For Bloomberg, 'It's Good to Be A Billionaire'

By Michael Powell and Chris Cillizza
Tuesday, December 6, 2005

NEW YORK -- There are political high rollers, and fat cats, and plutocrats. And then there's Republican Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who fits into a class of his own after dipping into his own thick wallet this fall to run the most expensive nonpresidential election campaign in U.S. history.

A billionaire media mogul who took up his mayoral avocation rather late in life, Bloomberg, 63, spent $77,894,878 of his fortune, according to campaign disclosure reports made public Monday. That comes to more than $100 per vote.

Bloomberg showered this dough on a campaign for which the outcome never was much in doubt, spending $14.1 million in the past few weeks. He beat his Democratic opponent, Fernando Ferrer, by almost 20 percentage points. Ferrer spent less than $9 million.

Even Democrat Jon S. Corzine and Republican Douglas R. Forrester, the dueling multimillionaires in New Jersey's governor's race, looked parsimonious by comparison, spending just $75 million combined. Corzine won.

Bloomberg once stated that if he had to spend as much on his reelection as he did in his 2001 race ($74 million), he would be in trouble. He did but he wasn't. Hizzoner professed a profound disinterest in the subject Monday.

"It is what it is," Bloomberg told reporters. "I've spent my own money, I had a big message to get out, and we did get the message out."

Good government types are less philosophical. They have spent 15 years campaigning for and refining one of the nation's toughest municipal campaign finance laws, only to watch the mayor disregard their calls for self-restraint.

"It's good to be a billionaire," said Gene Russianoff of the New York Public Interest Research Group. "He got overbilled for a lot of services, and you can try to guess why he didn't care."

Political analysts offer plenty of guesses. Their answers range from the prosaic (New York has the most expensive media market in the nation) to the psychological. Some say Bloomberg yearned to best Fiorello La Guardia's record victory margin 70 years ago. He missed by a hair.

Meanwhile, it will be happy holidays this year in certain households. Hizzoner handed out $14.2 million to political consultants and spent an additional $31.381 million on television commercials, with a healthy percentage of that going to consultants as well.

Smart Money's on Menendez in N.J.

For those combing for hints about whom Gov.-elect Jon S. Corzine (D-N.J.) will pick to replace him in the Senate, a big one was revealed over the weekend.

Rep. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) broke off a trip to Puerto Rico to fly back to New Jersey and meet with Corzine, according to several political sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the private nature of the meeting.

Spokesmen for Corzine and Menendez would not comment on their conversation. It seems likely, however, that it was centered on Menendez's possible appointment to the remaining year of Corzine's Senate term.

(Menendez was originally expected to be back in Washington on Monday night for a fundraising dinner with a handful of lobbyists, but it was postponed. Draw your own conclusions.) Since Corzine won the Garden State governorship last month, Menendez has been the leading candidate for the Senate slot.

Among the other Democrats hoping to be chosen by Corzine are Reps. Robert E. Andrews, a favorite son of southern New Jersey; Rush D. Holt, a five-time champion on the television quiz show "Jeopardy!"; and Frank Pallone Jr. State Sen. Nia Gill is also mentioned.

Republicans have coalesced behind state Sen. Tom Kean Jr., the son of the beloved former governor, and seem poised to make ethics central to the contest. National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesman Brian Nick praised Kean Jr. as "squeaky clean."

Quotable

"This is Laura; I'm George W. We hope you've had some fun here. I hope nobody pinched Rudolph on the nose. Nobody did? That's good. Rudolph is happy about that, too." -- President Bush, at the White House Children's Holiday Reception on Monday.

Staff writer Michelle Garcia contributed to this column.


© 2005 The Washington Post Company