Thursday, September 29, 2005

A Campaign Finance of Convenience

The Times, as expected, after running a front page article yesterday about the Supreme Court’s decision to hear a couple of legal challenges to campaign finance reform weighed in editorially today about its fears that the Court will eviscerate its cherished legislative initiative. Frankly, we've never been big fans of the effort and have viewed the use of the boogyman "special interests" as a completely misguided analysis of how politics is and should be conducted in a democratic-capitalist polity.

That being said, however, if you do believe in the sanctity of CFR you should at least be consistent. Not so with the NY Times. After all, a belief in the corrupting power of money in the political process should compel one to take a long hard critical look at Mike Bloomberg's campaign spending which we believe will top out this year at around $100 million. So far, the Times has not said a word.

Even NY Magazine, in a relatively harmless piece in this week's edition, makes the point about the mayor's political use of his charitable giving. Wouldn't it be appropriate for the Times to treat all of this for what it is: the purchase of political power. This phenomenon, replicated over in New Jersey were Corzine spent $60 million running for the Senate while pretending he was some kind of a faux socialist, deserves a comprehensive evaluation from the paper of record.

Wouldn't it be great if the Times, in one of the its nine stories on Democrats voting for Bloomberg, did a content analysis of the statements made by those respondents as well as the campaign rhetoric in the mayor's commercials? Wouldn't it be great if the Times evaluated some of the Bloomberg grants in this context to see just how much was charity and how much was political calculation?

(We are confident that the Times will eventually do this story except it will be 6 months or so after the election).

Yes we know that people will point out the difference between the so-called special interest money and the lavish spending by one super rich individual. Frankly the differences don't impress us all that much. Case in point: the mayor's economic development policies and the aggrandizement of Related's Steve Ross, a policy redolent with what we have labeled "patricianage."

The simple fact is that elections can be bought and if the power is disconcerting you should be prepared to come out and criticize a person who is outspending his rival by at least 10-1 (And not only that but, as all the papers have pointed out, Mike has cajoled some big bucks Democratic donors to sit on the sidelines, and these very same folks have tried to convince their rich friends to do likewise). Now this, not just the SC's ruling, should be a Times front page feature.