Monday, November 30, 2009

Bloomberg Needed to Spend the Money!

News over the long weekend that Mike Bloomberg had-so far-spent more money than any other individual in an effort to obtain a political office was met with the usual shrugged shoulders; and nary an editorial whimper from the guardians of campaign finance probity over at the NY Times.
The paper did enlighten us in its news pages: "To eke out an election victory over the city’s low-key comptroller, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg spent $102 million of his own fortune — or about $174 per vote — according to data released Friday, making his bid for a third term the most expensive campaign in the city’s history. Mr. Bloomberg, the wealthiest man in New York City, shattered his own records: He poured $85 million into his campaign in 2005 (or $112 per vote) and $74 million into his first bid for office in 2001 ($99 per vote)."

While some may find this an outrageous sum-and a blot on the city's pretension to democratic rule-there are those who feel that the expenditure was justified: "Howard Wolfson, a spokesman for the mayor’s campaign, said that a harsh political environment helped oust incumbents in Westchester County and New Jersey. “The reason this anti-incumbent wave stopped at the Hudson’s edge,” Mr. Wolfson said, “is because the mayor ran an effective campaign based on eight years of success.”

And here's his $40,000/month opinion for the NY Daily News: "Campaign spokesman Howard Wolfson said this year's record price tag was "absolutely" worth it in a election season with a national anti-incumbent undercurrent. "In a climate in which people are unhappy - [with] the economy especially - campaigns have to start early, and they have to reach out to voters in many different ways," Wolfson said."

Well, we agree partially at least with the assessment of Wolfman Howard-Mike really needed to spend the money; not to dramatize the, "eight years of success," but to do damage control over the mayor's eroding base of support-exacerbated by his overturning of the city's term limits law. And the vaunted anti-incumbent sentiment is a concept that Howard reifies in his effort to minimize that the NYC anti-incumbent sentiment was all about Mike Bloomberg.

Oh, and did Howard forget that a good chunk of the money supposedly touting the mayor's political triumphs, was actually spent demonizing the record of his little known opponent? Howard, forever the dreidel, it seems.

But the mayor's methods will reverberate-and the backlash is already beginning to be felt as good government groups and council members push back against the arrogance of power: "
Mr. Bloomberg has now spent at least $261 million of his own money in the pursuit of public office, more than anyone else in the United States. Government watchdog groups criticized the nine-digit price tag for his re-election, saying it undermined a widely admired campaign finance system that Mr. Bloomberg helped install in the city."

"Widely admired? By whom? What's to admire about a system that allows a Michael Bloomberg to spend $102 million on a mayoral campaign, but restricts us nefarious lobbyists to $250? But NYPIRG's Gene Russianoff understands the damage that the Bloomberg campaign has done: "Mr. Bloomberg did not participate in the system, which rewards candidates who raise small donations with large matching money from taxpayers....“He has done long-term damage to the system,” said Gene Russianoff, staff attorney at the New York Public Interest Research Group."

Now we'll see how the reformers do damage control. Bloomberg has undermined even the pretense of a democratic process. He should now be held to an extraordinary high standard-and his actions and policies should be scrutinized with a great deal of tender loving care.