PRWeek understands that Mark Penn, Burson-Marsteller global CEO and Hillary Clinton's chief strategist, is secretly masterminding the Paddick campaign - although this has been strongly denied by Paddick's campaign team.
Paddick has also called in veteran Democrat strategist Rick Ridder and US ‘blogfather' Jerome Armstrong.
The mayoral contest is seen as a crucial test for all three main parties' fortunes before the general election. Last week an opinion poll put Tory candidate Boris Johnson is 12 points ahead of Labour's Ken Livingstone on 49 per cent, with Paddick trailing on 12 per cent.
Well-placed US sources said Clinton campaign chief Penn is being paid through RBI Strategy, Ridder's strategic comms outfit in Colorado. ‘They are being quite coy about disclosure as it will count against their campaign spending limit,' said one source. But Ridder insisted: ‘There is absolutely no chance that he [Penn] is involved.'
Former London police commander Paddick hired Ridder earlier this month as his chief strategist. Ridder has years of experience with the Democrats, most recently overseeing Clinton's unexpected victory in this year's Arizona primary.
This week it emerged the Lib Dems have also handed a key role to Armstrong, the pioneering Democrat blogger who helped with Howard Dean's grassroots campaign in 2004. Armstrong has a huge following in blogging circles, having coined the term ‘netroots' to describe online political activism. He is overseeing web strategy for the Paddick campaign.
Earlier this year, Tory candidate Johnson signed up Australian strategist Lynton Crosby to head up his campaign (PRWeek, 10 January). Crosby masterminded four successive victories for former Australian prime minister John Howard.
Livingstone's press team has also been in place since January, with former COI media officer Victoria Collins co-ordinating the current Mayor's comms in conjunction with senior comms officer for London Phil Dilks (PRWeek, 24 January).