Thursday, October 09, 2008

Money Laudering

We now become painfully aware that Ron Lauder's support for term limits was based on the belief that ordinary elected officials need to be constrained-but not billionaire philanthropists who devote themselves to public service. As City Room reported yesterday: "Citing a “financial emergency,” Ronald S. Lauder, the cosmetics heir who twice financed referendums setting a limit of two terms for city elected officials, said Wednesday afternoon that he would “reluctantly” support a plan by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg to extend the maximum number of terms to three."

First the good news: New Yorkers no longer need to take Ron Lauder seriously, if they ever did-clearly, he's a man who's allegiance is ruled by expedience; and class is thicker than principles in the rarefied clubby atmosphere that the Bloombergs and Lauders are known to frequent. In the process, Bloomberg gets turned into a real life Wimpy ("I'd gladly pay you Tuesday, for a hamburger today"), with Lauder as his foolish looking stooge-2010 indeed!

It's also good from the stand point of getting all of the billionaires lined up on one side-after all, the vision of Lauder as a populist was jarring to the eye. There could be no clearer recognition of the special interest nature of this power grab than the fact that the chorus sings with such an upper class accent.

The bad news? The opposition, while it gains greater authenticity without Lauder-addition by subtraction in this case-loses the resources that a Lauder would lend to the effort to defeat the mayor's scheme. Here's hoping that the power of the people will be an adequate substitute-but, just in case, Bill de Blasio is going billionaire shopping to try to off set the Lauder loss: "With cosmetics mogul Ron Lauder wavering on whether he wants to continue in his role as chief term limits champion, Councilman Bill de Blasio, who has been rallying the pro-referendum crowd, is on the hunt for another billionaire to bankroll the cause...Which explains why de Blasio is winging his way to Rochester, where he is scheduled to meet at 4 p.m. this afternoon with none other than Tom Golisano, according to several people familiar with the plan."

On the grass roots front (via Liz), the WFP is doing its oversight job with a web site dedicated to shedding light on the actions of each council member. We're in for some brawl on this-a fight that we believe will extend beyond any council vote on the mayor's vanity bill.