Story Partners

Story Partners

Background

Story Partners is a Washington, D.C.-based public relations firm that “provides communications strategies for clients when their business, reputation or brand are at risk.”1Story Partners,” LinkedIn. Accessed May, 2021.

Story Partners was founded in 2010 by Gloria Dittus, following the acquisition of her PR company Dittus Communications by FTI Consulting.

The company’s website offers the following description of “how we win”:2How We Win,” Story Partners. Archived May 10, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/X4jRE

“Inside the Beltway? Grassroots? One district, or all 435? Victory begins with an inspired vision and realistic plan rooted in a keen understanding of the legislative and regulatory processes, knowledge of the issues and true view of the media landscape.

“We pinpoint where the votes will come from, where opinions can be swayed, which stakeholders must be engaged and what messages will gain the most ground.

“By marrying the communications strategy to the legislative process, the right messages to the right third-party messengers and grounding the effort in credible research, we change the dynamics of how your issue is framed, setting your campaign on the road to victory.”

On its website, Story Partners notes that the company has “won meaningful victories for clients in an array of industries,” which it lists as:

  • Agriculture, Food & Nutrition
  • Commerce & Trade
  • Energy & Environment
  • Financial & Legal Services
  • Healthcare & Pharmaceutical
  • Hospitality
  • Technology
  • Transportation & Infrastructure

Story Partners & FTI Consulting

According to the company’s website, Gloria Dittus founded Story Partners in 2010 “after the successful acquisition of Dittus Communications by FTI Consulting, which included a five-year commitment on the senior management team leading client engagements for major technology, energy and transportation organizations.” According to the Mergr database, the acquisition took place December 2005.3Gloria Dittus,” Story Partners. Archived May 10, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/X4jRE 4Dittus Communications,” Mergr profile. Archived May 10. 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/nMfAA

According to a press release, Financial Dynamics purchased Dittus Communications in 2005, with Gloria Dittus continuing to head the company and joining the Financial Dynamics board of directors.  5(Press Release). “Dittus Communications Advised by Merger and Acquisition Specialists AdMedia Partners in Purchase by Financial Dynamics,” PRWeb, December 8, 2005. Archived May 19, 2021. Archive URL:https://archive.ph/Ywh4H Subsequently, FTI Consulting announced its acquisition of Financial Dynamics in 2006.6(Press Release). “FTI Consulting To Acquire Financial Dynamics,” FTI Consulting, September 11, 2006. Archived May 19, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/dZXYn

Debra Cabral, president of Story Partners, is the former executive vice president and chief operating officer of Dittus Communications. Other past positions include general manager of strategic communications and managing director of public affairs at FTI Consulting, and executive vice president at the public relations firm Porter Novelli.7Debra Cabral,” Story Partners. Archived May 10, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/8q3ux

Consulting for Big Tobacco

As noted by SourceWatch, Dittus Communications was formerly known as The Dittus Group (TDG), which Gloria Dittus founded in 1993.

TDG entered into several consulting agreements with Big Tobacco between the mid-1990s and 2000.

A Philip Morris USA 2001 “corporate affairs” budget report in the UCSF archive lists two payments to TDG of $100,000 and $42,000 for “federal government affairs” contracts in 2000.8Corporate Affairs 2001 Original Budget,” Philip Morris, October 3, 2000. Retrieved from Truth Tobacco Industry Documents library at UCSF. Bates No. 2081277318-2081277466.

A 1999 PM budget document lists fees paid to The Dittus Group at $162,000 in 1999, and $162,000 in 1998 under “Federal Consultants – Food.”9Corporate Affairs Summary of Variance,” Philip Morris, 1998. Retrieved from Truth Tobacco Industry Documents library at UCSF. Bates No. 2081276481-2081276816.

