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UpClose with Jason Rose

Public-relations consultant Jason Rose caught the political bug in 1992 as an intern for a Republican U.S. Senate campaign in California.

Never one to shy away from singing his own praises, Rose likes to tell the story about how he penned what he believes is still one of the best letters he ever wrote to the campaign manager and consultant of the candidate.

“I told them ‘pull your head out of your ass. You are going to lose this race, and here are some TV commercials you ought to consider,’” Rose said. The candidate lost two months later, and Rose said that was a moment of clarity.

“It suggested I may have some skills in that regard,” Rose said. “But I didn’t have a job.”

Soon thereafter, Rose cut his teeth at a Valley public-relations firm that fetched him a job for $19,000 a year.

And 14 years after striking out on his own with only two clients, the 39-year-old Maserati-driving owner of Rose and Allyn Public Relations now boasts national corporate clients and some of Arizona’s most colorful politicians.

The abundantly coiffed Rose, known for his sometimes outrageous public- relations stunts, an aggressive Twitter presence and controversial political clients, sat down with the Arizona Capitol Times to discuss why the fight over the Phoenix Coyotes arena in Scottsdale was personal, the reason he enjoys bashing attorney general candidate Tom Horne and whether personal convictions play a role in taking on clients.

Though he possesses a roster of conservative clients, including Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and former County Attorney Andrew Thomas, Rose explained how illegal immigration hawks could go too far.

How did your running Twitter battle with Tom Horne get started?

I have nothing against Tom Horne, other than he was a Democrat until about five minutes before he decided to run for office as a Republican, that he’s doing his best impression of a political drag king this year, trying to pretend he’s a conservative.

But the thing that really got me, that really forced me to focus on Twitter, was his Jaguar. Look, it is not a prerequisite that you need a Tahoe or an American-made car to be attorney general, but if a Jaguar is not a disqualifier, it is darn near close. Tom McGovern, who ran for attorney general in 1998 and won the Republican nomination, referred to the position as perhaps necessarily needing to be “Buster Bad Ass” on crime. If we ever found out what Buster Bad Ass drove, I don’t think it would be a Jaguar.

What was interesting (before the June 3 attorney general debate between Horne and Andrew Thomas) is he ditched his Jaguar for this white van that I think was purchased in a “Silence of the Lambs” memorabilia auction.

Did it have campaign signs on it?

It did. But it didn’t have a lot of windows.

Do you have any liberal clients?

Yes, we do. I don’t know that I would call (Phoenix) Mayor (Phil) Gordon a liberal. I think he is a pro-business Democrat. He has certainly taken some liberal positions on immigration. But we had a very specific task that did not relate to policy. If he would have tasked us with advocating his position on Senate Bill 1070, we would have respectfully declined.

Tell me about your split with former Congressman J.D. Hayworth.

I was in a position to help, to help assemble the team. As originally envisioned, I was not going to be wearing as many hats as I was. I do run a business, and we do have other things. And taking on someone like John McCain is a significant endeavor. But we launched, and we helped out and we jumped in. We never had an agreement. We had a rough agreement.

Nothing was ever signed. And at the time of the announcement on Feb. 15, we still didn’t have an agreement but in good faith we moved forward. A month went by and we still didn’t have an agreement; we couldn’t come to terms. But that’s the way it goes. We parted ways. I maxed out to Congressman Hayworth, contributed another maxed out contribution for the General Election. I’ve I talked to him regularly, I talk to his staff regularly. I hope he wins. I’ll be voting for him.

Did you get paid?

Yeah. Absolutely.

What has been your most memorable political fight?

It will always be difficult for me not to put the (Phoenix Coyotes) hockey arena fight (in Scottsdale) really near the top of the list.

That’s when I was younger in my career. Winning was very important. That was my old neighborhood. I grew up near there. There’s not a lot of community debates like that anymore. And I’m a big sports fan. So the chance to hang out with sports owners and Keith Tkachuk and Jeremy Roenick – that was really exciting at a time in Scottsdale when anything development-wise being proposed was largely criticized.

Winning by the margin we did was very special. I wish candidly that the hockey arena would have been built in south Scottsdale.

After it was apparent the hockey arena was not going to be built in south Scottsdale, was it you who orchestrated Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s “plan” to put a Tent City at Los Arcos?

