Gillibrand Hires Hispanic Outreach Firm -- And The Firm's Pal Eases Up
The consulting firm is co-operated by Roberto Ramirez, the former chairman of the Bronx Democratic Party, and Luis Miranda. Both men are power brokers within the Hispanic political world, and have strong ties to local elected officials -- including Peter Rivera, Bronx assemblyman, former chairman of the Assembly's Puerto Rican/Hispanic Task Force and longtime ally of Ramirez.
Rivera issued a statement immediately after Gillibrand's appointment, declaring that Gillibrand's positions on immigration would make her an impossible sell to New York Democrats. But as Gillibrand began negotiating with Mirram, Rivera began to soften his attacks.
The original Rivera statement said, "[Paterson's] choice will no doubt anger New York's huge immigrant communities and could go as far as creating political obstacles to meaningful immigration reform efforts of our new President. It is clear to me that Rep. Gillibrand will face a primary and create splits among New York Democrats that will only serve to damage our party."
That fax included a list of statements by Gillibrand, and was quickly followed by statements from Chung-Wha Hong, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition, and a press release from an organization simply describing itself as a Queens-based "Hispanic Group."
On Saturday, Gillibrand met with the Mirram crew for the first time.
On Tuesday, Rivera issued another release, this one announcing a press conference designed to slam Gillibrand, adding that her "pandering to xenophobes has made her persona non-grata in communities across the state."
But now Rivera has backed off from that language, attributing it to a misquote by an aide.
Rivera said today that he is still not convinced Gillibrand is the right woman for the job, and was hoping to meet with her next week. When asked if the Mirram hire might be enough to change his mind, Rivera said that issues, not staffing decisions, would dictate his support. "My stand has nothing to do with [their hiring] of the Mirram Group or anyone else," said Rivera. "I don't think that the statements that I have made are impacted in any way, shape or form by who's on staff or who they hired."
During our interview, Rivera's office sent out several e-mails detailing Gillibrand's positions. One contained an odd mix of scores given Gillibrand by several political interest groups: recipients learned that she "supported the interests of the Alliance For Headache Disorders Advocacy 0 percent in 2007" -- and also that "In 2007-2008 English First gave Senator Gillibrand a grade of A [boldface in original]."
Several Bronx political insiders, all anonymously, were quick to point to the close relationship between Rivera and Ramirez, and surmised that their meeting would end well, thanks to the senator's new business relationship.
"It would not surprise me if this was staged," said one Bronx politico. "It's like it came out of a script."
Rivera said he has been in contact with the Mirram Group, but not to coordinate strategy or change his positions. Instead, he said that the consultants had been reaching out to gauge his current level of dissatisfaction with the Gillibrand pick.
"I'm still where I've been all along," said Rivera. "And where I've been all along is questioning where Gillibrand is on refugee issues and immigrant issues."
Rachel McEneny, a Gillibrand spokeswoman, has not yet been reached for comment. Photo by Julie Bolcer.