As noted at SourceWatch, in 1997 The Dittus Group (TDG) sent a proposal to the tobacco company Philip Morris. As part of its pitch, Gloria Dittus and Suzie Brewster noted that the company had “been involved in many controversial campaigns including nuclear waste disposal, food safety and protecting legal immigration,” in a February 24, 1997 memo to Marc Katz of Philip Morris.10Re: Providing local political support for ‘The Tobacco Use by Minors Deterrence Act of 1997’,” The Dittus Group, Inc. February 24, 1997. Retrieved from Truth Tobacco Industry Documents library at UCSF. Bates No. 2077429437-2077429451. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

“Success in today’s political climate required more than back-room lobbying,” the proposal read. “It requires strategic positioning in the media, with affected constituencies, and before legislative and regulatory bodies. The Dittus Group’s extensive experience in coupling legislative advocacy with national and targeted media relations and nationwide grassroots campaigns to achieve public policy goals uniquely qualifies us to assist NACS [the National Association of Convenience Stores] to achieve its objectives.”11Re: Providing local political support for ‘The Tobacco Use by Minors Deterrence Act of 1997’,” The Dittus Group, Inc. February 24, 1997. Retrieved from Truth Tobacco Industry Documents library at UCSF. Bates No. 2077429437-2077429451. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

As part of the group’s “proven, winning track record,” the memo cited work for electric utilities in Alabama:12Re: Providing local political support for ‘The Tobacco Use by Minors Deterrence Act of 1997’,” The Dittus Group, Inc. February 24, 1997. Retrieved from Truth Tobacco Industry Documents library at UCSF. Bates No. 2077429437-2077429451. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

“Obtaining legislation to allow the public service commission to consider ‘stranded costs’ of electric utilities in Alabama in a deregulated environment. This issue was defined as a measure to protect local residents and small businesses against large corporate interests. A pro-active legislative strategy supported by an aggressive third-party coalition and a successful earned and paid media campaign were key factors in success.” (Emphasis in original.) 13Re: Providing local political support for ‘The Tobacco Use by Minors Deterrence Act of 1997’,” The Dittus Group, Inc. February 24, 1997. Retrieved from Truth Tobacco Industry Documents library at UCSF. Bates No. 2077429437-2077429451. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

TDG identified a list of “possible allies” for its proposed tobacco campaign:14Re: Providing local political support for ‘The Tobacco Use by Minors Deterrence Act of 1997’,” The Dittus Group, Inc. February 24, 1997. Retrieved from Truth Tobacco Industry Documents library at UCSF. Bates No. 2077429437-2077429451. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

In an agreement dated January 1, 1995, according to archived tobacco industry documents, Philip Morris Management Corp. engaged TDG for one year to “implement a strategic grassroots program,” paying a $2,000 monthly retainer. The agreement was signed by Gloria Dittus.15CONSULTANT SERVICES AGREEMENT.” Retrieved from Truth Tobacco Industry Documents library at UCSF. Bates No. 2047962762-2047962770. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

In another agreement dated July 10, 1994, Philip Morris Management Corp. agreed to pay TDG a monthly retainer of $4,000 “commencing on the 10th day of July, August, September, October and November 1994,” along with $2839 for the remaining 22 days of December. Gloria Dittus signed this agreement for The Dittus Group.

Gloria Dittus and The Direct Impact Company

Gloria Dittus was formerly a principal at The Direct Impact Company. An undated document in the Trust Tobacco Industry Documents archive at the University of California, San Francisco details a proposal by Direct Impact to provide “Ballot Measure Services” to The Tobacco Institute. An excerpt:16Proposal for Ballot Measure Services to The Tobacco Institute,” Direct Impact, (undated). Retrieved from Truth Tobacco Industry Documents library at UCSF. Bates No. TI24341504.

This document describes Gloria Dittus’ “relevant experience”:17Proposal for Ballot Measure Services to The Tobacco Institute,” Direct Impact, (undated). Retrieved from Truth Tobacco Industry Documents library at UCSF. Bates No. TI24341504.

“With over 10 years of experience in the electric, oil, and gas industries, she has developed, managed, and implemented public relations and grassroots programs on a broad range of environmental legislation, including the acid rain portion of the Clean Air Act defeated in the 100th Congress. She was responsible for the design and implementation of successful media relations programs for the electric utility industry’s top three legislative initiatives during the last three congressional sessions. Dittus has an extensive working knowledge of how to incorporate national and state reports, editorial writers, and broadcast journalists into grassroots programs and ballot measure campaigns.”

