Friday, June 23, 2006

Mayor Bloomberg and His Money

Michael Bloomberg is the mayor of New York City. And he must have really wanted the job, because five years ago he spent $74 million on his campaign to get it. His own money.

He must have liked the job once he got it, because last year he spent $85 million to get reelected. His own money. That comes to about $113 per vote.

Mr. Bloomberg founded one of the largest and most successful financial information companies in the world and has a personal wealth of more than five billion dollars. So he can afford to drop a few million here and there on extraneous ventures. He doesn’t need to work another day in his life. So he has decided to lead the largest city in the world’s last remaining super power. The city that sits in the middle of a red bulls-eye for every terrorist organization with a plane ticket or a stick of dynamite.

When studying elected leaders, we are often urged to “follow the money”. The prevailing wisdom says that politicians are usually beholden to the whims of those who put him in power. That makes sense when the major contributors are labor unions or fringe activist groups.

But what does it mean when the major contributor is the politician himself? It can’t be that he needs the job to support his ego; there are much easier (and cheaper) ways to have one’s ego stroked. It’s not just a power grab. In spite of his great potential power, he still regularly rides the subway to work. And it certainly isn’t because he needs the money. Refusing the traditional mayor’s salary, he receives a token one dollar per year in compensation.

Bloomberg seems to be one of those rare breeds who actually is a public servant because he feels like he needs to serve the public. He spent his own money to avoid the repressive campaign finance reform laws that limited his opponents. As a result, he doesn’t owe anybody anything. Nobody can buy him. Nobody can influence him. He can stand on his own principles and govern in a way that is most beneficial to the people who elected him.

New Yorkers must like him. The staunchly liberal city reelected this Republican by a 20% margin last year.

You gotta admire a guy that puts up 17% of his entire personal worth to get a thankless job in a city that should be suspicious of a rich corporate suit. My hat’s off to him.

No comments: