The marketing firm that created first lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” anti-obesity campaign’s logo, slogan and web design has close ties to the Obama administration and was paid $100,000 in an “unauthorized” no-bid contract, according to internal documents.
The 44 pages of documents — obtained through a Freedom of Information Act (FIOA) request by the conservative government accountability group Judicial Watch — reveal that federal officials are looking into the Let’s Move contract with Shepardson, Stern & Kaminsky (SS+K) as an “unauthorized commitment.”
According to Judicial Watch, the contract violated federal contracting laws.
In a “Request for Ratification of an Unauthorized Commitment” form, the Department of Agriculture explained that the individual responsible for granting the contract “was not aware of the contracting process and the visibility and importance of this program necessitated an aggressive schedule that hindered his ability to research the process.”
According to the “Request for Ratification,” SS+K was paid $100,000 to create the “Let’s Move logo, slogan and artwork for the Childhood Obesity program, a joint effort by the USDA, the Department of Education and the Department of Health and Human Services, in collaboration with the White House. They created the design for the Let’s Move website including the four pillars of the program.” The firm developed 20 designs and focus grouped the designs’ effectiveness.
Judicial Watch reports that David Lazarus, a political appointee who advised Agriculture Sec. Tom Vilsack, served as the National Rural Vote Deputy Director for Obama for America, and was an advisor to the Obama-Biden transition team, was the individual responsible for the contract.
In addition to SS+K’s participation with Obama for America, according to Judicial Watch, at least two of the SS+K employees working on “Let’s Move” also worked on Obama political campaigns.
According to the documents, the government took actions to prevent the individual responsible from more “unauthorized commitments” by having senior procurement officials speak with the responsible party and offer “additional training.”
“On March 17th, they provided training on procurement rules and process to all the senior advisors of the Department. The Senior Procurement Executive had intended to provide this seminar as part of the training that was given to the new incoming political appointees at the start of the administration, but through administrative oversight this wasn’t done,” the ratification request document reads.