Another undated Direct Impact document in the archive outlines Gloria Dittus’ background working with oil and electric companies:18A Winning Combination for Grassroots Lobbying,” Direct Impact (undated). Retrieved from Truth Tobacco Industry Documents library at UCSF. Bates No. TI24341535.

“Since 1980, Gloria Dittus has represented the electrical, oil, and gas industries before the U.S. Congress and the Administration. Her emphasis on legislative affairs, media relations, and grassroots organization has included the development and implementation of comprehensive public affairs programs to support federal, state legislative, and regulatory initiatives.

“Prior to joining Direct Impact, Dittus was the Washington Director of BMc Strategies. She developed national and regional coalitions in support of legislative efforts on acid rain, nuclear power, and transportation issues, including the successful effort to defeat acid rain legislation in the 100th Congress.

“Other projects managed by Dittus include a public relations campaign for the electric utility, coal, manufacturing and agriculture industries in support of legislation regulating the railroad industry; a national grassroots and media relations campaign for the hydropower industry; an innovative media relations program for the Coalition to Keep Alaska Oil; and a comprehensive grassroots campaign in targeted congressional districts for the nuclear power industry.

“A native of Augusta, Georgia, Dittus has held public affairs positions at the Edison Electric Institute, Exxon Corporation, and TRW, Inc. She holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Augusta College and pursued graduate studies at the University of Georgia.”

The Dittus Group and Kraft General Foods

A 1995 document in the UCSF tobacco industry archive, appearing to be a list of lobby groups, describes Gloria Dittus as follows:19GOVERNMENT AFFAIRS CONSULTANTS,August 31, 1995. Retrieved from Truth Tobacco Industry Documents library at UCSF. Bates No. 2048405410-2048405423.

“Gloria Dittus, formerly a principal in the grassroots firm Direct Impact, has guided a review of existing KGF grassroots capabilities and is working with the WRO in development of a comprehensive program to further strengthen targeted grassroots within KGF.”20GOVERNMENT AFFAIRS CONSULTANTS,August 31, 1995. Retrieved from Truth Tobacco Industry Documents library at UCSF. Bates No. 2048405410-2048405423.

“KGF” likely refers to Kraft General Foods. “WRO” likely refers to the Philip Morris Washington Relations Office. Philip Morris acquired Kraft in 1988 and and merged it with General Foods one year later to form Kraft General Foods.

Gloria Dittus outlined the work on the KGF Grassroots Planning Program in a July 7, 1994 memo to Paul Carothers.21KGF Grassroots Planning Program,The Dittus Group, July 7, 1994. Retrieved from Truth Tobacco Industry Documents library at UCSF. Bates No. 2048198572. According to OpenSecrets lobbyist records, Carothers worked with Philip Morris from 1998-1999, Kraft Foods from 1993–2007, and The Dittus Group from 2007 to 2008.22Carothers, Paul E,” OpenSecrets.org. Accessed May 20, 2021.

See a collection of documents from the Truth Tobacco Industry Documents library mentioning Dittus Communications or the Dittus Group below:

Stance on Climate Change

Story Partners appears to have no stance on climate change, but has worked for organizations that have regularly opposed regulation of the fossil fuel industry. These clients have included the American Petroleum Institute, which historically promoted “uncertainty” about climate change.

Story Partners’ energy industry clients have included Noble Energy, Southern Company, and Alabama Power. See clients below.23“Denial and Deception: A Chronicle of ExxonMobil’s Efforts to Corrupt the Debate on Global Warming” (PDF) Greenpeace, May, 2007. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

Funding

Consumer Energy Alliance

In addition to its other known clients, Story Partners was a third-party contractor for the Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA) in 2016, and paid fees totaling $535,442 according to IRS Form 990 filings reviewed by DeSmog.

