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bloomberg and the boys Archive

November 3, 2009 @ 5:59 pm

Memo to Joyce Purnick

New York Times society reporter, Joyce Purnick, author of a recent semi-authorized Bloomberg biography, wrote Bloomberg a “memo” in the form of an op-ed piece in Tuesday’s paper. She said that he had made a “bad investment” spending all that money to win an election. As the incumbent, she wrote, “you are in and destined to stay in.”

Purnick went on to deliver a history lesson on the last fifty years of mayoral elections in which only two incumbents, Beame and Dinkins, three if you count Koch’s try for a fourth term, won reelection. New Yorkers, she opined, are “pragmatic, even complacent, when their city is not in anguish.” She wondered why anyone would even bother to run against the man who is managing our “stable” city so well.
Read rest of story…

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October 30, 2009 @ 3:32 pm

The New York Times on Bloomberg’s “Stalled Vision”

For people who worry about the collapse of the mainstream media and its impact on Democracy, the silver lining is the collapse of the mainstream media and its impact on Democracy. We speak, of course, of the New York Times and how it has conspired with Michael Bloomberg to further corrupt our political system, Bloomberg by bribing and bullying his way onto the ballot, and the paper not only for failing to hold him accountable but for rooting him on.

The front-page piece on Bloomberg’s golf game and the front-page photo op of “Mike,” standing alongside Colin Powell at the counter of a hot dog joint, gloved hand clutching a few dollar bills, treating Powell to a hot dog could have been prepared by Howard Wolfson. Digging out from under the mountain of rubbish that the old gray lady spews forth daily has become too tedious and our shovel too small to do much more than scrape away at the surface.

This past Thursday, the paper offered a more serious account of Bloomberg’s “stalled vision.” His massive rezoning and multibillion development schemes, the report says, have yielded “uneven results,” an observation that might be likened to “Bush did a pretty good job but left behind a few problems for Obama to clean up.”
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October 27, 2009 @ 7:00 pm

Times: Newark Mayor Backed Bloomberg, Then Got Funds

Via The New York Times:

Mayor Cory A. Booker of Newark has been one of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s most vocal supporters this campaign season, stumping with him on at least four occasions, including a whirlwind tour of African-American churches in Queens on Sunday.

Perhaps Mr. Booker was trying to show some gratitude.

On April 17, Mr. Booker, a Democrat, crossed party and state lines by endorsing Mr. Bloomberg, an independent running as a Republican, in Harlem. About a month later, Mr. Bloomberg’s longtime accountant contributed $26,000 — the maximum allowable — to Mr. Booker’s re-election committee next year, according to campaign finance records.

Technically, the contribution to Mr. Booker’s 10-member slate, which includes 9 Municipal Council candidates, was made by Martin J. Geller, Mr. Bloomberg’s accountant. But Mr. Geller has long had a habit of contributing money to candidates or committees that the mayor supports, with $100,000 in 2007 to Senate Republicans in Albany being one notable example.

The contribution is only the second one that Mr. Geller has made anyone in New Jersey politics. In 2005, he gave $2,000 to the campaign efforts of the Assembly Republicans in Trenton. At that time, Mr. Bloomberg was still registered as a Republican.

When asked about whether there was a quid pro quo, Howard Wolfson, the Bloomberg campaign’s chief media strategist, said: “As Mayor Booker made clear this past Sunday, he and Mayor Bloomberg formed a friendship three years ago when he was first elected to office, and have worked together on a number of issues since, including gun violence and education reform. They form a mutual admiration society, and so it’s not surprising that the two mayors would be supporting one another.”

A spokeswoman for Mr. Booker, Desiree Peterkin Bell, added that several members of Mr. Booker’s staff have worked in the Bloomberg administration.

“Since 2006, both men have publicly praised and respected each other’s leadership — they have and both will continue to be supportive of each other in the future,” she said in a statement.

Mr. Booker is hardly the only Democratic elected official who has not supported William C. Thompson Jr., Mr. Bloomberg’s Democratic opponent. But he has been one of Mr. Bloomberg’s most avid supporters, regardless of party affiliation, and has campaigned almost as much in New York recently for Mr. Bloomberg as he has in New Jersey on behalf of Gov. Jon S. Corzine, a Democrat.

Never was Mr. Booker more effusive, perhaps, than on Sunday when he traveled with Mr. Bloomberg to African-American churches in Queens, presumably to put some distance between some controversial remarks that former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani had made the week before about crime when he was campaigning with Mr. Bloomberg.

“My big-brother mayor,” Mr. Booker said in describing Mr. Bloomberg, during a rousing address at Rev. Floyd H. Flake’s Greater Allen A.M.E. Cathedral in Jamaica, Queens.

When told of the contribution, Anne Fenton, a spokeswoman for Mr. Thompson, said, “Today’s revelation that Mike Bloomberg has paid for the endorsement of Newark Mayor Cory Booker is scandalous. It proves Bloomberg is willing to do anything to win this election and calls into question many of the supporters who have stood beside him.”

There are no other records, at least so far, showing that other politicians who have endorsed Mr. Bloomberg have also received contributions in recent months. But campaign finance experts caution that a full accounting won’t be available until after the election.

