Mayor Michael Bloomberg doesn’t believe in taking anything for granted. Even as poll after poll shows he’s far ahead in his quest for a third term, he is spending money like it’s going out of style.
He has put $18.7 million into his re-election campaign already and the election is six months away. It’s 55 percent more than he spent at the same point four years ago, as he ran for a second term.
The money has gone into items like advertising, printing, consultants and staffers, rent and office supplies. This guy doesn’t fool around. He’s like the fellow who uses both a belt and suspenders. His poor opponents -- poor in money, not in quality -- are lagging far behind. Thus, Comptroller William Thompson has raised $3.5 million and Congressman Anthony Weiner, who has not yet decided to run, has raised about $5 million. The poorest of the candidates, Councilman Tony Avella of Queens, has raised just $248,000.
“Mike Bloomberg is spending almost $19 million to try to convince New Yorkers that they need four more years of higher taxes, rising unemployment, record homelessness and overcrowded schools,” Anne Fenton, a spokeswoman for Thompson said. “Bill Thompson is building a network of supporters in all five boroughs because he is the candidate who understands the unprecedented challenges facing all new Yorkers.”
Howard Wolfson is Bloomberg’s attack dog. When asked whether Bloomberg is trying to buy votes, he replied: “Absolutely not.” He’s just trying to get his message across, said Wolfson.
“We’re engaging in a dialog with voters,” Wolson said. ”That’s what any campaign does.”
The Daily News pointed out that four years ago Wolfson [who had never worked for a non-Democratic candidate] wrote a piece for the New York Times, attacking Bloomberg for spending so much money.
“Such a lopsided ratio,” Wolfson said, “prevents voters from hearing both sides in an even-handed manner and distorts the terms of the debate.”
I guess it depends on who’s paying the attack dog.
“This is starting to look like overkill,” said The Times, in an understated way. “The mayor is expected to saunter easily into a third term, but the negative track of his campaign belies his claims about taking the high road and running the positive race of an easy front-runner.”
The Times deplores the fact that Bloomberg has opted out of New York’s model campaign finance system “undermining the foundations” of that effort to make it harder for candidates to use money in place of debate to win public office. As for the mayor’s argument that, by spending his own money, he is beholden only to himself, The Times says, rather, it sends the message that “only the rich can win elections.”
Maybe it would serve us all better if Bloomberg simply bought City Hall, say, for $3 or $4 billion, and the interest on this investment went into the city treasury. The money could be used to help the poor and the homeless and the middle class.
It’s a modest proposal in an age when, unfortunately, money rules.