Thursday, May 14, 2009

On Billionaires Becoming Politicians

Not that there’s anything necessarily wrong with billionaires becoming politicians.

But in this day with slick TV commercials being the key determinant of many a political contest, one has to be concerned with billionaire New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s way of doing politics.

Not that there’s anything wrong with how Bloomberg has run New York City.

He’s been OK compared to many a mayor.

Bloomberg was elected in 2001 after blitzing New York with millions upon millions of dollars in TV spots.

He got re-elected in 2005 with the help of more millions upon millions of dollars in TV commercials.

Bloomberg spent $77.8 million to get re-elected in 2005, according to Newsday, much of this for TV spots. This comes, it said, to $103 for each vote he got. It was 12 percent over his 2001 spending.

And although term limits were supposed to limit Bloomberg to two terms, with arm twisting he got the New York City Council to alter the term limit law for hizzoner—and let him run for a third term.

And now he’s running again with again the heavy use of TV commercials.

The New York Times has just reported that Bloomberg “has poured $7.5 million into the campaign so far.” And the election is six months away. He is, said the paper, “shattering—once again—records for spending in a New York City election.”

The Times said “the TV ad wars have started in the New York City mayor’s race and, so far, it’s a study in asymmetrical combat.” Bloomberg, it said, is “running financial laps around his challengers.”

The "ads showcase," the Times said, Bloomberg’s “staggering financial advantage.”

There are calls to limiting political advertising in New York City, “to level the playing field,” because of the Bloomberg drown-‘em-with TV commercials strategy.

The Bloomberg camp responds that its simply “exploiting a financial advantage.”

Meanwhile, you can’t sit down in front of the screen in the New York Metropolitan Area these days without seeing Mayor Mike. Over and over again.

“Strong, independent leadership to keep New York City working,” the ads say. And big money to keep Madison Avenue’s TV commercial-makers working.

Meanwhile, as the New York Observer reports, Bloomberg is “still not taking questions at campaign events.”

Apparently he prefers being packaged in TV spots.

Is this the way a sensible democracy is supposed to function?

I don’t think so.

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