Former Clinton White House counsel Lanny Davis and ex-RNC Chair Michael Steele are brushing aside criticism of their new firm, Purple Nation Solutions.The news of their venture drew jeers from New York magazine and Salon after Howard Kurtz wrote a perfunctory piece on the new lobbying/media/consulting shop. Jonathan Chait called the firm’s principals “beltway sleazloids.” Alex Pareene wrote that “Launching a consulting firm is something people with great connections and zero skills do all the time…”
Davis and Steele aren’t sweating it. “If I paid attention to half of the stuff said about me, I’d be in a straightjacket,” Steele told U.S. News and World Report. “You know how I deal with it? I look in the mirror every morning and I say, I like this guy.”
Davis thinks they “confuse people. Just like Clinton’s ‘Third Way’ did. Because we’re out of the box.”
Chait and Pareene criticized not only the new venture, but also Kurtz’s reporting on it. The Daily Beast’s article noticeably omitted Davis’ previous clients. Last year, Davis sued Equatorial Guinea President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo for stiffing him out of nearly $150,000 in legal fees. Previously, Davis advised the government of deposed Ivory Coast leader Laurent Gbagbo on proposed reforms. The Ivory Coast leader was accused of stealing his country’s presidential election.
Kurtz defended his piece, telling TPM in an email that his article was about Davis and Steele teaming up, not their individual colorful careers. “Obviously a profile of Lanny would have dealt with lots of other issues,” Kurtz said.
U.S. News reporter Elizabeth Flock had no problem broaching the subject.
“I had a bad experience trying to convert a non-democracy to a democracy for the State Department, Davis told Flock. “And I learned that no good deed goes unpunished.”
Steele and Davis said they don’t have any clients yet, but are in talks with a multinational corporation “in crisis” and a “great democracy” seeking increased tourism.