Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Something Bad About Bloomberg
(First, a little disclaimer. There have been roughly a million things going on in the last week and a half that I've wanted to blog about here. Hopefully I'll get to some of them once work stuff--yeah, the job I'm theoretically transitioning out of, but is actually kicking my ass to a nearly unprecedented degree--calms down. Phillies withdrawal ain't helping either, though it's not like I've written about those people here so much anyway since the advent of The Good Phight. Anyway, I'm gonna try to write more. Promise.)

As I've noted here before, the meta-debate about whether New York City Democrats should oppose Mike Bloomberg's bid for re-election hasn't much moved me over the last year-plus. I think the guy has done a good job, I have absolutely no confidence in Fernando Ferrer's ability to govern the city in a competent and effective way, and I instinctively recoil from the notion that blind partisanship should guide anyone's voting choices. (This is one of the things I want to get back to: whether Democrats are better advised to meet any and all Republican measures with knee-jerk resistance, or if there's a way to "tame" the other side such that they stop being the Party of Norquist and Dobson, and return to their Lincoln/TR/Eisenhower roots.)

But I did read something in today's Times that seriously gives me pause.

As he campaigns for re-election this fall, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg never mentions that he is a Republican. Far from it: He has gone out of his way to oppose both President Bush's nominee for chief justice and a federal reconstruction plan for the Gulf Coast, and he expressed disappointment that the Freedom Center was evicted from ground zero by another Republican, Gov. George E. Pataki.

But when it comes to donating money to politicians, Mr. Bloomberg's Republican bona fides are as good as they get, judging from his campaign finance records. As mayor, he gave $250,000 to the same Republican party-building effort that Representative Tom DeLay is now charged with using to launder political money. Mr. Bloomberg has also doled out thousands of dollars to politicians who are far more conservative than he is.

For Mr. Bloomberg, whose campaign slogan casts him as "a leader, not a politician," this pattern of giving may be the most partisan-driven aspect of his life in politics. In a city where Democratic registration far outweighs Republican, the mayor's financial ties to Republicans and President Bush are a source of concern to some allies, who worry that the donations will turn off liberal voters he needs.

Mr. Bloomberg's aides say the donations advance the interests of New York with the political party that controls Washington and federal funds for the city. Yet in the case of his $250,000 donation, in 2002, Mr. Bloomberg was also aiding a major goal of the party that had nothing to do with urban issues: bringing more Republicans to power in statehouses and legislatures. He made his donation when Republicans were considering selecting New York City for their 2004 convention, as they ultimately did.

The recipient of the $250,000, the Republican National State Elections Committee, is the political vehicle that Mr. DeLay is accused of using to violate election laws in Texas, his home state. Mr. DeLay says he is innocent, and Mr. Bloomberg's donation was unrelated to Mr. DeLay and has not been questioned.

Mr. Bloomberg also gave $140,000 to New York Republicans to elect more members to the State Assembly and Senate, and $25,000 to the Republican National Committee. Asked about Mr. Bloomberg's support for expanding Republican control in state capitals, Ed Skyler, a spokesman, said the goal was to enhance the mayor's influence with Republicans in positions to help the city.

None of this is exactly news: Bloomberg's contributions to Bush have been very well documented. But there's something about seeing the mayor's name so close to that of Tom DeLay that just repels me. He's subsidizing the bad guys, and in ways that I think go beyond credibly "representing New York's interests": the fairly explicit goal of Karl Rove and Grover Norquist is to create a one-party nation. I don't think Bloomberg wants this, but his dollars evidently do.

I'll still probably suck it up and vote for the guy, but this confirms me in the thought that if the Democrats had nominated Weiner, or some other competent candidate, I likely would have gone that way.

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