11:44 am Oct. 18, 20121
A year from today, Michael Bloomberg's mayoralty will be running on fumes.
He'll be 71 years old, riding out the last couple of months of his 12-year mayoralty, and national attention will have coalesced around the next leader of the country's financial and media capital.
But Bloomberg will not go quietly, or lamely.
On Wednesday, Bloomberg announced that he would underwrite a $10 to $15 million super PAC that would run advertisements in up to 12 federal, state, and local elections between now and Election Day, to be run by his aide Howard Wolfson. Wolfson was for years a top Democratic operative, and in fact for a while was in the business of branding the mayor as an "out-of-touch billionaire."
But since going to work for Bloomberg, Wolfson he has become a vocal and unapologetic advocate for the mayor's brand of postpartisanship. (“He is the only major political figure in America operating outside the two-party system and as a result, he sometimes makes decisions that partisans don’t understand,” Wolfson recently told the Washington Post's Jason Horowitz.)
The candidates who benefit from the mayor's millions will fall on what Bloomberg deems the correct side of three divisive issues: they will have demonstrated some support for gun control, education reform and same-sex marriage.
They will also be centrists, as Bloomberg defines the term.
The mayor is technically an independent, but his outspoken support for gun control, same-sex marriage, immigration reform, progressive taxation, government subsidized infrastructure, and countless public health initiatives that conservatives argue violate individual freedom make him a liberal in national terms, notwithstanding his devotion to charter schools and his unreconstructed cheerleading for Wall Street.
Nevertheless, the mayor (consistently, except when he's been forced to deal with them) sees parties as a plague, and as vehicles for gridlock and corruption. So he scrupulously avoids blaming any one party more than the other for Washington's ills, much as he has scrupulously avoided revealing who he's supporting for president this year.
"It's critically important that we have elected officials in Washington, Albany, and around the nation who are willing to work across party lines to achieve real results," said the mayor, in a statement. "I’ve always believed in the need for more independent leadership, and this new effort will support candidates and causes that will help protect Americans from the scourge of gun violence, improve our schools, and advance our freedoms."
More to the point was a quote given by an anonymous Bloomberg adviser to the New York Times.
“This spending sends a clear message that the mayor intends to keep his wallet open after he leaves office to influence national policy around issues like guns, education and marriage equality,” the adviser said. “If anything, leaving office will free him to do even more."
Bloomberg's gun control crusade already provided the outlines of what his formalized national advocacy might look like, but the newly formed PAC should yield better information about how effective it might actually be once the mayor's money is liberated from what he sees as the prerogatives of his current elected post.
And with the many billions of dollars at his disposal, the $10-15 million Wolfson spreads around in his name over the next couple of weeks is, presumably, only a beginning.
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