Dec. 23 2009 12:00 AM

An aggregator of Lansing government happenings


It’s probably about time to start the clock on the countdown to Mayor Virg Bernero’s official announcement that he’s running for governor.

This week started off with a bang as a press release came from the Bernero camp announcing that the mayor would file this week to set up an exploratory committee for his run. Sorry, his potential run.

But what’s more interesting than the press release is who wrote it: Commerce Communication Group head Jamaine Dickens.

It’s interesting that Dickens is based in Detroit (and does PR for Marathon Petroleum, the Michigan Department of Transportation and the MGM Grand Casino). I mean, there are plenty of PR firms in Lansing, right? Why not stay local? It’s also interesting that Bernero has someone doing PR for him, even though he hasn’t officially announced that he’s running for governor. But most interesting is that Dickens served as the spokesman for the city of Detroit between 2001 and 2005. You may be familiar with his former boss, Kwame Kilpatrick.

Dickens even got swept up in the whole text-gate: the Detroit Free Press published a text between Dickens and Kilpatrick from 2003 talking about a video shoot for an Eminem concert. (Apparently this was just used as context during Kilpatrick’s trial, to show that the texts were authentic.)

So how is the mayor of Lansing — who’s not yet running for governor — end up getting press releases sent out for him by a firm that represents big business, and whose owner used to be the hip-hop mayor’s mouthpiece? (Word is that Dickens was let go from the job by Kilpatrick and had some nasty run-ins with the Detroit media. He was also the producer of a Detroit cable access show called “The Inventive Reporter” that had the sole mission of smearing WXYZ reporter Steve Wilson, an enemy of Kilpatrick’s.)

Dickens says he is an old friend of Virg’s and that they met when he was communications director for the House Democrats — back when Bernero was still a state representative. In addition, Dickens says, he’s doing this work for Bernero on a volunteer basis: “I believe Virg’s possible entry into the governor’s race is healthy for the Democratic Party,” he said. Officially, Dickens is calling himself a Bernero “adviser.”

Dickens has had many varying PR jobs in Michigan — and as spokesman for Leon County in Florida — and said that his stint with Kilpatrick should not define his career.

Dickens said he worked for Barack Obama in 2008, the John Kerry campaign in 2004 and both campaigns for Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

Dickens was rather miffed that a reporter brought up the whole Kilpatrick thing, in fact.

A survey conducted in November by the Lansing-based Rossman Group, The Perricone Group and Denno-Noor Research looked at how negative characteristics could harm gubernatorial hopefuls. (Bernero’s name was not included in the survey.) The survey found that Attorney General Mike Cox had the most negative characteristic because of accusations that he covered up an investigation into the alleged beating of a stripper at that Manoogian Mansion “urban legend” party. Dickens hasn’t been associated with Kilpatrick in years (nor has he been linked in any way to the hip-hop mayor’s legal troubles), and Bernero is even further removed from the situation — but Kilpatrick’s name is clearly green poison.

Kelly Rossman- McKinney, head of the Rossman Group, noted the Dickens- Bernero connection.

“It’s an interesting alliance,” Rossman- McKinney said. “I’m not sure it gives Virg everything he needs in terms of contacts and credibility in Detroit.”