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A shadow over Bloomberg's win

We in New York are at this hour surprised to learn that we've actually had an interesting mayoral race. Our billionaire mayor, Michael Bloomberg, spent what will probably amount to $100 million to assure that there would be absolutely no suspense on election night over his prospects for securing a third term. His opponent, Democrat Bill Thompson, seemed frozen for much of the campaign, buried under an avalanche of negative advertising. Few people in the city knew anything about Thompson except for what Bloomberg's misleading ads said about him. The last polls showed Bloomberg ahead, 50-38. And with Thompson outspent at 14 or maybe 16 to 1, no one expected any late surge.It now turns out that Bloomberg beat Thompson by just 5 percentage points or so, 51-46.The mild-mannered Thompson waged what seemed to be a terrible campaign, devoted mainly to assailing the brazen grab for power that occurred when Bloomberg and New York's City Council changed the city's term-limits law to award themselves a chance for a third term. Thompson never offered a vision of what he would do as mayor. And the mayor bought up the support of many of Thompson's potential allies, sometimes through his private philanthropy.New York's wealthiest resident will continue to hold its highest office. For all he may accomplish, I don't see how he can escape the shadow of having purchased his office, though. In retrospect, I think the turning point of the race came early on, when Congressman Anthony Weiner, Democrat of Brooklyn and Queens, announced he would not run. Weiner would have run a much feistier campaign than Thompson did and, given the substantial voter discontent with Bloomberg's power grab, might actually have won. Weiner dropped out after Bloomberg's aides had leaked a story saying that the Bloomberg campaign planned to spend $20 million on ads attacking Weiner. Whose reputation could withstand that?I hope folks in other parts of the country will see how such excessive spending essentially subverts the democratic process.

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There were two undesirable candidates in New York. I agree that Wiener probably would have won had he stayed in the race.Excessive spending is another matter. I would note that in New Jersey Jon Corzine far outspent his opponents and it didn't seem to make a difference. Perhaps Bloomberg spent his money more wisely than Corzine.

The assumption that Bloomberg would win handily probably depressed turnout and contributed to the surprisingly close race. I frivolously threw away my vote thinking it would make no difference. For comptroller I voted for The Rent Is Too High party candidate who is getting less than 1% of the total (though I dont agree at all with those sentiments). The party used to go by the name of The Rent Is Too Damn High but sadly they have adopted a more bourgeois image.Thompsons close race probably gives him the inside track for the next election.

"I hope folks in other parts of the country will see how such excessive spending essentially subverts the democratic process.""The current President had a half-billion dollar advantage over his opponent"An obvious difference between Mayor Bloomberg and President Obama is that the former spent his own money, whereas candidate Obama raised his money from supporters and interest groups. Which - personal wealth or fundraising prowess - is better, or worse, for democracy?One of the advantages of private wealth would seem to be that the wealthy candidate would be less beholden to special-interest groups (which I suppose are generally thought to be a bad thing, although I support some of those groups). Granted, one of President Obama's great innovations, as I understand it, is that his campaign devised new ways of raising money so that, in theory at least, he was less beholden to special interests.Or is that not the right way to think about it?

"Actually, MAT, seems like your original point was that this all has something to do with Obama. "No. That was just an illustrative example from the most recent elections. The original comment was that excessive spending subverted the Democratic process. It either does or it doesn't. If it did yesterday, it did 12 months ago. Given that nobody pointed that out 12 months ago in a quite widely debated national election, I am therefore contending that it doesn't. I could have chosen the NJ Governor's race four years ago as my example, but nobody would remember that so I didn't chose it. It has nothing to do with Mr. Axlerod or his clients. It has to do with the people on the losing side always complaining that the other side bought the election. "And that This race was about ideology and the term limit nonsense, not Mr. Bloombergs money. If you think theres no overlap there I dont know what I can tell you."Let me try another angle. The people who voted for Mr. Thompson would have voted for him if Mayor Bloomberg had spent $1 or $1 billion. They voted for him because he was (1) a liberal Democrat and NYC is a liberal, Democratic city, as is evinced by the composition of the City Counsel and (2) Mayor Bloomberg was, in addition to being on the Independance Party line, on the Republican Party line and was unanimously endorsed by all the Republican County Comittees for all the relevant NYC counties. These voters clearly voted in the most recent election not only for the candidate with a massive monetary advantage but also in circumvention of the very laws you are saying they presumably feel so strongly about they would vote on that basis. Does not seem likely to me. Also, there were some people who perhaps would have voted for him in the ordinary course who also voted against him because he went around the voters to modify the NYC term limit laws. That one I buy, but clearly that group is pretty tiny.I do not however believe that there were voters who would have voted FOR Mayor Bloomberg but instead voted for Mr. Thomson because they feel he used his personal funds in an inappropriate manor. First, I do not believe that because I believe it is not only fallacious, but I followed that situation quite closely and until just today have never even seen anyone suggest that the Mayor used his personal funds in such a manor so how could these voters have believed that? Secondly, these voters would presumably be GOP voters who wouldn't have fallen into the categories outlined above and were not going to vote against him but his use of his personal fortune to get elected made them switch their vote. I mean, who are these people? If you are one of the very small and persecuted minority of Republican voters in NYC, no way in heck would you vote against the Mayor for the reasons people are implying. I am therefore proferring that no, I do not think the Mayor's personal fortune was a factor in the outcome of the election. It is therefore my contention that, like all elections where the losing side scrambles for excuses, the reference to Mr. Bloomberg buying the election is just that, an excuse that Mr. Thomson's supporters do not really believe.

