Barrett: Paterson Schmoozed, Battered by Bloomie Firm

At the same moment that the high-powered political consulting firm Knickerbocker SKD launched its campaign to pressure David Paterson into appointing Caroline Kennedy to Hillary Clinton's senate seat, it also launched an ad campaign attacking the governor's just-announced budget.

Careful not to mention Paterson by name, the commercial, which is airing statewide and started last night, faults the budget for failing to include a tax hike on those making more than $250,000.

Jennifer Cunningham, a partner at Knickerbocker who once led the union/hospital coalition that's paying for the ads, acknowledged that the company produced the ads. Cunningham and a spokeswoman for the group, which is called the Healthcare Education Project, would only say that the ad buy was "substantial" and would last until December 23. Neither denied that the initial buy was $900,000, a figure obtained by the Voice from other sources.

Entitled "Tis' the Season," the ad "illustrates the importance of a budget solution that spreads the sacrifice among all New Yorkers," according to press release issued by the Greater New York Hospital Association and Local 1199 SEIU, the management and union groups that formed the coalition. The release pointed out that on December 14, more than 150 religious leaders signed an open letter to Paterson, "imploring" him to enact the Fair Share Tax Reform called for in ad. Obviously, Paterson didn't adopt that plan, and the ad is a forceful attempt to push him to do so.

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But Knickerbocker and the coalition may be pulling their punches: their prior ad campaigns aggressively targeted Paterson's predecessor, Eliot Spitzer, by name. This time, the governor's name is left out.

Paterson has reportedly been looking for a new media consultant for his own 2010 campaign and Knickerbocker is said to be one of the firms he's considering. That would, of course, align him with Mayor Bloomberg and Kennedy, both of whom are using it as their prime media and consulting firm. Cunningham, however, told the Voice: "We are not talking to the governor's campaign."

Research assistance: Patrick Anderson and Jana Kasperkevic

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