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October 23, 2009 @ 1:08 pm

The Special Interest is Bloomberg

From Phil DePaolo:

Bloomberg’s Net Worth

1996 – $1 billion
1997 – $1.3 billion
1998 – $2 billion
1999 – $2.5 billion
2000 – $4 billion
2001 – $4 billion
2002 – $4.8 billion
2003 – $4.9 billion
2004 – $5 billion
2005 – $5.1 billion
2006 – $5.3 billion
2007 – $11.5 billion
2008 – $20 billion
2009 – $16 billion (interim March figure)*
2009 – $17.5 billion
(Annual figures published by Forbes in September of each year)

It seems to be inadequately appreciated that Bloomberg’s Bloomberg LP does business with almost every major company in the city. Most of Bloomberg’s wealth comes from the sale of the Bloomberg financial terminals, not from his media company activities. A lot of media companies are not doing well these days. It is Bloomberg’s terminal sales that are likely financing his recently announced acquisition from McGraw Hill of “Business Week,” competing business publication that like a lot of others has not done very well recently.

Here’s The Atlantic:

Bloomberg considers the Business Week brand a strong draw on business people and newsmakers, two audiences that would complement its stranglehold on the Wall Street/investor type. Not only would it enhance access to newsmakers and help the company break news, it would also give Bloomberg a fresh subscriber list with new potential clients to sell its terminal.

Via Noticing New York:

While Bloomberg LP is doing business with every major company in the city, the city is busily granting companies concessions over which Bloomberg’s administration has substantial discretion.

Take one big company as an example, Goldman Sachs. Goldman has a new building in Battery Park City which was allowed to override the Battery Park City master plan, was granted extra density and tax breaks. Meanwhile, despite the fact that the city’s Conflicts of Interest Board said that he should not do so, Mr. Bloomberg calls up his business to check on terminal sales numbers. All that it takes for a big company to send money Bloomberg’s way in what could be the equivalent of a kickback or a political contribution is to order more terminals. Political contributions are not tax deductible, but paying for more terminals than you really need is.

We recognize that Boss Tweed and quite a number of other (less wealthy) politicians made a lot of money and formed companies (often secretly or in the background) to profit by business that could be done with the city or by virtue of city endeavors that involved major conflicts of interest. But was there ever a truly wealthy mayor with a personal business empire where the nature of that business meant that his empire or set of business enterprises was routinely doing business with most of the companies with which the city had commercial dealings?

Via The New York Times:

In a 2002 agreement with the conflicts board, the mayor promised to limit his involvement with his company to major decisions that would have a significant impact on his ownership value. Throughout his two terms, the mayor repeatedly insisted that he had no involvement in the firm’s day-to-day operations.

However, The New York Times reported that the mayor talked regularly to senior officials at the company about topics ranging from new data terminal sales to expansion into new markets and the general financial performance of the company. He even recruited the company’s spokeswoman.

The Times reports that much of the language of the 2002 ruling with which Bloomberg failed to comply was supplied by Bloomberg’s own lawyers. It also points out that its disclosure is antique, setting forth “Bloomberg L.P.’s top 100 customers” without update since 2002 when, comparatively speaking, Bloomberg was a considerably less bruising presence, his company’s customers now including “virtually every major financial institution in the city.” (The Roles Blur for the Mayor and the Mogul, By Serge F. Kovaleski and Ray Rivera, December 8, 2007.)

The Conflicts of Interest Board’s 2007 opinion is specifically about accommodating the mayor in the continuing acquisition of more wealth. Results speaking for themselves, that is something he had already done very well throughout his administration. Rather than generously giving money away, Bloomberg “donates” money to acquire more personal power and perhaps to acquire still more money as well. It even turns out he is driving up public expenditures on mayoral campaigns! Whereas once upon a time we were told we were going to have a mayor who was so angelically generous that we didn’t have to worry about anything, we now find that we have a mayor so financially omnipresent and capable of corrupting charity that we need to worry about everything.

Noticing New York:

Setting aside conflict-of-interest abuse of charities to enhance personal power, there is also simply the question of Bloomberg’s possible conflict-of-interest abuse to enhance his wealth at taxpayer expense. It should not be disregarded.

The possibility that Bloomberg’s terminal business could involve conflict-of-interest problems got some attention in a January 2002 New York Times article (before the Conflicts of Interest Board ruling) which is almost laughable in the way that it fails to identify the greatest possibilities for conflict-of-interest concern.

Once again, Bloomberg’s ostensibly charitable nature is the grist used in a PR feint: The Times article reports about how Bloomberg, L.P. is “donating” 35 Bloomberg terminals to the city for use by members of the mayor’s staff together with “seven other terminals that were previously being leased by the city’s financial departments” in order to pay “heed to conflict of interest laws that forbid elected officials to sell goods and services to the city.” (See: Mayor Brings His Gadgets, And Thorny Conflict Issues, by Edward Wyatt, January 6, 2002.)

