Youngkin ad creator wins state contract for Virginia tourism video

Richmond-based Poolhouse made the single, winning bid and was awarded a $268,600 contract to produce the “Governor’s Homecoming Project” ad.

RICHMOND, Va. — Virginia Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin faced criticism from Democrats Wednesday after news outlets reported that his political ad creator recently received a six-figure contract to produce a state tour video featuring the governor.

Richmond-based Poolhouse made the single winning bid for the project, receiving a $268,600 contract to produce the “Governor’s Welcome Project” ad, The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported.

Poolhouse produces ads for Republican campaigns and political action committees, as well as businesses and advocacy groups. He served on Youngkin’s winning campaign last year and continues to work with his PAC.

The ad was designed for distribution and display in airports and tourist reception centers, according to a contract obtained by the newspaper. It depicts popular tourist destinations throughout the state and includes a welcome and narration by Youngkin.

The Virginia Tourism Corporation approached Poolhouse and another agency on May 5, offering them the opportunity to bid on the project, the newspaper reported. Days later, he contacted a third agency.

Poolhouse responded with an offer on May 5, according to state records the newspaper obtained through an open records request. One company did not respond and another said it could not meet the scope of work, the Times-Dispatch reported.

According to VPM News, the tour agency initially awarded the contract to Poolhouse without soliciting any bids. The change of course came after Youngkin’s office raised concerns about the perception that the acquisition process was biased, Mike McMahon, vice president of operations and finance, told the station in an email.

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The tourism agency is not subject to the state’s public procurement law, which covers Virginia’s purchases of goods and services and the performance of contracts with state funds.

Will Ritter, co-founder and CEO of Poolhouse, said in a statement to the newspaper that the company was delighted to partner with the agency “to show off the state we love and call home.”

“We were thrilled to win the bid and have the opportunity to feature our favorite people and places in the ‘Welcome to Virginia’ campaign. We look forward to more opportunities to do top-notch creative work for Virginia,” her statement said.

Democrats raised questions about the award and criticized Youngkin, who has been touring the country in recent weeks campaigning with Republican candidates for office and is increasingly seen as a future contender for national political office.

“This is government corruption at its peak,” House Democratic Leader Don Scott tweeted.

Virginia Democratic Party Chair Susan Swecker said the “scheme” for using taxpayer dollars for “what is basically a presidential campaign video” raised ethical and “potential criminal” questions. She urged an investigation.

Rob Damschen, a spokesman for Youngkin, said in a statement to The Associated Press that tourism is an important part of Virginia’s economy and that the governor was excited to be involved in the announcement.

Rita McClenny, president and CEO of Virginia Tourism, defended the project and its acquisition in a statement to the AP.

Poolhouse was selected because “it is a local, talented, Virginia-based company that has done exceptional work for other corporate clients, from Anheuser-Busch to Honda to GE. They were able to commit to a quick timeline to deliver a product during our busy summer and fall travel seasons,” the release says.

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The ad will only show in Virginia, with no paid media behind it, according to the release.

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