Sunday, June 23, 2013

Blockbuster: Post Writer on Bloomberg Wealth (Ab)Use of Political Power to Silence Supporters or Possible Dissenters

This calls into question the entire way that one person can exploit private wealth to swing public policy.

For the sake of democracy, this demonstrates the glaring need for public financing of elections and why it is very dangerous to have billionaries in public office.

And where were other politicians --or the United Federation of Teachers or other unions for that matter-- with criticisms during these 11 years of a travesty of elected democracy? -- Yes, this article could say more, but at least as much as is here is said.

Diane Ravitch wrote this about Tom Robbins' Post piece, "How Bloomberg Used His Fortune to Win Silence and Support." She says that Bloomberg's not under obligation to disclose his private spending. Yet, in a distorted democracy, where one man plays politics like he's playing with chess pieces, manipulating public opinion, I'd contest that he is under obligation. In other times and places, people worry that big money will buy the mayor’s support. In New York City for the past dozen years, the mayor has bought the support of almost everyone who might have been a critic or might have an independent voice. One of his favorite gambits was to cut the budget of a group that is heavily dependent on city funding, then make an allegedly anonymous contribution to the same group. The media often printed long lists of these “anonymous” contributions, acknowledging that they came from the mayor and were dispersed through the Carnegie Corporation.
This strategy made all the groups he “saved” dependent on his personal largesse. He was truly the Lord of the manor.
Robbins did not discover every trick the mayor used to buy support and silence critics. He has no way of knowing which influential intellectuals and power brokers are on the Mayor’s personal payroll, because the mayor is under no obligation to disclose his private spending.
It may be years before Mayor Bloomberg finds his Robert Caro. Caro writes in-depth biographies of famous people. In time, it will happen, and we will learn how Michael Bloomberg employed his vast fortune to win support, to intimidate once-independent critics, and to buy off activists from various communities.
Until then, Tom Robbins has pulled back the curtain in Oz. there is no magic; just a whole lot of money. Like, $27 billion.
The Robbins piece in today's New York Post: $ilence was golden

For three terms, Bloomberg quieted criticism and blunted budget cuts with his vast wealth. A new mayor won’t have that luxury, or that freedom

By  TOM ROBBINS, June 23, 2013, New York Post

When Mayor Bloomberg wanted to win over cocky state legislative leaders, he packed them aboard his private jet, headed for his Bermuda mansion and a friendly round of golf.

When he wanted to make sure he had their attention, he shelled out millions in contributions to their favorite political committees.

When he wanted to confront unemployment among young black men, he anted up $3 million for literacy efforts, while cutting city funds for similar programs.

When he wanted to keep lights twinkling on the East River bridges, while sending a message that the city could afford few such frills, he coughed up cash to keep them lit, persuading other wealthy pals to join in.
When he wanted to keep longtime City Hall aides on board, he upped their city salaries — out of his own pocket.
When he wanted to jump-start an effort to train new school administrators, he wrote a check for a quarter of a million dollars to launch a new institute.
When his schools chancellor wanted to go stumping on behalf of education reforms, he made another six-figure gift to get things going.
In a fortuitous turn of events, a chunk of that dough — some $110,000 — found its way to that veteran tormentor of mayors past, the Rev. Al Sharpton, whose strident voice has been heard only rarely outside City Hall these past dozen years.
How did his vast wealth make the job of governing easier for the 108th mayor of the city of New York? Let us count the ways.
Wait. Scratch that. It’s impossible to count them all.
“No one will ever know everything Mike Bloomberg did with his money,” said a political expert who has seen the mayor reach for his wallet more than once.

MAKING ‘REAL MONEY’

What we do know is this: When it comes to the flow of private mayoral cash into the arenas of politics and civic need, the Bloomberg years have been a true hundred-year flood, one that often ran through subterranean channels, invisible to the public or the press. And unlike Hurricane Sandy, the Bloomberg money superstorm is unlikely ever to be repeated.

The next mayor — whoever it is — won’t have that kind of deep-pocketed backup plan at his or her fingertips when the going gets rough. Even long-shot Republican candidate John Catsimatidis, with a couple billion of his own dollars apparently burning a hole in his pocket, is nowhere close to the same league as Michael Rubens Bloomberg, whose net worth now tallies $27 billion, according to Forbes, and who has never hesitated to employ his fortune to his political advantage.

