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Commentary Last Updated: Feb 16th, 2009 - 02:42:08

Buying victory, Bloomberg-style
By Jerry Mazza
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Feb 16, 2009, 00:30

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In Mayor Michael Bloomberg�s upcoming bid for a third term, a third term which, in principal, had previously been nixed twice by New York City voters, Bloomberg decided not long before our last election date to reverse that double mandate of the people, and have his lackey City Council, not the people, toss out the two-term limit.

If that wasn�t bad enough, the New York Times in one of its best-researched, hardest-hitting, fact-finding articles reports Bloomberg Campaigners Taste the High Life. In other words, Bloomberg�s buying his victory with Wall Street level perks. Perhaps we should call him, Boss Bloomberg, as in the Boss Tweed Tammany Hall era of excess.

Do I exaggerate? Well, let�s see. To quote Michael Barbaro�s article: �Aides to Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg hopscotch around the world on two Falcon 900 private jets, where wine and sushi are served. They stay at the Four Seasons in London (about $400 a night), the Intercontinental in Paris ($320) and the King David in Jerusalem ($345). Room service? The mayor pays for it all. Even the laundry. And invitations to dinner parties at Mr. Bloomberg�s Upper East Side town house rarely disappoint: Kofi Annan and Nora Ephron are regulars.� Well, excuse me for livin.�

Barbaro says, �The billionaire mayor is turning heads these days with the hiring of high-profile operatives for his re-election campaign, including several who had previously worked for his rivals in the race. And as he seeks to entice talent to come aboard the campaign, and possibly to a third term in City Hall, Mr. Bloomberg wields a powerful tool: the perks of inhabiting his world.� Need more?

Barbaro adds, �Working in politics often means stingy pay and tedious log-rolling. But when the richest, most socially connected man in the city happens to be mayor, it can seem more like the life on (pre-recessionary) Wall Street, right down to the car service.� In other words, excess over dedication, just what we need these days.

Barbara points out, �Additionally Jonathan Capehart, who worked as a policy adviser on Mr. Bloomberg�s first bid for mayor said, �The world of Mike Bloomberg is a charmed place.� Mr. Capehart recalled being warned a few days after Mr. Bloomberg�s 2001 victory not to be surprised when he checked his account balance, where a $25,000 bonus awaited him.

��I was shocked,� he said. �I knew big campaign operatives would negotiate bonuses � the campaign manager, the advertising buyer. But I was just a policy adviser.�� Just a policy adviser, my, my, think big Jonathan. You�re with Boss Big now.

To nail this, Barbara writes, �In interviews, more than a dozen current or former aides and advisers to the mayor described their work for him as a transformative experience that catapulted them into new social and economic spheres, in some cases permanently.

�For a handful of top advisers, the pay alone altered their lives. William T. Cunningham, a political strategist, was paid about $1.2 million to work on Mr. Bloomberg 2001 and 2005 campaigns for mayor, records show. (His bonuses after each race: $300,000.)� Isn�t this exactly the kind of bonus-expectations we are presently trying to fight on Wall Street? Is Bloomberg planning to undermine that plan and continue to write bonus checks like this?

Boss Bloomberg continues to think bigger than big

In fact, Bloomberg plans to spend $80 million for his upcoming mayoralty campaign. That�s added on to the $150 million he spent on the previous two campaigns. Sort of tilts the playing field for an upcoming candidate, wouldn�t you say? Yet the mayor and his aides, as we�re told, �are sensitive to questions about perks and spending, wary of any claim that he [Bloomberg], or those in his circle, are out of touch with ordinary New Yorkers.� Out of touch? Out of the world of ordinary New Yorkers would be more like it.

New York is a city of 8 million, largely constituted by the middle, working, and poor classes and trimmed with a minority overly rich upper crust. Mayor Mike�s dream life, which includes six real houses, including real vacation homes in Bermuda, Colorado, and residences in London and the Upper East Side of Manhattan, all brim over with lush parties and high art.

Now, while the city suffers major job losses, including some 25,000 hapless Wall-Streeters, here, too, is Mayor Mike �slashing budgets and laying off workers while spending tens [make it hundreds] of millions on his re-election.� I don�t know about the other 8 million New Yorkers but this troubles me. This and Bloomberg�s arrogance and the imperial scent that comes with it.

As Barbaro reports, �At a news conference Thursday [Feb. 5], the mayor grew testy when asked by a reporter if he would consider limiting his campaign spending this year.� Fair question, actually quite a good suggestion. Yet Mayor Mike, Boss Bloomberg, responded, �I don�t understand your question. I am not going to talk about the campaign. I think it�s one of the most ridiculous things I have ever heard.�

Touchy, touchy. Would that be a bit of defensiveness against his excessive behavior? And despite the cost-consciousness promised for his 2009 campaign, Bloomberg has �already signed about 10 high-priced strategists, such as Howard Wolfson, Hillary Clinton�s former media strategist, and Ken Strasma, who researched voter backgrounds for Barack Obama�s presidential campaign.� And there�s more . . .

