Virginia’s state government watchdog agency said Wednesday it will examine the awarding of a six-figure contract to Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s political ad-maker for the production of a state tourism video that featured the governor.
Kate Hourin, a spokesperson for the Office of the State Inspector General, told The Associated Press investigators will look into whether the appropriate procurement process was followed in the matter, which was the subject of news reports earlier this month.
Richmond-based Poolhouse received a $268,600 contract earlier this year to produce the “Governor’s Welcome Project” ad, which the state’s tourism agency has said is being shown at welcome centers and in airports.
Poolhouse produces ads for Republican campaigns and political action committees, as well as companies and advocacy groups. It worked on Youngkin’s winning campaign last year and continues to work with his political action committee.
Democrats raised concerns about the award after it became public, and Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw and House Minority Leader Don Scott asked the inspector general to investigate in an Oct. 6 letter.
Hourin said the agency decided to grant the request from Democratic lawmakers after determining the matter falls within the agency’s jurisdiction, though she said not every question the lawmakers raised was in the agency’s purview. The investigation would be focused on the procurement issue and “whether any waste of government funds was involved,” she said.
Rita McClenny, president and CEO of Virginia Tourism, has previously defended the procurement process and the selection of Poolhouse, which she called a “local, talented, Virginia-based company that has done exceptional work for other corporate clients from Anheuser-Busch to Honda to GE.”
Public records obtained by the Richmond Times-Dispatch also show that aides to Youngkin raised concerns about using Poolhouse through a single-sourced contract and asked the agency to seek additional bids. One other firm didn’t respond and another said it couldn’t meet the scope of work, records show.
Representatives of the Virginia Tourism Corp. and the governor’s office did not immediately respond to emailed requests for comment from AP Wednesday. Poolhouse has also previously defended its participation in the project.
The inspector general’s office was established in 2012 to investigate waste and identify inefficiencies in state government. It conducts performance audits of state agencies and oversees a fraud, waste and abuse hotline.