Peabody Energy

A “Dittus Communications” appears in Peabody Energy’s bankruptcy filings documents.24“In re: Peabody Energy Corporation, et al., Debtors,” UNITED STATES BANKRUPTCY COURT EASTERN DISTRICT OF MISS” (PDF), Retrieved from E&E News. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

Institute for Energy Research

The Institute for Energy Research’s 2009 IRS Form 990 lists “FD Dittus Communications” as an independent contractor for “consulting” services with fees totaling $114,000.

Clients of Story Partners

Below are some “featured clients” that have been listed on the Story Partners homepage over the years. Note: This is not necessarily a complete list of the company’s clients.

Featured Client2014201620172018201920202021
AACIYYY
AdvaMedYYYY
AgriBankYY
Alabama PowerYYYYY
Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery FoundationYYY
American Farmland TrustYYY
American Hotel and Lodging AssociationYYY
American Petroleum InstituteYY
Animal Health InstituteYYYYYYY
Coalition for Patent FairnessYY
Digital Supply Chain InstituteYYY
Entertainment Software AssociationYY
FMC CorporationYY
FMI – The Food Industry AssociationYYY
Foundation for Food and Agriculture ResearchYYY
Hugh M. Hefner FoundationYYY
iDEA GrowthYYY
Large Public Power CouncilYYY
LIFT (Let’s Invest for Tomorrow) America Y
Lindsay CorporationYYY
Master Limited Partnerships Association (Formerly National Association of Publicly Traded Partnerships)YYYY
National Retail FederationYY
Noble EnergyYYYYY
Southern CompanyYYYYYY
The Center for Global EnterpriseYYY
The Home DepotYY
The MITRE CorporationYYY
Trucking Moves America ForwardYYYYYYY
U.S. Beet Sugar AssociationYYY
Venture Global LNGYYY

Key People

Name2010201120122013201420162017201920202021DescriptionNotes
Amos SneadYYYYYPrincipal
Andrew FimkaYYYVice President
Anne W. BradyY
Anton BeckerYYAssistant Vice President
Ashley LaGangaY
Betsy StephensonYYYYSenior Vice President
Brandon StallingsYSenior Director
Cameron CoursenYVice President
Carrie BlewittYYYYYSenior Vice President
Chuck SundinYYYCreative Director
Collier CraftYYYY
Deborah SauriYYY
Debra CabralYYYYYYYYPresident
Elyse PetroniY
Gloria Story DittusYYYYYYYYYYChairman
Heather CoddingtonY
Heather StegnerY
Jennifer DisienaYYYAvp, Editorial Services
Jill Neff WatsonYHas been a senior strategist at APCO Worldwide
Kaitlyn BussY
Kate CazayouxY
Kate ConnorsY
Katherine NovakYOffice Manager
Kathy JeavonsYYSenior Vice President
Kristin LitterstYYYSenior Vice President
Lauren PratapasY
Lisa ChapmanYY
Loran AikenYYY
Mary Elizabeth MargolisY
Matt HerrickYSenior Vice President
Mollie O’DellYYFormer senior account manager at DCI Group25Mollie O’Dell,” LinkedIn. Accessed May 2021. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.
Natisha DawsonYYYVice President, Finance
Norma Jane SabistonYYY
Olivia JenkinsYYAccount Coordinator
Rachael ParryYYYAssistant Vice President
Rick HeartsillYYY
Robert PhilipsYYYVp, Digital & Social Media
Samantha PepiYYYAvp, Digital Media
Shelton JonesYYY
Stephanie FontenotY
Tamara HintonYYYSenior Vice President
Trudi BoydYYYYYExecutive Vice PresidentFormer managing director for healthcare and life sciences at FTI Consulting, and former director of media relations at the National Association of Manufacturers26Trudi Lewis Boyd,” LinkedIn. Accessed May 2021. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

Actions

2014

Venture Global LNG hired Story Partners to “provide strategic corporate communications to raise awareness of the new company and its safe LNG export projects,” according to a Story Partners case study:27Case Study: VENTURE GLOBAL LNG,” Story Partners. Archived August 26, 2022. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/FWmuo

“Venture Global is developing the Calcasieu Pass project, a liquefaction and export facility in Cameron Parish Louisiana, and two in the Southwest part of the state in Plaquemines Parish. Over the years, as the company has evolved, the Story team has been a true communications partner helping them to achieve brand awareness. We created compelling advertisements for its brand visibility across the global energy spectrum, at conventions and conferences around the world, and in trade publications with local, national and international scope. We also provide ongoing editorial services and conduct media relations for its steady drumbeat of corporate funding announcements, strategic partners, community participation and project updates.”

