The Kennedys

Ties to former Paterson aide may help Caroline Kennedy

By A. James Memmott

January 1, 2009 at 10:10am

Caroline Kennedy has a lot of things going for her in her attempt to get appointed to the U.S. Senate.

She’s the daughter of revered former president. She’s wealthy. And she has a well-placed friend.

“If the Kennedy mystique and money do not overwhelm New York Gov. David Paterson and persuade him to appoint Caroline Kennedy … a former Catholic priest just might,” wrote John LeBoutillier on

Caroline Kennedy
Caroline Kennedy

The former priest is Charles J. O’Byrne, Paterson’s chief of staff and secretary until his resignation in October. O’Byrne stepped down after it was revealed that he at one time had as much as $200,000 in unpaid federal and state taxes.

Though he has left the governor’s administration, O’Byrne reportedly still advises Paterson. His connection to Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of the late president John F. Kennedy and his wife Jacqueline Kennedy, is long-standing.

O’Byrne has known the Kennedys since he met Caroline Kennedy’s cousin Stephen E. Smith Jr., while they were students together at Columbia Law School in the early 1980s.

After graduation, O’Byrne practiced law for a few years before entering the Society of Jesus, the Jesuit religious order, in 1989.

In 1996, he presided over the wedding of Caroline Kennedy’s brother, John F. Kennedy Jr., and Carolyn Bessette.

In 1999, he led the memorial service for the couple in New York City after they lost their lives in a plane crash.

Later that year, O’Byrne left the Jesuit order.

He worked on the 2004 Howard Dean presidential campaign and then went to work for Paterson, at the time the minority leader of the New York state Senate.

After Paterson was elected lieutenant governor in 2006, O’Byrne became his chief of staff.

Paterson became governor following Eliot Spitzer’s resignation last March and named O’Byrne his chief of staff.

O’Byrne may be lobbying Paterson on Kennedy’s behalf, but the governor hasn’t publicly revealed his thinking on Clinton’s replacement.

Chris Smith of New York magazine suggests that Paterson is playing coy for a reason, putting pressure on Kennedy’s supporters, including her uncle Sen. Edward M. Kennedy.

“The longer it goes on, the more nervous Ted Kennedy and the Obama people get,” a Democratic insider told Smith. “So, to seal the deal, perhaps they’ll deliver more benefits for Paterson and the state.”

Andrew M. Cuomo, New York’s attorney general and the son of former Gov. Mario M. Cuomo, is reported to be under consideration, as well.

He, too, has a Kennedy connection, as he was married to Kerry Kennedy, Caroline’s cousin, and the daughter of the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy.

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  • #1.   r. bocklet 01.01.2009

    I read your comments about the almost inevitability of a Kenneny appointment. Nevertheless consider: Caroline Kennedy announces to the governor her interest in being senator. That in itself is a hubristic act especially from a person who has jealously guarded her privacy and exhibited little people-to-people contact over the years; a person who has never revealed political interest/intentions/will to serve the commonweal and therefore has no public resume/record or set of accomplishments. And, as opposed to Dwight D. Eisenhower, she did not just save the world and was not called on by the people to serve again.

    Now, we learn, according to AP and New York One, that since 1988 Caroline has not voted in a number of elections. She admitted, “there isn’t a good excuse.” How in heavens name can anyone be appointed to the prestigious office of US Senator who doesn’t even vote?

    Now, we learn during the New York One interview, Caroline used the expression “you know” over 200 times. Hardly the appropriate locution for a person who would be delivering a senatorial speech on the floor or participating in a committee hearing or conducting NYS business in Washington.

    Now, we learn that Caroline refuses to provide the NY Times, and others, ethical, legal and financial data that candidates and office-holders all provide on the grounds that she is not a candidate. She wants the office, but not the scrutiny. She says, in essence, “Marry me and after the wedding, I’ll answer your questions.” Again hubristic and full of gall.

    But, of course, Caroline is a Kennedy, a celebrity. But if celebrity is the important criterion, why not Jennifer Lopez?

    Or, why not Andrew Cuomo, also from a prestigious family and a celebrity as well, but who has served in the political system both in elective office as Attorney General and under President Clinton as Secretary of HUD from 1997 to 2001? As well, he has cross–party-lines appeal as exhibited by Sen. McCain suggesting him for possible inclusion in a McCain cabinet. And, politically speaking, in 2010, if Andrew Cuomo continues impressing people as Attorney General, he more than likely will be a strong challenge in the primary election. Better he be safely serving in the Senate.

    R. Bocklet

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