With the sagacity for which we are known round the world, Bronxites were solidly anti-Bloomberg and are solidly pro-Yankees. Go, Andy!

We use the expression: "S/he can buy and sell anybody." Bloomberg buys everybody and people shamelessly take his money. All those black leaders going for Bloomberg proves the point. And that bishop in Brooklyn. Although Corzine is an example of excessive money bought power, there is no comparison between the two races.In toto it is a testament that most people can be bought any day of the week.

There are many things to consider about Bloomberg's use of his considerable wealth to purchase this office. It is hard for me to not consider this entire matter without glancing through the lens of Bloomberg's initial election, in the shadow of 9/11 and the desire of Giuliani to stay in office further beyond what was called for at the time.It seemed full of some promise, in the context of that moment in history, that "Mayor Mike" rode the subway and tore down walls and built a glass office. I must have been too sentimental then, or perhaps just broken... Now I feel a bit played by what has transpired.In those days I did not live in NYC, but I did commute in and out each day, as I had for the better part of 20 years. Whether or not I could vote there, the mayor mattered.From my current upstate NY vantage, I think it still matters. While I am sorry that Bloomberg won, I am very glad that it was such a close race.And as Bill Mazzella wisely points out, the Corzine race had its own money issues, although in the end different enough in content and in result.

"I hope folks in other parts of the country will see how such excessive spending essentially subverts the democratic process."The current President had a half-billion dollar advantage over his opponent, the Senior Senator from Arizona, last November and purportedly almost all of that was spent, although we do not have an exact accounting of the sources and uses of those funds for reasons having to do with certain election laws. It would also not be surprising at all if Mr. Axlerod is again able to find several hundred million dollars over what his opponent is able to raise in 2012 and I reckon, as they did in 2008, Mr. Thompson's supporters will not be concerned about the situation subverting the democratic process. People on the losing side care about excessive spending when the other side does it and ignore it when it helps them win. This race was about ideology and the term limit nonsense, not Mr. Bloomberg's money. I will also add, as someone in the NYC media market, thank goodness the race is over and I can have my airwaves back!

These "but your guy did it too!" retorts are getting old.

Paul, I actually thought Thompson should have hammered harder at the term-limits issue. Every time I saw him talking about anything else I wondered why he was bothering (especially because he never did it very well). Also, for me, at least, the mayor's exorbitant spending made me that much more inclined to vote against him. MAT: you can't separate Bloomberg's personal fortune and the amount he spent campaigning from either ideology or the "term-limit nonsense." It's not like Bloomberg's being wealthy has nothing to do with his ability to change the rules to his advantage.P.S. Patrick, take heart: they're still the "Rent Is Too Damn High" party. It's just the ballot that raised its standards.

I am amazed. I voted for Thompson and I am delighted that so many of my fellow New Yorkers did too. And yes, also delighted that the robo-calls and vote Bloomberg post cards will cease.

Actually, the "but your guy did it" argument is effective. Look, I don't like Bloomberg. But I do know if he has a D next to his name instead of an R, this post doesn't appear on this site. Sad but true.

No, you don't know any such thing. And the man ran as an independent.

"MAT: you cant separate Bloombergs personal fortune and the amount he spent campaigning from either ideology or the term-limit nonsense. Its not like Bloombergs being wealthy has nothing to do with his ability to change the rules to his advantage."I'm not sure why his wealth would be related to his ideology. How? I would reckon his opponent's ideology is more in line with what one would expect for someone of his net worth actually. On the term limits, that was not about his personal money. The millions of dollars he transferred to the members of the Government Operations Committee were taxpayer funds duly confiscated from the citizens of NYC and disbursed in accordance with New York City law. The same for the so-called City Counsel "slush fund." I do not like Mayor Bloomberg's politics one bit, but I don't think him putting his personal money where his mouth is is disturbing. At least we know where the money is coming from and he is not beholden to third-parties potentially having a disproportionate influence on policy.

