Caroline Kennedy’s ties to Bloomberg may hurt her prospects

By A. James Memmott

December 25, 2008 at 10:13am

Caroline Kennedy has friends in high places, including President-elect Barack Obama, whom she supported in his quest for the presidency.

But her connections to New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg may be hurting her push to be appointed to the U.S. Senate seat that Hillary Rodham Clinton will vacate when she becomes secretary of State.

“Ms. Kennedy’s ties to Mr. Bloomberg’s political team and her waffling over whether she would support a Democrat in next year’s (New York City) mayor race appear to be angering some Democrats,” The New York Times reported Wednesday.

Among these Democrats is Sheldon Silver, the speaker of New York’s state Assembly.

He has said he would not advise Gov. David A. Paterson to appoint Kennedy, the daughter of the late President Kennedy, the Times reported.

“Her first obligation might be to the mayor of the city of New York rather than the governor who appointed her,” Silver told an Albany radio station.

Observers speculate that having Kennedy in his debt would help Bloomberg, a political independent, in his run next year for a third term, as the obligation might keep Kennedy from endorsing Bloomberg’s Democratic opponent.

Bloomberg has said that he’s not backing anyone to fill the Senate vacancy. However, he has strongly defended Kennedy against the criticism that she does not have the credentials for the job.

“Being a senator, you don’t have to know about every issue coming in. That’s what your staffs are for,” he told New York’s Daily News. “They’re one out of 100 people that vote together, and Caroline Kennedy is eminently qualified to be a senator.”

Neutral or not, Bloomberg is linked to Kennedy’s candidacy in a variety of ways.

Kevin Sheekey, Bloomberg’s deputy mayor for government affairs, has been advising Kennedy. A former aide to U.S. Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Sheekey ran Bloomberg’s 2001 and 2005 mayoral campaigns.

Kennedy has hired Knickerbocker SKD, a political consulting firm with ties to Bloomberg, to help her secure the appointment.

Josh Isay, Knickerbocker’s founder, was a key adviser to Bloomberg in his successful effort this year to get around New York City’s two-term limit for mayors.

Kennedy is also linked to the Bloomberg administration through Joel Klein, the chancellor of New York City’s Department of Education.

Nicole K. Seligman, Klein’s wife, lived across the hall from Kennedy when they attended Harvard’s Radcliffe College, and Seligman was a bridesmaid at Kennedy’s wedding to Edwin A. Schlossberg

Klein, a Bloomberg ally, recruited Kennedy in 2002 to head the education department’s Office of Strategic Partnerships and effort to secure private funding for public education initiatives.

Kennedy worked in that position until 2004 at a salary of $1 a year. She’s now the vice chair of the Fund for Public Schools, another effort to secure funds for city schools.

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