Thursday, August 06, 2009


It happens to the best of us eventually, the memory goes and we have trouble recording some of the important events in our lives. But it really sucks when it happens to the guy who is supposed to be running NYC-and when the memory lapse involves questions of impropriety, or outright illegality.

So it is with the escalating slush fund case-and Mike Bloomberg is hiding behind his growing evidence of senior dementia to excuse his administration's failure to get proper authorization for two groups that, it so happens, are a vital part of the Bloomberg support network: "The Bloomberg administration is calling it a case of poor record keeping and “bad memory.” On Tuesday, The New York Times reported that Councilman Simcha Felder never requested that City Hall give two nonprofit groups $3 million in what are known as discretionary funds, as the mayor’s office has claimed in documents. Without Mr. Felder’s request, City Hall lacked the legal authority to dole out the money to the groups, Agudath Israel and Ohel. By law, the funds could be distributed only at the request of a council member or borough president."

Simply a minor error of omission; and Mike, in his more self disclosing moments, might say that it really amounts to very little since those dreidels at the city council will spin in whatever direction he tells them to. Still, it is a bit embarrassing when you're running the red light of two city referendums; and claiming, we kid you not, that fiscal acumen and managerial competence demands your continued tenure.

But bad memory or not, the record here is clear: "Documents from the fiscal years 2007 and 2008, obtained by The Times through a Freedom of Information Law request, may help explain why Agudath and Ohel stood out for Mr. Felder: they are the only two groups that City Hall financed in his name for which he did not file written requests."

Which is why both the comptroller and the public advocate are asking for the documents. As City Room reports: "Comptroller William C. Thompson Jr. and Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum asked the mayor on Thursday for all documents relating to his office’s use of discretionary funds to finance nonprofit groups after The New York Times reported that the Bloomberg administration had sent hundreds of thousands of dollars to two politically connected groups in violation of city contracting rules."

Really, aren't they making a mountain out of a molehill? Funneling slush funds to favored groups hasn't been a problem before, has it? Or maybe, it is simply that Mike Bloomberg is so above normal politics that this is all a mirage. But the manner in which the funds were disbursed is actually less an issue in our view than the distribution itself-and what it tells us about the Myth of Mike. Bloomberg is trolling for votes just like a Tammany ward healer; and is actually a can of Red Bull compared to the average pol since he doubles down with these groups by also funneling his own dough to them.

This is, purely and simply, typical political influence peddling. And Thompson, playing politics himself, is doing the right thing: "Asked what Mr. Thompson intended to do with the information, his spokesman, Jeff Simmons, said, “Once we receive it, we will review it as soon as possible and determine the next course of action, including referral to an appropriate investigative body, if warranted.”

This should be the start of Thompson's deconstruction of the Bloomberg image-acting as if his great wealth insulates him from normal political wheeling and dealing; but in reality using it to make this insider trading that much more insidious by raising its value to the grateful beneficiaries. Another example, in out humble opinion, of why the notion of Bloomberg's indispensability mocks the intelligence of New Yorkers.