When President Obama uses his personal fortune to revise the law to allow himself to seek a third term, despite having previously pledged to comply with voters' verdict on the subject, then "but your guy did it too" will be valid. (But the prediction that nobody on dotCommonweal would object won't be.)Also: When it comes to Bloomberg, the suggestion that criticism (or the lack thereof) stems from party identity seems particularly disconnected from reality. This is Michael Bloomberg we're talking about. Which party does he belong to today?Bloomberg has convinced a lot of people that his wealth means he's incorruptible. Perhaps, but it also makes him virtually unaccountable. It's a gamble.

Michael "$100 Million" Bloomberg wins the mayoralty race on Tuesday.The New York "$208,097,414" Yankees win the World Series on Wednesday. New York, New York, a helluva town! :)http://espn.go.com/mlb/teams/salaries?team=nyy

"When President Obama uses his personal fortune to revise the law to allow himself to seek a third term, despite having previously pledged to comply with voters verdict on the subject, then but your guy did it too will be valid. "There is no evidence of Mayor Bloomberg doing that I am aware of. He used public funds. What are you referring to? "Bloomberg has convinced a lot of people that his wealth means hes incorruptible. Perhaps, but it also makes him virtually unaccountable. Its a gamble."It's not a gamble, it's why we have elections. If he lost, this all is moot, which was my original point.

Actually, MAT, seems like your original point was that this all has something to do with Obama. And that "This race was about ideology and the term limit nonsense, not Mr. Bloombergs money." If you think there's no overlap there I don't know what I can tell you.

Mat, it such an outrageous stretch to say the losing side accuses the other side of outspending. Bloomberg has been a pretty good mayor. His wealth has enabled him not to steal money where a poorer candidste might be tempted. His manipulation of people and literally buying people off is this issue. Sure he is not the only but with term limits and handing money out all over the place he has become, well, disqusting. On the other hand, democracy won by the fact that the race was close. Democracy won in that New Jersey threw out the incumbent governor because people are unemployed and hurting. Incumbents beware. If you are powerless to do anything about it get out. The bottom line is a beautiful thing. Let Christie have his chance. Obama is on the ropes because he is not getting people back to work. If he can help banks he should help all these high school sports programs that are ruining many times and eating at the fabric of America. This is why it is a good thing for politicians to read polls. Incumbents beware!Come to think of it we might apply this to people we know like bishops. Because the polarization is mostly their fault either by action or inaction.

That should be "ruining many towns."

"Mat, it such an outrageous stretch to say the losing side accuses the other side of outspending."What was a stretch was saying "always". That was sloppy.

Sorry, was hoping other folks had opinions on my question: do we recognize a difference between large amounts of one's own money vs. large amounts of others' donations, and if so, which is preferable?

Dollar politics is the Amurriken way. Always has been; always will be. There are too many willing recipients of this glut of spending to allow a change to take place.

Democracy is the best system. Our option is to not to reelect. No way Bloomber runs again. They are already lining up to face him next time. Interest that a market economy is not necessary for a democracy. Russians now equate market economy with corruption since so many fraudulent people entered the arena since the collapse of communism.

[D]o we recognize a difference between large amounts of ones own money vs. large amounts of others donations, and if so, which is preferable?Jim,I vote for large amounts of donations. Financially supporting a candidate's campaign is part of the democratic process. Of course, if a handful of very wealthy donors support a candidate, that's almost as undemocratic as the candidate spending his own money. But if a large number of people are impressed enough by a candidate, and that results in thousands of donations and millions of dollars, it seems to me that's democracy at work.

"An obvious difference between Mayor Bloomberg and President Obama is that the former spent his own money, whereas candidate Obama raised his money from supporters and interest groups. Which personal wealth or fundraising prowess is better, or worse, for democracy?"I think we should be indifferent to the sources you outline here. What is more important is transparency. "Granted, one of President Obamas great innovations, as I understand it, is that his campaign devised new ways of raising money so that, in theory at least, he was less beholden to special interests."The analysis I have seen on this indicates that this is more hagiography than based on any statistical analysis of donations. What complicates the situation is we have such poor information on the sources and uses of the current President's funds to do a really nice study but the Campaign Finance Institute found that the % of people giving small-dollar donations did not deviate in a material way from the percentages seen in previous presidential elections. Where Mr. Axlerod really hit the jackpot was from large-money donors. He blew the doors off anything we have ever seen in the Republic in that regard. It really was an amazing thing. Good or bad for democracy? If raised in a transparent manor, yes.

On a side note, how crazy is it that Robert Morgenthau is no longer the NYC DA? That is the real story of the night for me.

On the good news side of the equation.... Staten Island has their first black councilperson...ever.

Jim, I vote for large amounts of donations. But mostly I'd vote for spending caps, or free ad time.Then again, mostly I'd vote for the new governor of the great commonwealth of Virginia.

The Times has an interactive map showing block by block how New Yorkers voted in the mayoral election. I was amazed and pleased to see that my mostly middle-class district went for Thompson 51 to Bloomberg 47. http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2009/11/04/nyregion/may