Spin Master

As part of the Denver National Convention brouhaha in town yesterday, Howard Dean announced the convention committee’s leadership team. It’s a powerful, experienced bunch, including Leah Daughtry, Dean’s chief of staff, as the convention’s CEO. The list also includes Jenni Engebretsen as deputy CEO for public affairs, an apt choice considering she was the deputy communications director for the Boston DNC in 2004 and a Clinton White House staff member.

The liberal blogosphere, however, immediately recognized Engebretsen from her current job, director of communications for the Recording Industry Association of America. For all those who like to snag Gnarls Barkley tunes through non-traditional means (read: online downloading services), that means she’s the figurehead of most evil organization in the universe. The RIAA, known for the tens of thousands of copyright lawsuits it has filed against those suspected of illegal music file-sharing, was recently named the worst company in America by the Consumerist.

“The RIAA’s campaign of suing thousands of American music lovers has been the single biggest PR disaster in recent industrial history -- which is why Engebretsen's employer beat out Halliburton, Blackwater and Wal-Mart for the coveted “Worst Company” slot,” read a post on Boing Boing yesterday. “Engebretsen's PR approach is centered around stonewalling and avoiding difficult press calls.”

Of course, others may see this job as proof of Engebretsen’s aptitude. She’s been the public face of a maneuver that the individual record labels were afraid to attempt on their own, a guaranteed PR suicide attack on the part of the RIAA. A position like that takes nerves of steel.

So what does Engebretsen think of her upcoming job in Denver? Will it be a cakewalk compared to her past? Or will she be facing more media flak and negative attention? It’s hard to say — since the press release announcing her public-affairs job at the Denver DNC didn’t list her contact info. – Joel Warner

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Joel Warner is a former staff writer for Westword and International Business Times. He's also written for WIRED, Men's Journal, Men's Health, Bloomberg Businessweek, Popular Science, Slate, Grantland and many other publications. He's co-author of the 2014 book The Humor Code: A Global Search for What Makes Things Funny, published by Simon & Schuster.
Contact: Joel Warner