“There’s no doubt about it, it’s going to be much harder for someone who doesn’t have those resources to govern the city,” said Kathy Wylde, the influential leader of the Partnership for New York.

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Go to the original Post article; but look at this one on page three, the manipulation of public officials and "independent" interest groups. This last part is the most insidious part. Organizations, terrified of losing their money from him, or indirectly through his possible bad-mouthing them to other possible donors, either spoke in favor of the "emergency" 2009 term limit extension or stifled their own dissent.
PAYING OFF POLITICIANS

Political strings were tugged even harder in 2008 when Bloomberg decided to seek a third term despite his past support for the law’s two-term limit. The mayor’s Carnegie donations soared to $60 million that year, conveyed to 542 groups. When the City Council held hearings on the term limits change, mayoral aides asked organizations on the receiving end of his generosity to testify in favor.

“It’s pretty hard to say no,” one nonprofit leader said then. At least five of the lucky groups showed up at the council arguing in favor of extending term limits. None mentioned their dual relationship with the mayor.

“The money activated people, and in some cases it neutralized them,” said City Hall watcher Doug Muzzio, public-affairs professor at Baruch College.

Other Bloomberg donations could only be understood through a prism of politics. Some $400,000 went to cultural and youth groups spawned by leaders of the city’s Independence Party whose ballot line provided the mayor his crucial margin of victory in both 2001 and 2009. The tiny political group has long been controlled by a quasi-Marxist cult advocating psycho-sexual solutions to urban ills. But that never deterred the mayor who appeared regularly at their charity fundraisers.

When it came to political contributions, he was also the best thing that ever happened to them, donating more than $1 million to the party’s city organization, campaign finance records show. Another $2.6 million went to the party’s state committee, controlled by a different group.
And the other ways that Bloomberg has manipulated allies and staved off possible criticisms:
Rev. Al Sharpton

He never met a rally he didn’t like, but Sharpton has been eerily low-key when it comes to Bloomberg, perhaps because of favors from the mayor. In one instance, $110,000 was given to Sharpton’s National Action Network through a group called the Education Equality Project, just before Bloomberg ran for a third term. The project was funded by “anonymous” donations, one of them acknowledged by aides to be Bloomberg.

Cultural groups

Bloomberg helped rein in the city’s budget by cutting cultural funding after 9/11, then turned around and gave an “anonymous” $10 million donation to the Carnegie Corporation to dole out to 137 groups. The number of groups — and the amount of funding — has only increased over his terms.

Rev. Calvin Butts

The influential pastor of Harlem’s Abyssinian Baptist Church, Butts was a fierce critic of Mayor Giuliani, once calling him “racist.” But he’s said hardly a peep about Bloomberg, who once wrote a $1 million check at a fundraiser for Butts’ community redevelopment non-profit, the Village Voice reported. “I’m not for sale,” Butts later told reporters. But he added, “it doesn’t hurt.”

Park maintenance

Park conservancies, which run city parks separate from government, have benefited greatly from Bloomberg. The Central Park Conservancy has received nearly $1 million from Bloomberg LP. Other donations have gone to the Prospect Park Alliance, the Historic House Trust, the Randall’s Island Sports Foundation and others.

Gay marriage

Bloomberg pledged his support to any politician who helped make same-sex marriage legal in New York. He hosted fundraisers and gave the maximum to four Republican state senators who voted in favor. Money isn’t everything, though. Two of the senators were defeated and one retired. Mark Grisanti, Republican from Buffalo, was re-elected with Bloomy’s help.

Department of Education

Bloomberg has added employees outside the budget process, by using his private Fund for Public Schools to pay the salaries of “consultants” to help run the department.

School testing

In 2011, state budget cuts threatened to cancel Regents exams given in January — which were used by students to graduate early, or a second chance if they did poorly on June exams. Bloomberg gave $250,000 — and raised another $1.25 million in other private donations — to get them reinstated by January 2012. For the kids, he said, but it also helped the city’s graduation rate.

9/11 Memorial and Museum

Infighting between the Port Authority and the non-profit that operates the 9/11 site threatened to delay the opening of the museum indefinitely, and perhaps even throw the project into court. To avoid the embarrassment, Bloomberg gave a $15 million loan to the museum in May (at a tiny 0.3% interest rate) to cover costs. NY Post at Twitter Have a comment on this PostOpinion column? Send it in to LETTERS@NYPOST.COM!