Monday, December 24, 2007

Billions of Conflicts

As we have been saying all along, the successful portrayal by the Bloombergistas and their enablers that the mayor's wealth obviates any political conflicts of interest, simply doesn't stand up to even a mild scrutiny-something that's rarely been done, which is why Kirsten Danis' column in the NY Daily News yesterday was so refreshing.

Danis focused on the moonlighting that some Bloomberg staffers are doing over at his charitable foundation: "Mayor Bloomberg's closest aide, Deputy Mayor Patti Harris, has been working for his charitable foundation without first getting clearance from city ethics watchdogs. Harris, who earns $227,219 a year on the city payroll, took on an advisory role for the Bloomberg Family Foundation, which the mayor set up last year to give away his billions."

It's clear to us that the mayor's wealth, and his willingness to either give it away or withhold it, can play a significant role in the city's policy deliberations. We've speculated that some of the "good government" support for congestion pricing may have been influenced this way-certainly, as Errol Louis observed yesterday, there was an uncritical rush to support a poorly thought-out policy: "Everyone, especially the civic groups, should have slowed down the debate long enough to educate the public about the actual problem, its consequences and the best ways to deal with it."

What we need now is more of what Danis has offered: a well researched effort to look at the various intersections between Bloomberg the mayor, the mogul, and the philanthropist. The absence of the paper of record in all of this-with Charlie Bagli as a meritorious exception-underscores the power of the mayor at muting the recognition that his own self interest is not coterminous with that of the public's.