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KO Public Affairs buys an ‘F’ and an ‘A’

This post has been updated.

Kearney O’Doherty Public Affairs, the Baltimore-based strategic communications firm, is getting some new blood.

Damian O'Doherty. (File)

Damian O’Doherty. (File)

The organization is joining forces with another Baltimore-based firm, Fontaine & Co.; both specialize in running advocacy campaigns.

Calls to each firm’s office  early Thursday afternoon were answered by receptionists saying, “KOFA Public Affairs.”

The KOFA Public Affairs website, which is still under construction, lists the address and phone number of KO’s office in on South Calvert Street in Baltimore.

The “F” is Fontaine & Co. President Jamie Fontaine-Gansell, a veteran of political campaigns.

The “A” is Rick Abbruzzese, who served as a spokesman and adviser for former Gov. Martin O’Malley. Abbruzzese was most recently the executive vice president of global public affairs and marketing at the Walton Group of Companies. Prior to that, he was a lobbyist with Rifkin, Weiner, Livingston, Levitan & Silver LLC,

KOFA released a statement Thursday evening confirming the merger and that Fontaine and Abbruzzese were joining the team.

The new firm will have a presence in Annapolis, Wilmington, Delaware and Washington, D.C., and its services will include strategic communications, grassroots organizing, advertising, media relations and crisis management, according to the statement.

“Bringing our firms together makes sense from a business perspective — as well as helping to make an even bigger impact for our clients,” O’Doherty said in a statement.

Fontaine said in a statement that the new organization was “a national firm with a local approach” and that her partners were “some of the best in the business.”

Abbruzzese and Fontaine & Co.’s Sloane Whelan were together in Annapolis Wednesday for the kickoff of the General Assembly’s 2016 legislative session, where they spoke to reporters on behalf of the Maryland Maternity Access Coalition.

That coalition, an advocacy group backed by several hospitals and run by KO, supports the creation of a no-fault birth injury fund, which would provide compensation for claims of injuries sustained during birth and help keep doctors from facing costly malpractice suits.

The coalition, incorporated at a 501(c)4, repeatedly declined to discuss its membership and its financials with The Daily Record last year and would not produce copies of tax filings the IRS requires be made public.

KO Public Affairs was founded in 2008 by Damian O’Doherty, once an aide to former Baltimore County Executive Jim Smith, and Steve Kearney, former director of communications for O’Malley.

Kearney is helping helping prep O’Malley for the next presidential debate, according to the statement from KOFA.

Kearney and O’Doherty also created Center Maryland, a news aggregator blog advertised on KO’s website.

Last year, KO opened a second office in Wilmington, Delaware.

Daily Record Reporter Bryan P. Sears contributed to this post.