Barrett: Bill Thompson's TV Ad, and Bloomberg's Snippy Response
Almost as soon as Bill Thompson's first television commercial appeared last week, Bloomberg campaign spokesman Howard Wolfson issued a statement pointing out that the ad was shot in the office of a lobbyist. Wiseguy Wolfson added tersely that Thompson's decision to shoot it there "tells you all you need to know."
The veteran campaign communicator was right -- Thompson did shoot parts of the commercial in the offices of the MirRam Group, the lobbying firm run by Luis Miranda and Roberto Ramirez that also functions as a political consulting outfit. Wolfson tells the Voice that he didn't realize when he fired that shot that Ramirez's ex-wife, Rose Rodriguez, is a $10,000-a-month employee of the Bloomberg campaign.
Sources who know Ramirez well say that he routinely helps his ex-wife, who is also the mother of their child, get jobs. Her only other employers this decade were Hillary Clinton and the New York State Department of Labor, and Ramirez, the former head of the Bronx Democratic party and a wheeler-dealer par excellence, reportedly helped get both, according to these sources. Rodriguez went straight from the $101,000-a-year labor department job to the Bloomberg payroll in April. Clinton paid her $84,000- a-year to head her constituent services office when she was a U.S. Senator.
Asked if Ramirez helped Rodriguez get her job with the campaign, Bloomberg spokeswoman Jill Hazelbaker called Rodriguez "a political professional with an accomplished resume" (actually her only known prior campaign job was in Mario Cuomo's unsuccessful re-election campaign in 1994). Hazelbaker, who declined to answer questions about Rodriguez's prior campaigns, said that the "suggestion that she was hired for any other reason than she's good at what she does is blatantly sexist." The spokeswoman for the McCain campaign in 2008, Hazelbaker used to make the same argument for Sarah Palin, calling it "pretty audacious" for the Obama camp "to say that Governor Palin is not qualified to be vice president."
The irony is that Bill Thompson's campaign manager, Eddie Castell, told the Voice that he was aware that Ramirez's ex-wife worked for Bloomberg; but Wolfson, who was Clinton's top political operative for years, says he had nothing to do with the hiring of this supposed "political professional" who worked for Clinton for seven years, and didn't even know she was related to Ramirez. He can't be sure he even met her when she was with Clinton. Thompson's filings indicate that MirRam began working as a consultant to the campaign in June, a couple of months after Rodriguez started working for Bloomberg.
When Wolfson brought the shooting of the commercial up in his head-to-head debate with Castell on NY1 last week, Castell said they were paying a $1,500 location fee to MirRam for allowing them to use their office. The Observer's Azi Paybarah reported that the commercial was shot at MirRam back in July, but the $1,500 fee does not appear in the filing. MirRam is paid $8,000 a month by Thompson.
In 2005, the Bloomberg campaign frequently tried to depict Democratic nominee Fernando Ferrer as a willing tool of lobbyist Ramirez, who played a much larger role in that campaign than he is now in the Thompson campaign. A target of the mayor's in 2005, Ramirez appears to have friends on both sides in 2009.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Village Voice's biggest stories.