2012

Among its case study, Story Partners has described “strategies deployed” for American Petroleum Institute’s 2012 “Vote4Energy” campaign as:28CASE STUDY: American Petroleum Institute,” Story Partners. Archived May 10, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/OhXZ5

  • Digital strategy
  • Social media management
  • Digital advertising
  • Content creation
  • Campaign website
  • Event Management

At a January 4, 2012 luncheon, American Petroleum Institute (API) President and CEO Jack Gerard claimed that the then-new campaign would be a “conversation with the American people.” He said API would spend “significant” amounts of money on the campaign.29Margaret Ryan. “API Wants Energy Back In 2012 Elections,” AOIL Energy, January 5, 2012. Archived January 24, 2012. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/V4045

The campaign advocated for opening federal government land to private energy exploration, as well as approval of TransCanada’s application to build the Keystone XL pipeline.

Vote Energy One-Pagers30Resources,” Vote4Energy.org. Archived January 10, 2012. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/52EQW included a document by API that detailed policy goals including overturning a drilling moratorium in New York, and opening several off-limits federal lands and waters to fossil fuel exploration and development, including:31Policy Perspectives,” Energy API, December 2011.

  • Eastern Gulf of Mexico
  • Offshore Alaska
  • Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf
  • Pacific Outer Continental Shelf
  • Coastal plain of the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge, known as the “1002 area”
  • National Petroleum Reserve Alaska
  • Portions of the Rocky Mountains

“There is a choice when it comes to the policies that will help shape America’s energy future—two paths that we can take. One path leads to more jobs, higher government revenues and greater U.S. energy security—which can be achieved by increasing oil and natural gas development right here at home. The other path would put jobs, revenues and our energy security at risk,” the now-defunct vote4energy.org website read.32Vote4 Energy homepage. Archived February 2, 2012. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/24U5A

2011

DeSmog found that the website for Energy in Depth (EiD), a pro-fossil-fuel program launched by the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) was registered to FD Dittus Communications.33Emma Pullman. “Industry Groups Fight Dirty Against Oscar-Nominated Hydraulic Fracturing Documentary ‘Gasland’,” DeSmog, January 25, 2011. 34Kevin Grandia. “Who are the spindoctors behind the attack on Gasland?” DeSmog, June 22, 2010.

Dittus Communications, formerly The Dittus Group, was a strategic communications company founded by Gloria Dittus and acquired by Financial Dynamics in 200535,Paul Holmes. “Financial Dynamics Acquires Public Affairs Shop Dittus,” PRovoke Media, December 6, 2005. Archived August 26, 2022. Archive URL:https://archive.ph/kWYgV which was in turn acquired by FTI Consulting in 2006.36(Press Release). “FTI Consulting, Inc. Completes Acquisition of Financial Dynamics,” FTI Consulting, October 3, 2006. Archive August 26, 2022. Archive URL:https://archive.ph/zpKC0

According to historical WHOIS information, “FD Dittus Communications” registered the EnergyinDepth.org domain name. The named registrant on the domain name record was Chris Tucker, who remains a senior managing director in FTI Consulting’s strategic communications department, as well as global lead of its Energy & Natural Resources practice.37WHOIS History Search for “energyindepth.org,” Domain Research Suite. August 25, 2022. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog. “Chris Tucker,” FTI Consulting. Archived August 26, 2022. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/FcKl5

Contact & Address

The Story Partners website lists the following contact information:44Contact Us,” Story Partners. Archived May 10, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/358rd

The Flour Mill Building
1000 Potomac Street, NW, Suite 102
Washington, DC 20007
Phone: 202-706-7800

Social Media

Other Resources

Resources

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