For-profit

KO Public Affairs

Website:

www.kopublicaffairs.com/

Location:

Baltimore, MD

Type:

For-Profit

Founding Partners:

Steve Kearney and Damian O’Doherty

KO Public Affairs (legally incorporated as Kearney O’Doherty Public Affairs, LLC) is a left-leaning consulting firm based in Baltimore, Maryland that specializes in lobbying, public relations, news, and political action committee management. The firm was founded in 2008 by Steve Kearny and Damian O’Doherty, Democratic lobbyists who both worked for former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley (D).

The firm does not publicly disclose its clients but has been listed in public records and news reports as being registered lobbyists in Maryland for two organizations and led communication for the Maryland Maternity Access Coalition. The firm also operates a news site called Center Maryland, which aggregates Maryland political and business news and publishes opinion pieces. [1] [2] [3]

The firm has been criticized for its use of Center Maryland, as it presents content on the website as if it were an unbiased aggregator but has been accused of promoting content that favors policies preferred by the firm’s clients. The firm was profiled in Luke Rosiak’s book Race to the Bottom over its role in promoting a controversial 2019 school district busing proposal in Howard County, Maryland. [4]

Background

KO Public Affairs was founded in 2008 by Steve Kearney and Damian O’Doherty and is legally incorporated as Kearney O’Doherty Public Affairs, LLC. Kearny and O’ Doherty are Democratic lobbyists and political operatives who had previously held a variety of jobs working in public policy and government affairs in Maryland. Both men worked for various democratic politicians including former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley (D) and Baltimore County Executive Jim Smith (D). [5] [6]

The firm does not publicize a list of clients, but states on its website that it represents companies and nonprofits in sectors including healthcare, energy, education, manufacturing, retail, transportation, sports and entertainment. The firm’s website lists nine employees and aside from Maryland, lists individuals who run offices for the firm in Delaware and California. [7] [8]

Activities

KO Public Affairs has been a lobbyist in the State of Maryland for the Maryland State Dental Association and We Work for Health. The firm was also mentioned in a 2015 report from The Daily Record as operating the Maryland Maternity Access Coalition, a n advocacy group funded by hospitals. The same article calls the firm one of Maryland’s “powerhouse” public affairs firms. [9] KO Public affairs also operates a local news website in Maryland called Center Maryland that aggregates news from around the state, reports exclusive local political stories, and publishes a variety of opinion pieces. [10]

Criticism

The firm has been criticized for its use of Center Maryland. Although it presents content on the website as if it was an unbiased aggregator of news sources, it has been accused of promoting content that favors policies preferred by the firm’s clients. The firm was profiled in Luke Rosiak’s book Race to the Bottom over its role in promoting a controversial 2019 school district busing proposal in Howard County, Maryland. [11]

Rosiak’s description of the Howard County busing controversy involving the firm described the firm as an “advocacy-for-hire firm helmed by real estate honchos and lobbyists.” The book explains that the firm’s news website, Center Maryland, promoted content and used paid advertisements to boost content sympathetic to the unpopular busing proposal in Howard County, Maryland because the proposal would be lucrative for real-estate companies hoping to build more high-density housing, particularly the Howard Hughes Corporation (HHC), a Texas-based real estate conglomerate that KO Public Affairs and its co-founder Damian Doherty worked for at the time. [12]

References

  1. Leaderman, Daniel. “The Md. lobbying game: Behind the ‘Maternity’ coalition.” The Daily Record Maryland. November 18, 2015. Accessed December 27, 2022.  https://thedailyrecord.com/2015/11/18/maryland-maternity-access-coalition/ ^
  2. “About.” KO Public Affairs. Accessed December 27, 2022. https://www.kopublicaffairs.com/about ^
  3. “Leadership.” KO Public Affairs. Accessed December 27, 2022. https://www.kopublicaffairs.com/leadership ^
  4. Rosiak, Luke. “Race to the Bottom: Uncovering the Secret Forces Destroying American Public Education.” Pg. 246-247. Harper-Collins Publishers. 2022. ^
  5. “Steve Kearney.” LinkedIn Profile. Accessed December 27, 2022. https://www.linkedin.com/in/steve-kearney-33431513/details/experience/ ^
  6. “Damian O’ Doherty.” LinkedIn Profile. Accessed December 27, 2022. https://www.linkedin.com/in/damian-o-doherty-2125877/details/experience/ ^
  7. “What We Do.” KO Public Affairs. Accessed December 27, 2022. https://www.kopublicaffairs.com/whatwedo ^
  8. “Leadership.” KO Public Affairs. Accessed December 27, 2022. https://www.kopublicaffairs.com/leadership ^
  9. Leaderman, Daniel. “The Md. lobbying game: Behind the ‘Maternity’ coalition.” The Daily Record Maryland. November 18, 2015. Accessed December 27, 2022.  https://thedailyrecord.com/2015/11/18/maryland-maternity-access-coalition/ ^
  10. “About.” Center Maryland. Accessed December 27, 2022. https://centermaryland.org/about/ ^
  11. Rosiak, Luke. “Race to the Bottom: Uncovering the Secret Forces Destroying American Public Education.” Pgs. 246-247. Harper-Collins Publishers. 2022 ^
  12.  Rosiak, Luke. “Race to the Bottom: Uncovering the Secret Forces Destroying American Public Education.” Pgs. 246-247. Harper-Collins Publishers. 2022 ^
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KO Public Affairs


Baltimore, MD