The decision to hire a firm came after months of attacks on the FDA over problems with tainted vegetables and concerns over drug safety. According to a report in the Washington Post, the agency wanted to launch a campaign that would "create and foster a lasting positive public image of the agency for the American public."
But rather than putting the public relations contract out to bid, the FDA apparently awarded the assignment to Qorvis via a circuitous route, awarding the contract to a minority-owned firm called Alaska Newspapers, which would then subcontract the actual work to Qorvis.
Once he was made aware of the Post's findings, FDA deputy commissioner John Dyer said the contract had been suspended pending an independent investigation. Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), chairman of the committee on energy and commerce, which oversees the FDA, will also launch an investigation And according to Steven Schooner, co-director of the government procurement law program at
Mildred Cooper, a temporary FDA consultant who was involved in the contract, had worked with Qorvis while in a previous position and said she felt the firm could help. Don Goldberg, head of the crisis communications practice at Qorvis, told reporters there had been no attempt to deceive anyone in the process.