The hagiographic New York Times article paints a picture of Bloomberg as a selfless philanthropist mayor. The reality is a good deal more complex.
In the past, the city paid its mayor; Mr. Bloomberg paid to be the city’s mayor.
That much is true only because Bloomberg did spend a lot of money on elections. But he wasn't the first billionaire to run for office that way.
An analysis by The New York Times shows that Mr. Bloomberg has doled out at least $650 million on a wide variety of perks and bonuses, political campaigns and advocacy work, charitable giving and social causes, not to mention travel and lodging, connected to his time and role as mayor.
How does that break down?
He poured at least $268 million of his personal funds into three campaigns for mayor. He donated at least another $263 million to New York arts, civic, health and cultural groups, personally and through his company, Bloomberg LP. Campaign donations? He handed out about $23 million of them.
I'm not sure why we should be so favorably impressed by that. What it really says is that Bloomberg spent a lot of money to be elected, stay in office and build up his image. I presume the New York Times won't be writing about all the Koch money that went to New York arts and civics groups.
The $650 million minimum estimate is undoubtedly low. Up-to-date annual reports were not available for several Bloomberg-financed organizations and a wide range of expenses were impossible to firmly establish, like the dinner parties he hosted at his townhouse, meals he bought for government aides and landing fees paid at foreign airports.
And here's the meat of the matter, Bloomberg didn't just buy a political apparatus with that money; he bought status. Lots of it. Buying the mayor's office allowed him a stature in national and international affairs that he could not have had otherwise. Bloomberg traveled on private planes, but he also spent a lot of city money on his pet political causes including Mayors Against Illegal Guns. New York City's debt increased astronomically under Bloomberg while he handed out city money to build support for his campaigns. And we are talking about amounts a lot bigger than $650 million. Being mayor helped turn Bloomberg into an even bigger brand and power broker. And while that's true of other politicians, a lot of his civic reforms were less about making life better and more about reinventing himself as a social reformer. Bloomberg became a nuisance because he wasn't thinking of the city, but of some larger set of policies that he hoped to use the city as a testbed for.
Because he was largely liberated from the demands of campaign donors, interest groups or political parties, “his power was both intensified and expanded,” Mr. McNickle said.
That's a myth. Yes Bloomberg didn't need you to send him 5 dollars for his election. But in the incestuous and claustrophobic world of New York City politics, he relied on thousands of tiny little political groups-- some of them incredibly nasty and many of them very greedy for his support. When Bloomberg had to cut deals with the Newmanites, a demented racist left-wing cult, who got paid off in taxpayer money, it's hard to pass him off as a benevolent philanthropist or an independent voice.