Bloomberg prescribes more junkets, member items to break Washington gridlock

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Bloomberg. (via NYC.gov)
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Mayor Michael Bloomberg, despite being courted by both sides, isn't saying anything about which presidential candidate he favors.

"They are very different people, very different views on social issues and fiscal things," Bloomberg said in a radio interview this morning, of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.

Two weeks ago, the mayor flew to Washington and played golf with Vice President Joe Biden. Earlier this week, Romney had breakfast with the mayor at the headquarters of his philanthropic foundation.

Mike Allen of Politico said the Bloomberg endorsement for either candidate would be "huge" because Bloomberg represents pragmatism in government, which is sorely lacking in the Washington today.

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It's less clear what would be in it for Bloomberg.

Bloomberg commented, as usual, on individual policies and trends he finds objectionable (Dodd-Frank is too unwieldy, Grover Norquist's anti-tax-hike pledge was "just insanity" and the latest jobs figures released this morning are "not good").

He also, notably, blamed the gridlock in Washington on new rules curtailing the House Speaker's distribution of money and the ability of congress members to participate in junkets.

"We've changed the ethics laws," the mayor said. "You've got to love the unintended consequences. They can do fund-raisers but they can't go with lobbyists. Well, the only time a lot of these guys would get together is they would go on these junkets," and "you can't help but build relations."

Bloomberg said, "We've cut that out and now they don't talk to each other."

"How do you control a Congress if you don't have what we call member items, what they would call earmarks," Bloomberg said. "The ways you manage a legislature is the leadership doles out [that money] and that's how they get people to vote together as a bloc."

The mayor preemptively rejected the idea that such activity was "dishonest."

"It isn't," he said. "And that is the way society works. It's the way people work."

Bloomberg's prescription for wielding legislative power should, of course, be taken with a pound of salt. Although he's generally gotten his way with the New York City Council, he's had much less success navigating the politics in Albany, where members frequently socialize together and each house is ruled by powerful leaders who derive much of their influence from their ability to dole out and take away member items.