No. Contrary to popular belief, Sheriff Arpaio is his own PR genius. I don’t know how a guy who fought drugs in Colombia and Istanbul developed PR skills like he has. But I told him as soon as he is ready to hang it up – which may be some period of time – we are going to make him “of counsel” to this company because I want that guy thinking about some of our projects, too. He is Wyatt Earp and a PR genius all in one.

Do you ever have personal convictions that conflict with professional obligations?

Professionally, I don’t know that it is any different than a personal evaluation of a candidate. You don’t agree with anyone 100 percent of the time. But most issues are not abortion. Most issues are not the Second Amendment – just core issues.

The Scottsdale strip-club debate. We were asked to represent the strip clubs. As a professional challenge, I really wanted to do it. It was a memorable initial meeting about pasties and distance. I learned more about the strip club business than I suppose someone should. I undertook the ‘mom test.’ She lives in Scottsdale. I said, ‘Mom, what do you think if I do this?’ She goes ‘Well, Jason, I’d be really disappointed in you.’ On that one, I listened to Mom.

Pink Taco. That was an easy call.

You really went after (former Scottsdale Mayor Mary) Manross with gusto after she made a comment about not liking the name of the restaurant. Did you seize upon the perfect opportunity to get your client more business?

Yes. But I also think it was justified. Where are we going to draw the line? Is it Horny Toad? Where do we draw the line on free speech in that case? Let the marketplace decide what’s offensive or inoffensive.

With due respect to the former mayor, I think her opinion was the minority opinion on that subject.

Is the passage of S1070 ultimately a winner for Republicans?

It is this year, but the jury is still out politically. The question is, I think, is it going to have Prop. 187-like consequences as existed in California or is it going to have Prop. 13-like benefits, which was the property-tax revolt in the late 70s in California. A month ago, you might have said 187. Today, you might say Prop. 13, as public support is increasing for the measure, and quite frankly, the boycotts have not materialized to any great extent. I think the tourism industry might take exception to what I just said.

Is there a point, though, where . . .

I know where you are going with this . . . enough is enough?

Yes, and could it ultimately backfire?

Yes, I do. The first president Bush defeats Iraq. People say: “Go into Baghdad. You got them on the run.” President Bush was pretty smart not to go into Baghdad. History shows he was pretty smart not to go into Baghdad. And to some extent I think that’s the choice for a lot of illegal immigration hawks today – do we go? We are winning the war.

Do we now go into Baghdad? You may go into Baghdad and win, and the public may stay with you and there may be few casualties. But you may go into Baghdad and get bogged down. I think there probably is a tipping point at which people say, “enough is enough.”

Have you gotten more into political candidate PR because of the economy?

No. It wasn’t an intentional business decision. We do four things: Public affairs, PR, crisis and elections. I think you get older, so you are a little more trusted. And in the last few years we have certainly crystallized the reputation for creativity and being aggressive. Or something was in the water this year that caused a lot of interest in us. No, it wasn’t a deliberate decision. Frankly, elections are a very small, modest part of our revenues.

UP CLOSER

Did you ever actually have a Pink Taco?

I did. But I knew unfortunately as a Mexican-food aficionado, whether it was the Pink Taco, or anything else on that menu, the food was not going to cut it in a city with a lot of great Mexican food restaurants. I begged him at one point in time to go hire the No. 2 guy at Tee Pee. I said “It will cost you nothing. Get somebody in this kitchen who actually knows what they are doing.” They didn’t listen to that advice.

You were pretty well known for being an investor in Nixon’s, a politically themed bar, which is no longer around? Any similar ventures in the future?

I wish I had a good analogy for what it’s like to own a bar or a restaurant at some point in your life. That was an itch that was scratched. The only exception to that is the Coach House (one of the oldest bars in Scottsdale). I did make an offer to buy the Coach House. It was declined.

Recently?

Yes.

Are you ever going to cut your hair?

God is going to cut my hair. Rogaine is helping me battle God right now. I was on Propecia – didn’t really notice anything. But the Rogaine, 2 percent in the morning, 5 percent at night, baby. Swear by it. The dog is not man’s best friend. Rogaine is. It has slowed the march back.

If you were Samson, who would be your Delilah?

Shouldn’t I say my wife? Don’t I need to say my wife? I am saying my wife.

You drive a Maserati. What’s your next car?

I have to get one in two months. I have two kids, so it has an impact. I think I may be the only Maserati with two car seats in the back in the state. Bentley, Maserati convertible, Porsche Cayenne or a Range Rover type of thing. I’m kind of through the Maserati stage to be honest with you. A few trips to get your tires changed and the bill, it will change your mind.

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