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*MPA Selects Campaign Team for Postal Reform Effort

The Magazine Publishers of America, NY, signed Preston Gates Ellis & Rouvelas Meeds LLP, Washington, a bipartisan law and lobbying firm, and Dittus Communications, Washington, a public relations firm, to manage its U.S. Postal Service reform campaign.

The MPA — which represents more than 240 domestic publishing companies in the consumer magazine business – said in January it planned to launch a three-year, $10 million advocacy campaign to fight the 15 percent magazine rate increase the USPS filed with the Postal Rate Commission, the oversight board of the USPS, last month and aggressively pursue postal reform.

The goals of the campaign include: Bringing attention of the USPS rate hike to the American public and Washington insiders; persuading the USPS to bring the rate hike for periodicals more in line with the rate of inflation and the more modest increases proposed for other classes of mail; and reform the way the USPS does business.

“The proposed 15 percent increase is more than three times the rate of inflation, more than twice the average rate increase, and much higher than can be justified,” said Christopher M. Little, president of Meredith Corporation Publishing Group, vice chairman of the MPA Board of Directors, and chairman of the MPA government affairs council. “An increase of that size punishes America’s magazine readers. Going forward, this campaign is really about the future of the postal system.”

The MPA will work with Preston Gates on strategies and lobbying efforts surrounding the rate case and postal reform. Bruce J. Heiman, head of Preston Gates’ infotech practice, will serve as the campaign manager. Most recently, Heiman led the successful lobbying effort for Americans for Computer Privacy, a coalition formed to seek export relief for strong encryption products

Dittus Communications, on the other hand, will direct the campaign’s strategic communications and advertising program surrounding the rate case and postal reform, and the efforts will be led by firm CEO/President Gloria Dittus, who was recently named Washington PR Woman of the Year.

Dittus has already placed full-page ads in the National Journal, a weekly, four-color magazine that is distributed to high-level Washington decision makers, and in Roll Call, a bi-weekly newspaper, that is predominantly distributed to members of Congress. The ads ran in the March 25 and April 1 editions of the National Journal and in the Roll Call on March 27, March 30.

The ads, which are based on the popular TV game show “Who Wants To be A Millionaire?” show a stack of money and ask readers if they are “Ready to pay the postal service $300 million rate game?” They then ask –“What is 3 times the inflation rate, twice the average increase, and double what’s needed to cover costs?”– and answer “The proposed 15 percent postal rate increase for magazines.” The ads end with the tag line “Postal Service management, is this your final answer?” Finally, it says, “Magazine readers hope not. A single digit increase is fair, reasonable and justified.”

While Dittus said full details of the public relations campaign have not been announced, she said that her company is also working with members of the MPA to create ads to run in their magazines. She said she did not think that the campaign would include any direct mail components.

“The purpose for the ads right now are to get the postal service to cooperate with us and try to make a difference before our case is filed in May,” said Rita Cohen, vice president of economic and legislative analysis at the MPA, Washington. “We are trying to show them that there are a lot of savings that are not affected in the proposal.”

Indeed, the MPA will litigate against the rate proposal and work with the PRC, to present an alternative case to the agency in May.

Currently, the PRC is in the discovery phase of the rate case, where interveners ask the USPS why it proposed the numbers it did for the case. The PRC received 78 discovery requests by March 23, the deadline date, and interveners began submitting these requests in January, shortly after the USPS announced its proposal.

Next, the postal service will present its case at public hearings from April 11 until May 5. On May 22, after interveners have absorbed all of the information they have received from the USPS they will begin filing their testimony, or alternative case against the USPS. This is when the MPA is planning to present its alternative case testimony. By September, all interveners must submit their final briefs. At this time, the PRC will plan to prepare its recommended decision by Nov. 13.

Nina B. Link, president of the MPA said she chose the two organizations after an “exhaustive search. Preston Gates and Dittus Communications are prestigious firms and both have impressive track records for delivering results on high-profile public policy issues,” said Link.

Dittus has achieved regulatory and legislative success for other notable coalitions and clients including Citigroup, Network Solutions, Kraft Foods, the Credit Union Campaign for Consumer Choice, the American Business for Legal Immigration Coalition, and the R&D Tax Credit Coalition.

And, some notable Preston Gates clients include Microsoft Corporation, Business Software Alliance, Delta Air Lines Inc., Maritime Cabotage Task Force, and Brown-Forman Corporation.

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