Thursday, December 27, 2007

Money in Politics: The Mayor and "Special Interests"

We have been commenting now for some time about the illusion that Mike Bloomberg's wealth somehow places him "above politics," and the special interests that the good government groups characterize as the source of all evil in the political system. It is the weltanschauung that leads to all of the campaign finance laws, and the often absurd efforts to rid the democratic system of lobbyists.

It is, however, rendered as theater of the absurd when a multi-billionaire enters into the arena; now the stacked deck gives way to the casino owner who is able to win consistently because of the control that comes from owning the joint and being able to set the house odds. So it goes with Mayor Mike and his money-something that the intrepid Ray Rivera is starting to look at in the NY Times-continuing with a story today on the three blind mice COIB ruling regarding the Bloomberg Foundation.

Let's remember how the mayor successfully portrayed himself as the "ant-politician" two years ago while running for re-election. As the NY Times told us: "In his speech, Mr. Bloomberg defined himself as a sort of antipolitician who, free from the messy impositions of "donors, special interests, patronage or partisanship," has focused solely on what is best for all New Yorkers. He said that mayors "solve problems not by taking both sides of big issues, but by deciding what's right and then going after it," and that "honest leadership that doesn't waver or blow with the wind."

What all of this rodomontade amounts to is a slick shining of a gullible public; and an incurious media that all too often has played the useful idiot when it comes to the mayor. The tide, though appears to be turning, and the Wizard won't look so awesome when you get to look behind the curtain. The fact remains that Mike Bloomberg continues to pursue one gigantic special interest-his own ambition.

Whether its congestion taxing and a new found interest in the environment, or an educational "reform" agenda that employs scores of public relations staffers to convince folks that the agenda is bearing remarkable fruit in the face of mounting contradictory evidence; it all comes down to advancing the Bloomberg brand.

There's one intriguing line in today's Times story: "He is also a philanthropist whose private giving often involves nonprofit agencies active in civic and neighborhood affairs." Rivera's next step should be to get behind this curtain. Who knows where all of the intersections lead? One thing's for certain: It ain't all about the pursuit of the public good.