It’s not surprising that Mayor Bloomberg’s people released the information on the money he spent on his campaign on the Friday of Thanksgiving weekend.
As reformer Susan Lerner put it: “They’re trying to hide it and they can’t.”
Not even releasing the campaign spending numbers on Black Friday could diminish the impact of the figures showing how much this ambitious multi-billionaire spent on his third successful effort to buy City Hall.
New Yorkers are wise to Michael Bloomberg. They know he pummeled his rival, Democrat Bill Thompson, by unloading a blizzard of negative commercials and other forms of propaganda. They know how he spent a fortune to overturn the term limits that the people had voted for in two referendums. And Bloomberg still came within a hair of losing the election, because many disenchanted voters stayed home or cast votes for the underdog.
The Mayor spent about $183 a vote in his $102 million campaign, the figures show. He outspent his opponent by at least 14 to 1, and Bloomberg poured $18.6 million into the campaign in its last 37 days because his aides were afraid.
They knew many New Yorkers were fed up, tired of this mayor with unlimited hubris and unlimited cash trying again to buy their votes and maintain his empire at City Hall.
Bloomberg won. But Thompson won a moral victory. He was the plucky David who stood up to the mighty Goliath and, in this case, lives again perhaps to fight another day.
It’s the moral victory that should make us think of the immorality of the Mayor’s performance. He overturned term limits by pouring money into the campaign coffers of some City Council members. He reversed himself on that issue and even called a reporter a “disgrace” for bringing it up.
But it’s the unlimited spending that should live in New York’s memory and history -- and ultimately, we hope, bring reform. As Gene Russianoff of the Public Interest Research Group says: “He has done long term damage to New York’s campaign finance system.”
Bloomberg has now spent more than a quarter of a billion dollars of his own money in his three campaigns for City Hall, more, the Times notes, than anyone else in the United States. The richest man in New York spent an obscene amount of money to win this election.
It is true that the courts and the law have left us with the impression that a candidate can spend as much as he or she wants to get elected. Bloomberg may have done nothing illegal but he has done something highly immoral. Since law is based on morality, we can hope that some day the law or the interpretations of law and Constitution by the Supreme Court will catch up -- and a level playing field will be established.
Perhaps this election has taught us a moral lesson: money can’t be everything. Democracy demands that the people have a real choice.