Mayor Bloomberg spent more than $5 million of his own money on political advertising this year as he contended with falling approval ratings and lobbied New York lawmakers on the state budget.
The billionaire mayor bought campaign-style television ads, polling and direct mail in the weeks surrounding the passage of a state budget that ultimately met few of his demands, according to financial disclosures released Friday.
The ads, which touted Bloomberg's budget plan and flashed the word "independence" over the city skyline, had no immediately apparent effect on voters' approval of the mayor.
In March, shortly before the ads started airing, a Quinnipiac University poll found that 39 percent of voters approved of Bloomberg's performance. About two months later, that number had grown by 1 percent. Both times, slightly more than half of city voters said they were unhappy with the mayor's handling of the city budget — a signature issue for the former executive, who founded the financial information company that bears his name.
Still, said Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion — which also found that voters were dissatisfied with Bloomberg's treatment of the budget — the ads may well have had an effect.
"You don't know what the numbers would have been had they not done the ads," he said. "This is an effort to stem the tide and make him more of a player in the remaining years and months of his administration."
At the time that the television ads were released in March, Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson said they were primarily a response to $3 million in television and radio advertising by the United Federation of Teachers and the AFL-CIO, which were running ads criticizing the mayor's plans to lay off teachers and painting him as an enemy of union workers.
On Friday, Bloomberg spokesman Stu Loeser said in a statement: "We wanted to put the mayor's views out there, and we did."
Bloomberg unsuccessfully sought rule changes from the state on retirement payments and revenue sharing that could have brought the city $400 million. He also pushed for a rule change to remove teacher seniority protections, but the legislative session ended without any action on the matter.
No public opinion polls have been conducted on Bloomberg since he and the City Council reached an agreement last month on the city's $66 billion budget, which averted the threatened layoffs of more than 4,000 teachers. The city will not replace thousands more public school teachers who quit or retire this year.