Michael Bloomberg and the Universal Retainer

azinee Michael Bloomberg and the Universal RetainerAt the mayor’s state of the city speech earlier this month, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz referred to Michael Bloomberg’s reelection campaign as a “job creation program.”

For New York’s most prominent Democratic consultants and operatives, it’s been nothing less—an acquisition project so far-reaching that it actually threatens to dry up the market in experienced local campaign staff.

Yes, the mayor spent tens of millions of dollars in his past two campaigns, much of it on high-priced political talent. But there were still plenty of New York Democrats who simply wouldn’t go there. He was a Republican, and, well, they weren’t.

But the mayor has since registered as an independent (the better to market the idea of a possible bid for president last year). And now, with the inconvenient party label removed from around his neck—and with the ability, as always, to deliver a massive payday to anyone who comes along for the ride—there’s no longer anything stopping even the most pure-pedigreed Democratic consultants from signing up.

Take Howard Wolfson, whose former bosses include Chuck Schumer, Hillary Clinton, New York’s Democratic Party and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. He’s on board. Hank Sheinkopf, the bare-knuckled Democratic consultant who helped elect New York City Comptroller Bill Thompson to citywide office in 2001 and was expected to rejoin him again this year, has just been acquired by Mr. Bloomberg too.

“He could just about put every consultant in the country on retainer,” said consultant Jerry Skurnik.

Scott Levenson, a Democratic consultant not currently dependent on Mr. Bloomberg for any portion of his income, said, “I guess he’s trying to assemble the best team money can buy.”

And it’s not just the people who will actually end up working for Mr. Bloomberg. It’s also the people who, because of the mayor’s stockpiling of talent, won’t end up working for any Democrat.
(One Democratic contender, Representative Anthony Weiner, is expected to rely on many of the same out-of-town consultants he used in his 2005 race, including media guy Jim Margolis of the Philadelphia-based firm GMMB. Another, Mr. Thompson, is also expected to bring in out-of-town talent, possibly to work alongside the Harlem-based Bill Lynch Associates.)

The consultants drawn into the Bloomberg orbit also have professional and personal relationships with other individuals and firms who will, essentially, be precluded from actively working against the mayor.

Mr. Wolfson’s colleagues at the Glover Park consulting firm, for example, will almost certainly be off-limits to the people challenging Mr. Bloomberg. The same goes for the small but capable staff at Mr. Sheinkopf’s firm.

As one prominent Democrat put it, “I think he wants to hire anyone with a pulse and totally clear the field.”

Here’s a list of accomplished connected Democratic operatives who have been taken off the market this year by Mr. Bloomberg.

Bradley Tusk: Now installed as the mayor’s campaign manager, he worked as a spokesman for Chuck Schumer and then became a top aide to the mayor during the first Bloomberg term.

Howard Wolfson: Another distinguished Schumer alumnus, his Democratic credentials are impeccable: Hillary Clinton, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, New York’s Democratic Party.

Josh Isay: He’s yet another Schumer guy, and a founding partner of Knickerbocker SKD and partner at Squier Knapp Dunn Communications, which did print, radio and television ads for Bloomberg’s 2005 mayoral campaign.

Basil Smikle: Just a few months ago, this former Hillary Clinton aide was working for Mr. Weiner. Now, the AP reports, he’s signed on with the incumbent.

Hank Sheinkopf: The colorful and unflinching operative who was the general consultant on Bill Thompson’s 2001 citywide campaign for comptroller is not signing on for Mr. Thompson’s 2009 mayoral campaign. Now he’s on the mayor’s campaign payroll.

Doug Schoen: A founding partner in the firm that helped define its most famous client, Bill Clinton, Mr. Schoen has worked on both of Mr. Bloomberg’s previous campaigns.

Ken Strasma: A number cruncher who worked on Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, he will focus on analyzing poll numbers and targeting a message to a niche audience.

Maura Keaney: A top aide to City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, she did field operations for the mayor’s reelection campaign in 2005 and is returning this year in a similar role. Ms. Keaney is married to Democratic consultant Mark Guma, who worked on the mayoral campaign of Alan Hevesi in 2001.

Patrick Brennan: He’s a former staffer in the Community Assistance Unit who traveled to various states to lay the groundwork for Mr. Bloomberg’s much-discussed hypothetical presidential race. He left City Hall to work at the Parkside Group.

Larry Scott Blackmon: He just left his job as chief of staff and deputy commissioner for intergovernmental affairs at the city’s Small Business Services Department to lead the campaign’s outreach to black voters.

Neil Giacobbi: A former chief of staff to Democratic City Councilman David Yassky of Brooklyn and aide to Deputy Mayor Kevin Sheekey, Mr. Giacobbi, 35, helped organize the Republican National Convention in 2004.

Micah Lasher: He’s not yet 30, but Mr. Lasher is among the most capable political operators in the city. He worked for Mark Green’s mayoral campaign in 2001 and worked until 2007 with Mr. Isay at Knickerbocker. He just left his most recent job, as an aide to Representative Jerry Nadler, to work for the city’s Department of Education. Which would seem to rule out a role on any Democratic mayoral campaign against his new boss.