Posts Tagged ‘Bill Carrick’

Ted Kennedy: Remembering a Master Politician

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009

TedKennedyBill Carrick, who once served as political director to the late Senator Ted Kennedy, recalls his former boss as a politician who “was obviously a master of big things – and so good at the small things, too”

One of California’s top campaign media consultants, Carrick worked in Kennedy’s failed bid for the presidency in 1980, then as his  political eyes and ears in the Senate office from 1982-87.

He was awakened early Wednesday by a phone call from another ex-aide, informing him the 77-year old Kennedy had died, succumbing to the brain cancer he had fought for more than a year.

“No matter how much you anticipate this stuff,” he said, “it never hits you until it happens.”

Carrick’s first gig in big league politics was running South Carolina and Texas operations for Kennedy’s 1980 challenge to Jimmy Carter, and he recalled how surprised he was upon meeting the Senator for the first time that year.

“The first thing I was struck by was how relaxed and easy he was to talk to,” Carrick said. “You grow up thinking of this iconic figure and then you meet him and think, ‘what a nice man.’”

When he went to work in the Senate office, “the workload was incredible,” he recalled, and no one worked harder than Kennedy.

“He had this big briefcase that everybody called ‘The Bag,’ he said. “And every night he would take home this huge pile of memos, draft bills, schedule requests, everything. And the next day, it would all come back with notes on it. I said, ‘wow, this is a different kind of deal.’

Carrick grew up in Aiken, South Carolina, where his parents were both Democratic activists. BillCarrickSenator Strom Thurmond lived there, too, and they would often run into him at the grocery store, where the ageless Republican would laugh and tell them,” ‘now don’t hurt me too much.’”

So in January 1983, when Kennedy grabbed him and told him to come along to a swearing-in reception being hosted by Thurmond, Carrick objected, saying that the arch-conservative Senator knew his family and that they had always opposed him politically.

“You’re my South Carolina man, you have to come with me,” Kennedy responded. “So what if you never voted for him – I never voted with him either.”

“Then he worked this whole room of South Carolinians, and Strom was, of course, incredibly flattered that “my friend Teddy” was there,” Carrick said.

While Kennedy was best known for big achievements – the Americans with Disabilities Act, his “the dream will never die” speech, his lifelong fight for health care legislation – his actions in more private matters showed his concern for people was not just a political pose, he said.

For example, when two colleagues, the late Senators John Sherman Cooper and Frank Church, were both suffering from long-term illnesses, “he’d drive out of his way into Georgetown and visit each of them once a week.”

“He had a special compassion for people who were sick or dealing with death,” Carrick added.

He got a first-hand taste of Kennedy’s personal touch in 2007, when a huge wildfire raged in Griffith Park, not far from Carrick’s Los Angeles home.

“I’m sitting there and the phone rings and he says, ‘I’m watching CNN – that’s a helluva’ fire – how close is it to you? I was getting worried.’”

kennedy brothersAs a political matter, the former Kennedy aide believes the Senator’s greatest strength was “his strong sense of the country” – a full understanding of the concerns and interests of colleagues from every state, forged by his personal background, his own presidential campaign and that of his assassinated brothers.

“He was always able to get everyone into the room and get them to talk together,” he said. “He had a real understanding of the country and I don’t think there’s a lot of that left.”

Another top political consultant we spoke to today — San Jose-bred Joe Trippi (who’s working with Jerry Brown on a possible campaign for governor) — also got his start in the big leagues working for Kennedy’s 1980 campaign and then at his Fund for a Democratic Majority. The last time Trippi  saw Kennedy was in his Senate office last Spring where, as he was leaving after a long visit, he turned and told his mentor, “You changed my life.” Trippi said he’s forever grateful he got that chance.

Former Feinstein Consultant Hank Morris Indicted in New York

Monday, March 23rd, 2009

Hank Morris, the media consultant who produced one of the most famous campaign ads in California political history, has been indicted in New York in a pay to play scheme on 123 counts including enterprise corruption, Martin Act securities fraud, grand larceny, bribery, money laundering, and related offenses. Link

In 1989, Morris and then-partner Bill Carrick produced what came to be called “the grabber” to kick off Dianne Feinstein’s campaign for governor. The ad, declaring that Feinstein was “forged in tragedy,” featured news footage of her — then president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors — announcing the assassinations of Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk.

Carrick later recalled that when Morris found the news report while going through Feinstein’s files, he yelled, “This is it – come and look.”

Los Angeles-based consultant Carrick, Morris’s longtime partner, has not worked with Morris for at least two years and is not implicated in the indictment.

In New York, Morris was the chief political consultant to Alan G. Hevesi, the state’s former comptroller, and one of two aides charged Thursday in a grand jury indictment sought by Andrew Cuomo, New York’s ambitious attorney general. The indictment said they had turned New York’s $122 billion pension fund into a criminal enterprise. The scheme netted them and other Hevesi associates tens of millions of dollars in kickbacks from firms investing the fund’s money, the indictment said. Link to indictment

Morris’s attorney, William Schwartz, told the New York Daily News his client is innocent: “There was no fraud and no corruption,” he said.

According to the indictment, Morris was the comptroller’s consultant from 2003 through 2007 through Morris & Carrick, and Morris held meetings in his consulting office to discuss pension fund investments.

Morris and Carrick produced a second ad in the 1990 gubernatorial Democratic primary that also gained widespread attention. At the state Democratic Party convention, Feinstein strongly defended her support of the death penalty in her speech, drawing loud boos from the liberal delegates.

As the booing and jeering cascaded, Morris, who was standing at the press table, smilingly said, “Bless you, bless you.” He later told reporters, “They booed, exactly as they were supposed to,” and Feinstein’s campaign soon released a TV spot showing the confrontation with the delegates, as a demonstration of her independence, and as a contrast with anti-death penalty rival and then attorney general John Van de Kamp.

In that race, Feinstein beat Van de Kamp but lost to Pete Wilson in the general election.