yes, the Seattle Mercury Group generally shies away from calling attention to itself. (Which is why there's currently a sense of mystery about what it stands for.)
But in the end, when you look at the firm's size (about a dozen people working out of a Belltown office) and its list of political clients and campaigns (Ron Sims for governor, Heidi Wills for city council, Richard McIver for city council, Joe Biden for Senate, Beau Biden for Delaware Attorney General), you find nothing more sinister than a small local public relations firm with a political consultancy wing that's invested in getting liberal politicians elected.