Elon Musk Needs A PR Hack Afterall, Maviglio Rises Again

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Tesla recently fired its entire Northern American public relations staff.  Who needs to talk to the press when you are Elon Musk? Tesla was supposed to be above interacting with the media.

This fall, Consumer Watchdog hacked a Tesla on video to show the lack of safety in its wireless connections and demand better design standards. When the press called, Tesla had no PR person to answer questions or comment. 

The power of Consumer Watchdog’s presentation can be found in the fact Tesla couldn’t respond with any substantive comment but instead hired Sacramento mudslinger and PR hack Steve Maviglio, according to a recent holiday “thank you to clients” on Maviglio’s website.  

Maviglio is the PR hack known periodically (aka when someone is paying him) for peddling lies about Consumer Watchdog for corporations whose failures our work exposes. 

Why someone as smart as Musk would choose to hire the guy who represented Gray Davis in his mishandling of the energy crisis and during his recall from office is a head-scratcher.  

As far as we can tell Maviglio’s Forza Communications is Musk’s only PR firm on contract in North America.

It also attests to the possibility that new tougher standards for the design for connected cars could come true with Democrats in charge in Washington.

NHTSA just announced a Tesla recall based on failures in the way it uses flash memory and wears out its touch screen, the key interface for safety critical systems in all Teslas.  NHTSA notes Tesla had attempted to resolve the issue with software patches, but these have been “procedurally and substantially insufficient” and the law requires automakers to recall vehicles that contain safety defects. 

These kinds of recalls are exactly what Consumer Watchdog asked of NHTSA in follow-up to our report “Kill Switch: Why Connected Cars Can Be Killing Machines And How To Turn Them Off.” Senator Markeys and Blumethal pressed for these changes in response to the report and in subsequent letters to NHTSA

Tesla will have more failures until they build their cars up to the standards now being demanded by the EU and put in place by the UN. This will be a push for Consumer Watchdog in 2021.

According to the same “thank you” note to clients, Maviglio has also been retained by the California Grocers Association.  That hiring comes after Consumer Watchdog has taken on California’s recycling scandal in recent years with seminal reports exposing grocers’ refusal to redeem consumers’ bottle and can deposits despite being legally required to.

Consumer Watchdog did Secret Shopper audits to show, on video, that two-thirds of the grocery stores visited did not redeem bottles and cans. We called for tough enforcement by the state of grocers’ legal responsibility to return consumers’ deposits. California’s redemption rate of 61% is now among the lowest in America, costing consumers hundreds of millions of dollars.

Maviglio’s history of being the enemy of everything Consumer Watchdog is well charted.

He’s been paid big bucks by our corporate opponents on campaign after campaign: health insurance companies to stop rate regulation (Prop 45), Silicon Valley tech giants to stop privacy regulation, landlords to stop rent control, and by Mercury Insurance under the table to allow insurance companies to gut tough insurance regulation Prop 103. You can read some of that history here, “Revenge of the Insurance Deregulators,” in my previous post from 2012, or here.

And Maviglio recently became known to a larger audience on social media for his cowardice and vindictiveness when racial justice protesters collided with the police on Swann Street this past summer.

Demonstrators protesting George Floyd’s murder were pepper-sprayed and cornered by DC police when a man opened the doors to his Swann Street apartment to give dozens of them safe haven.  With COVID in the air, and on the same day tear gas was deployed by President Trump to clear protestors in Lafayette Square, he gave shelter to the standing-room-only crowd all night in his home, and was dubbed a popular hero on Twitter and social media for his selflessness.

Then came an angry tweet by the landlord of that Swann Street apartment, you guessed it, Sacramento Democratic consultant Steve Maviglio: “A real hero pays his rent to the owner of the home so I can pay taxes that support our community.”  An avalanche of online condemnation ensued and he was asked to resign from his position on the board of the Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op.  Read more here.

Maviglio’s past is littered with hypocrisy and venality – from working for the Speaker of the California Assembly John Perez while being paid by private clients with business before the Assembly, his owning of fracking stock while claiming to be an environmentalist, trying to conceal his funders when blogging on behalf of political campaigns, to being pushed out of his state capital employment after misusing public resources.

For those who have the stomach, that history is recounted in my post, “Revenge of the Insurance Deregulators”.

As David Dayen writes in The American Prospect: “I know Maviglio quite well. If there’s a bad idea in state government or a high-priced corporate-backed campaign to run (like the proposition bankrolled by landlords—other landlords, I guess—to stop rent control), Maviglio’s behind it.”

Musk might want to read up on his new PR hack. Whatever Maviglio breaks Musk will now own.

Jamie Court
Jamie Court
Consumer Watchdog's President and Chairman of the Board is an award-winning and nationally recognized consumer advocate. The author of three books, he has led dozens of campaigns to reform insurance companies, financial institutions, energy companies, political accountability and health care companies.

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