Is Bloomberg Gearing Up for 2012?

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    NEWSLETTERS

    AP
    Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

    Mayor Bloomberg has appointed his first deputy mayor, Patricia Harris, to run his $1.75 billion charity, the Bloomberg Family Foundation.

    Ms. Harris will serve in both jobs. Is there a conflict of interest here?

    Some civic leaders think so and one suspects it may be an indication that Bloomberg is planning already to run for President of the United States in 2012.

    "They’re seeding the outside world for 2012," Doug Muzzio of Baruch College told me. "He can win a lot of friends by supporting charities around the country with a couple of hundred million dollars, or much more."

    Muzzio thinks it could be a case of the Bloomberg people wanting to "act early" and, he notes, other key Bloomberg aides have already departed for the private sector and are ready to help out in a future campaign.

    He mentioned Deputy Mayor Ed Skyler, who just left City Hall for a job at Citigroup, and Kevin Sheekey, who is taking a job at Bloomberg’s financial firm. Both men are seasoned veterans of the mayor’s past campaigns.

    I spoke to Susan Lerner of Common Cause who said: "The city pays people to do a job. And these people have received more from the Mayor personally than from their city salaries. It raises the question of whom they are loyal to. Working for the city has to be a full time job. Loyalty should not be divided."

    New York’s Conflict of Interests board gave permission to Ms. Harris to work at the Foundation as its president in 2008. City Hall believes that permission still applies.

    But Muzzio scoffed at this view. "The Conflict of Interests Board is appointed by the Mayor. That’s a conflict of interest to begin with. That’s like the old story of the fox guarding the chicken coop."

    There seem to be two sides to Michael Bloomberg.

    There’s the compassionate side -- a man determined to give away to charity much of the 16 billion or so he has amassed in his lifetime.

    And then, his critics would say, there’s the ruthless side -- the man who will use any means to surmount obstacles, legal or otherwise, to realize his ambitions.