EXCLUSIVE: Fani Willis Hired Firm To Monitor Her Media ‘Coverage Value’ Just Days Before Announcing Trump Probe

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Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’ office agreed to pay $10,000 on a service to monitor her media coverage just days before announcing the probe into former President Donald Trump, according to invoices and emails obtained by the Daily Caller News Foundation.

Willis announced in a letter sent to four state officials, including Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, on Feb. 11, 2021 that she had opened a criminal probe into Trump over his alleged attempts to influence the outcome of the presidential election. However, just days earlier, her office contracted with Critical Mention, a New York-based media monitoring service designed for tracking mentions and metrics like publicity value.

The documents show Willis’ interest in tracking media coverage of herself and her office as she launched an investigation into the former president.

The first invoice charging $10,000 for the annual contract is dated Feb. 8, 2021. Emails show the District Attorney’s office was in discussion with the company as early as Feb. 1.

“We are getting more coverage via your name than by title,” said what appears to be a Fulton County employee in a Feb. 2021 email, referencing Willis. “This graph has the coverage value for the last week at over $150 million.”

“I ran a report for mentions of ‘Fulton County District Attorney’ worldwide for the last seven days. Critical Mention (the PR monitoring platform I told you guys about that we contract for last week) gives a ‘publicity value’ to the coverage, which is meant to reflect what it would cost to buy paid advertising equivalent to the penetration of the media coverage,” the email continues. “While it can be a bit exaggerated, it says in the last week we’ve gotten media coverage equivalent to $67 million in advertising. Even half of that value would be staggering.”

Critical Mention’s website pitches its service to “PR, Communications and marketing agencies” who use the platform to “to help clients track earned media coverage in real-time, analyze campaigns and grow their brands.”

Atlanta-based criminal defense attorney and legal analyst Philip Holloway told the DCNF that prosecutors are required “to be objective and to wield their great power without bias and certainly not to use the criminal justice system as a political weapon.”

“If there is even the appearance that she is using a criminal grand jury to enhance her personal media profile or for personal political advancement, we could be witnessing a real-time derailment of this indictment,” he said. “Fundamental fairness is at the heart of constitutional due process and if this case was not brought and maintained in the spirit of fundamental fairness, then it should be dismissed and the rest of the chips can fall where they may.”

When renegotiating the contract in Feb. 2023, Deputy District Attorney for the Media Relations Division Jeff DiSantis mentioned to a company representative that he has had to “push the county hard to pay for this.” (RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: Fulton County Commissioner Requests Fani Willis Produce Info On Alleged ‘Misuse’ Of County Funds)

“We paid for a whole year last year but the service was turned off for several months,” he wrote. “I understand if you can’t give us credit for that, but I have to push the county hard to pay for this, and I don’t think they will renew it without that credit.”

A company representative told DiSantis later that day that they had “received payment for the 2022 renewal on 9/12/22, and the due date was 3/31/22.”

Earlier emails show the company reached out multiple times in 2021 to warn about past due invoices, telling Willis in a May 12, 2021 email that her account was “in danger of suspension.”

“I have been informed by Ms. Goff my purchasing manager that there is paperwork that needs to be filled out to be paid by the county,” Willis said in a reply to the company representative. “Until your company jumps through the county hoops it is impossible to pay you.”

County data shows Critical Mention was paid once, on May 28, 2021, for $10,000.

Later emails from DiSantis to a representative for TV Eyes, another media monitoring service, indicate he considered subscribing the District Attorney’s Office to an alternate service. The county has paid $12,600 to TVEyes Inc since Sept. 2021 for the Sheriff’s Office and External Affairs, per county data.

Trump co-defendant Michael Roman filed a motion Jan. 8 claiming Willis benefited from a “lucrative” contract she awarded her alleged lover, special prosecutor Nathan Wade, when he took her on vacations using money earned from his position. Bank statements have since shown that Wade purchased tickets to Miami and San Francisco in Willis’ name.

Additionally, Wade has been paid at a higher hourly rate than John Floyd, one of the other special prosecutors on the case who is known as Georgia’s top racketeering expert, according to billing statements and contracts obtained by the DCNF. Floyd was paid between $150 and $200 an hour, while Wade has been paid $250 an hour.

Wade has made nearly $654,000 from the county since 2022, per county data.

The District Attorney’s Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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