�Two of his new advisers are closely linked with his Democratic rivals. And nearly all are Democrats, though he is seeking to run on the Republican and independent ballot lines this fall.� The strategy was spelled out by Educardo Castell, campaign manager for City Comptroller William C. Thompson Jr., who plans to challenge Bloomberg this fall. Castell said, �As he has in the past, the mayor is buying a campaign.� But with style.

Yet a Bloomberg aide claimed, �People are working [for Bloomberg] for the same reasons that two-thirds of New Yorkers think the mayor is doing a good job: Crime is down, school test scores [in lieu of real education] are up, and the city is a better place to live.�

That last claim is highly questionable with the endless deal-making of City Hall with corporate powers, as with Citi-Group�s faltering sponsorship of the Mets new stadium-naming deal, to call it Citi-Field. And then there�s underwriting of the Yankees new multi million dollar stadium with a fortune in city tax exemptions and loss of recreational space to the community.

Yet Boss Bloomberg is well known for spending on employees at his company, with lavish 15 percent raises each year and offers of free health insurance. Campaign offers will feature a wall of TVs, flat-panel computers and Bloomberg financial terminals, not to mention free food. The Coca Cola bill was $17,000. I suppose this is awfully generous, but out of the ballpark for any other mayoral challenger.

Then there�s more monkey business

Let�s move for a minute from Boss Bloomberg�s lavish victory launch to another aspect of his business, Bloomberg L.P., duly noted in a Village Voice story: What Cooked the World�s Economy? by attorney James Lieber.

Among the many reasons for the economy�s roasting, Lieber points a finger towards the �OTC [over the counter] swaps trade . . .� He writes that �the Bloomberg L.P.�s computer terminals are the road, bridges, and tunnels for �real-time� transactions. The L.P.�s promotional materials declare: �You�re either in front of a Bloomberg or behind it.�� Well, fancy that.

The promotional piece continues, �In terms of electronic trading of certain securities, including credit default swaps: �Access to a dealer�s inventory is based upon client relationships with Bloomberg as the only conduit.� In short, the L.P. looks like a dominant player, a monopoly. If it has a true competitor, I [Leiber] can�t find it. But then, this is a very dark market.� Ah, yes.

Leiber goes on to say, �Did Bloomberg L.P. do anything illegal? Absolutely not. We prosecute hit-and-run drivers, not roads. But there are many questions -- about the size of the derivatives market, the names of the counterparties, the amount of replication of derivatives, the role of securities ratings in Bloomberg calculations (in other words, could puffing up be detected and potentially stop a swap?), and how the OTC industry should be reported and regulated in order to prevent future catastrophes. Bloomberg is a privately held company -- to the chagrin of would-be investors -- and quite private about its business, so this information probably won�t surface without subpoenas.� Whatever happened to corporate transparency?

So, another Master of the Universe in mayor�s clothing, plays via Bloomberg L.P. with derivatives, the lethal credit default swaps trade.

Returning to Bloomberg�s campaign, the $4,100 a month Manhattan apartment rented for a campaign adviser from Albany seems like peanuts. Barbaro, in fact, reports that another campaign aide mentioned, �Basically, the culture of Bloomberg L.P. was transferred to the campaign.� So we have synthesis of aspects here. Not healthy for politics or business.

�Aides used Town Cars to travel to events, or home after a long night of work. They used expense accounts for meals at Bryant Park Grill, Pastis and the Ritz-Carlton.� And so on, luxury you can only dream of in an era of dire financial crisis, thanks to an income stream from a financial media powerhouse and its affiliate Bloomberg L.P., designing the software, supplying the technicians for the incredibly intricate calculations of credit default swaps. Something funny here? Or is it just me?

You must remember, in addition to being a graduate trader from Goldman Sachs, Bloomberg is an electrical engineer, and obviously with a mind like a highly ramped up, computer. Is this good for New York or dangerous? Anybody who can throw money around like this assumes he can buy anyone. Or fly them to his East Hampton get-away and skip all the New York City ants, crawling in traffic on the Long Island Expressway to the sea air. Since most of us ordinary folk make up the anthill, perhaps that�s why something in New York government smells rotten from top to bottom.

Jerry Mazza is a freelance writer living in New York City. Reach him at read his new book, State Of Shock: Poems from 9/11 onat, Amazon or

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