Bloomberg Buys a Governor: a Romance or a One-Night Stand?

During the election season my mailbox, my real, not e-mailbox is filled with election junk mail, I glance and discard into the strategically placed trashcan.

The last two days, not in election season I received classy flyers asking me to call my Assembly member to advocate for Governor Hochul’s budget and my TV screen has similar “asks,” I thought the Governor is spending a ton of money on probably a futile enterprise.

The “Three Men in a Room,” now two women and a man, plus the two women who chair the key committees will be thrashing out a budget.

When Hochul released her budget I mused about why she featured the removal of the charter school cap in her preliminary budget?  Why is she directly challenging teachers across the state?  (See my musings here)

The NY Times discovered former NYS Mayor Mike Bloomberg spent Five Million dollars on mailers to targeted electeds and tons of dollars on TV ads.

The slick campaign-style ads have been running on repeat during telecasts of “Jeopardy!” and March Madness basketball. They trumpet, at great expense, the agenda of New York’s governor, Kathy Hochul. And at the end of each, a tiny message says they are paid for by a vanilla-sounding group, American Opportunity.

But beneath a maze of shell groups and indirection, the real source of most of the funding for the mysterious new multimillion-dollar campaign to shape the state’s gargantuan budget is a familiar billionaire who once ran New York City and had all but disappeared from state politics: Michael R. Bloomberg.

(See NY Times here and Politico here)

Is it legal for Bloomberg to spend unlimited money?

The Supreme Court in Citizens United v FEC, in a 2010 decision held,

The court held 5-4 that the free speech clause of the First Amendment prohibits the government from restricting independent expenditures for political campaigns by corporations, including nonprofit corporations, labor unions, and other associations.

(Read the decision here and detailed analysis here)

Bloomberg is one of the richest men in the world, his Bloomberg Philanthropies has donated billions to a host of causes; he did not contribute to Hochul’s campaign in 2022 although her opponent was a pro-gun, pro-Trumper.

Why is he pumping giga-dollars into her budget fight?

Bloomberg’s political career began on 9/11, primary day in New York City. As the horrendous day progressed the city cancelled the primary election and moved the election two weeks later. Under election rules if a candidate failed to get 40% of the vote a runoff election was required and Mark Green survived the bruising three election process, Bloomberg spent millions and defeated Green in a close race. (Review here).

He was a competent mayor, aloof from normal politics, except for schools. His schools chancellor, a lawyer with no educational experience battled with everyone and reconfigured the system numerous times, closed 150 schools and created over 400 small high schools and attempted to mirror Chicago, excessed teacher were given a specific number of months to find a job, if not they would be placed in layoff. The union vigorously and successfully fought Bloomberg and the Mayor fought back, the number of unsatisfactory ratings doubled and Bloomberg pushed for test scores playing a major role in teacher evaluation. While the teacher contract expired the Taylor Law provisions of the contract remained in “full force and effect until the successor contract is ratified.” Bloomberg third term was filled with increasing conflicts. He left office with his reputation diminished.

In November 2019 Bloomberg declared his candidacy for President: a bit of hubris? He decided not to participate in the early primaries and concentrate on Super Tuesday.

He financed his campaign personally and refused donations. He spent over five hundred million dollars of his own money on his campaign, one of the greatest single campaign expenditures in American history. His campaign heavily relied on advertising, including the use of nationally aired television ads, social media influencers, and billboards in high-visibility locations.

He never got beyond single digits and quickly dropped out.

Bloomberg Philanthropies has donated billions of dollars to a wide range of organizations, his educational philanthropic dollars restricted to charter schools.

Does his antipathy towards Randi Weingarten and Michael Mulgrew motivate his charter school only generosity?

His largess to Holchul has aggravated the progressive political establishment.

The “one-house” budgets both call for increasing taxes for the richest New Yorkers,

Democratic state lawmakers are pushing for a tax increase on the wealthiest New Yorkers this year in the state budget negotiations as Gov. Kathy Hochul has touted her plan that does not seek hikes in the state’s personal income tax rates. 

Budget proposals made public Tuesday by Democrats in the state Senate would increase taxes on New Yorkers who earn more than $5 million a year. 

The positions will put lawmakers at odds with Hochul, whose $227 billion budget proposal does not increase the personal income tax rates and moves forward with reductions for middle-income earners. 

Both measures were released separately on Tuesday by Democrats in the state Senate and Assembly. But the proposals align on taxes: The plans would raise the personal income tax from 10.3% to 10.8% for New Yorkers who earn between $5 million and $25 million a year. 

The tax rate for people who earn more than $25 million would increase from 10.9% to 11.4% under the Democratic proposals. 

A referendum in Los Angeles passed placing a tax on sales of expensive homes, called the “Mansion Tax,” the public supports “taxing the rich.”

Maybe Mike is “carrying the water” for his homeboys?

Or, just bored.

The current budget cycle ends on Friday, March 31, and the Governor and the legislature can either come to a settlement or continue to skirmish, for days, or weeks, or months. In one year under Governor Patterson the budget fight wasn’t resolved until August. 

The Democrats have super majorities in both houses and can flex their muscles; the newly funded Buffalo Bills football stadium can run into unforeseen problems?

Two key committee chairs, Liz Kruger in the Senate and Helene Weinstein in the Assembly are tough, experienced negotiators.

Hochul can see this budget cycle as the key moment in her governorship.

Politics is a full contact sport. (Listen Yale Professor Joanne Freeman and Chris Hayes here)

One response to “Bloomberg Buys a Governor: a Romance or a One-Night Stand?

  1. Pingback: Advocacy Matters: Are You a Citizen Lobbyist? | Ed In The Apple

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