Shop Talk: Howard’s End

Posted January 7, 2009 at 6:38pm

In his first two expensive, self-financed campaigns, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, running then as a Republican, used some Democratic strategists — most notably Douglas Schoen of Penn, Schoen and Berland Associates, and Josh Isay, a former chief of staff to Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.).

[IMGCAP(1)]Back in 2001, the willingness of Democrats to take a heavy payday from a Republican brought a rebuke from then-Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe. But the rush to help Bloomberg continued.

Now that Bloomberg, who became an Independent in 2007, has overturned the city’s term limit laws so he can seek a third term this year, an even bigger Democratic name has joined his campaign team: Howard Wolfson, strategist and spokesman for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s (D-N.Y.) presidential campaign.

In 2005, Wolfson, then a hired gun for the New York State Democratic Party, attacked a wealthy Democratic real estate developer for contributing to Bloomberg’s campaign, according to the Village Voice.

Joel Benenson, a New York-based Democratic pollster who worked for Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) when Weiner ran for mayor in 2005, said Wolfson’s hiring is not surprising.

“It’s not unusual for Bloomberg,” Benenson said. “He has had Democratic consultants working for him since he became a politician, so it’s not unusual for him.”

Still, Benenson said he was hard-pressed to come up with more than a couple of names of consultants who have successfully crossed party lines to work for candidates.

“It’s an exception rather than the rule, but it happens from time to time when people do that,” he said.

Wolfson could not be reached for comment Wednesday, but even though Bloomberg may run for re-election on the Republican line this year, he defended his decision to work for the mayor in an interview with the Voice.

“I just think that over eight years, he’s made New York a better place to live,” said Wolfson, who conceded that he voted for Bloomberg’s Democratic opponents in 2001 and 2005.

In Liu of Federal Elections. Speaking of New York City politics, in off years, political consultants often find work in municipal elections, and several big names have signed on with New York City Councilman John Liu (D), who is running to be New York City public advocate (the city’s No. 2 elected post) this year.

According to Politickerny .com, Liu, who is bidding to become the first Asian-American elected to citywide office, has signed Bill Lynch to be the general consultant on his campaign. Lynch is a former Democratic National Committee vice chairman who engineered the election of David Dinkins (D) as Gotham’s first African-American mayor. Lynch is also assisting Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) in her push to be appointed to the Empire State’s Senate vacancy.

Liu has hired as a media consultant Jimmy Siegel, a former Madison Avenue advertising executive who made ads for former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer (D) and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.).

Liu hired Lake Research Partners for polling and Mission Control Media for direct mail.

Sign on the John Hancock Building. Consultants are lining up in the Land of Lincoln to work for the several candidates who are running to fill the shoes of Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), who has stepped down to become the future White House chief of staff. The 5th district special election is scheduled for April 7.

State Rep. John Fritchey (D) has picked up Josh Levin to serve as his campaign manager. Levin ran physician Victoria Wulsin’s (D) campaign in Ohio’s 2nd district for a portion of 2008, before finishing off the cycle running Allentown Democratic Chairwoman Sam Bennett’s failed Congressional bid in Pennsylvania’s 15th district.

Another Wulsin alumnus, Kevin Franck, will serve as state Rep. Sara Feigenholtz’s (D) spokesman in her special election campaign. Franck ended the 2008 cycle as communications director for Wulsin, who lost to Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Ohio) for the second straight cycle.

Feigenholtz’s campaign has also brought on senior adviser Becky Carroll, who was the national director of Women for Obama, and Michael Rendina, who ran freshman Rep. Bill Foster’s (D-Ill.) re-election campaign in 2008. Carroll said the campaign has also brought on AKP&D Message and Media as its media consultant, along with Anna Greenberg of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research for polling and Mission Control Media for mail.

Pilot Jan Donatelli (D) picked Cooper and Secrest Associates Inc. to do her polling.

We Almost Lost Detroit. The famed media firm AKP&D Message and Media, once run by Obama campaign chiefs David Axelrod and David Plouffe, has picked up Detroit Mayor Ken Cockrel Jr. as a client, according to the Detroit News. Cockrel is serving as mayor in the interim before the Feb. 24 special election, after ex-Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick went to jail on felony charges.

The newspaper reported that Cockrel has hired other firms that worked for Obama, including the Strategy Group for direct mail and marketing and Anzalone-Liszt Research for polling.

The Full Monte. The National Republican Senatorial Committee continued to beef up its staff this week in preparation for what is expected to be yet another difficult cycle for Senate Republicans.

The committee has tapped Paula Monte Dukes as its new political action committee director. Dukes most recently served as development director for TechNet, a bipartisan network of technology company executives, which followed a stint in the finance department of President George W. Bush’s re-election campaign in 2004.

NRSC spokesman Brian Walsh confirmed that Dukes will begin Jan. 15.

In Memoriam. Republican new media consultant Michael Connell died in a plane crash Dec. 19. An avid pilot, the 45-year-old Republican perished while he was flying a plane in his home state of Ohio, according to a statement from the Association of Political and Public Affairs Professionals.

“Our friend Mike Connell was a political pioneer and innovator,” a statement from AAPC read. “His work, however, was always secondary to his profound love and commitment to his family and his God. He was also a teacher; in every facet of his life.”

In addition to serving on the AAPC board, Connell was the founder and president of New Media Enterprises and GovTech Solutions. He was also a partner at Connell Donatelli Inc., a new media firm that he managed with fellow GOP Internet consultant Rebecca Donatelli.

Josh Kurtz contributed to this report.

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