The article almost puffs over the nonviolation of conflict of interest rules:

Mr. Bloomberg and his company will receive no direct financial advantage from the city’s use of the terminals — and as a donation, the terminals violate no conflict of interest rules

and

”The reason for the donation was to alleviate the potential conflict of interest,”

For `balance’ the article fusses over the “reputational capital,” that might be created by the “the commanding presence that the Bloomberg terminals will have at City Hall” . . . “an asset that has value even if it does not show up on a balance sheet” according to “Kevin T. Jackson, an associate professor of business ethics at Fordham University.”

In fact, by the article’s fourth paragraph, it is still talking about how the appearance of the Bloomberg terminal “at City Hall put the Bloomberg, with its sleek monitors and acres of flat-screen space, on the public stage as an object of desire” is a “a product placement that would make any marketing director salivate.

Albeit that product placement and reputational capital idea is a valid concern, what goes unstated in the article is the slightest thought that placing the terminals on “the public stage as an object of desire” can also send a clear message about how easy it could be to deliver benefits equivalent to a kick-back.

This is why it is a critical concern that the Times reported, as noted above, that for years thereafter (emphasis supplied):

the mayor talked regularly to senior officials at the company about topics ranging from new data terminal sales . . . .

Sales of Bloomberg terminals were shooting up in the years just before running for mayor when Bloomberg’s billionaire fortune essentially doubled, according to data available for 1997, 1998 and 1999. (See: The Company He Keeps (for Now), NY Times by Timothy L. O’brien, March 20, 2005.)

But increased sales do not correspond in arithmetic proportion to increases in profit. The industry is somewhat of a diminishing marginal cost business; after a point, most costs have been paid for, so sale of each additional terminal beyond that point is essentially gravy.

If you analyze it, all it takes for New York financial firms to deliver quid-pro-quo benefit to the mayor in a virtually undetectable fashion is for them to order more Bloomberg terminals than they otherwise want or need. And, as noted, each additional terminal is almost pure gravy, pure cash to Bloomberg. For the years that the mayor has been in office, Wall Street has been far and away that largest sector of the city’s economy and, as the Times asserts, Bloomberg does business with “virtually every major financial institution in the city.”

The Times article on the “donated” terminals said that the terminals had been given in part because of Bloomberg’s own comfort with the system:

The donations are not an attempt to further market the Bloomberg name, his aides said. ”It was just the fastest way to get the office set up with computers,” said William T. Cunningham, the mayor’s communications director, who added that the system is the one that Mr. Bloomberg is most comfortable with.

The new hardware lets users get e-mail messages, do word processing, make spreadsheets, surf the Internet, as well as gain access to the news services and financial market data typically offered to Bloomberg customers, all without the bother of flipping between windows on a single screen.

But the system Bloomberg was switching everybody at City Hall over to was not necessarily designed for everybody else’s comfort, as reported in the later 2005 Times article about Bloomberg’s terminal business:

Early Bloomberg users needed to pick their way around the terminals using arcane commands and interfaces, many of which persist today. Mr. Bloomberg believed that once people were trained in how to use a Bloomberg terminal, no matter how confusing, it would make them less inclined to switch to other systems. He also insisted that every new service or data point be bundled inside the Bloomberg and never sold separately, increasing the value of the machine and allowing the company to charge a premium to use one.

Given the lack of separation between Bloomberg business interests and Wall Street, we must inevitably speculate skeptically about poor financial leadership of the Bloomberg administration.

Should anyone feel confident of sufficient separation between the worlds of big mega deal city administration assisted real estate development and the Bloomberg private wealth businesses that are growing so fast. The answer is no, given the troubling conflicts we see at the highest level of the Bloomberg’s administration and business involving Daniel Doctoroff, Patricia Harris and Michael Bloomberg himself.

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October 22, 2009 @ 12:02 pm

Court Rules Stuy Town Owners Must Pay Millions in Damages to Tenants


Nicole Bengiveno/The New York Times

Now the action shifts to the legislature. Financed by real estate developers, landlords and the looming threat of a Bloomberg-financed campaign to deregulate and privatize of what remains of New York’s affordable housing stock, and to finance candidates who agree with his luxury city vision, will the legislators — Democrats and Republicans — cash in their constituents? Stay tuned.

Via The New York Times:

The state’s highest court dealt a financial blow on Thursday morning to the already beleaguered owners of the sprawling Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village complexes in Manhattan when it ruled that they improperly began charging market rents on thousands of apartments.

The ruling by the Court of Appeals may mean that the current owner, a partnership of Tishman Speyer Properties and BlackRock Realty, and the former owner, Metropolitan Life, may have to pay an estimated $200 million in rent overcharges and damages to tenants of about 4,000 apartments.
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October 21, 2009 @ 5:43 pm

Clearing Up the Landlord Propaganda

A letter written by Dan Jacoby:

Dear Ms. Fung:

The “study” on which you reported in the Crain’s article [“Study: Owners of rent-stabilized buildings regular folks, Oct. 20, 2009] is a lesson in falsehoods. The groups who commissioned the study are groups of landlords, so naturally the study reflects what they want to have said.

In this case, the “study” talks about “owners” but not “properties.” Why is there an enormous difference Because one “owner” can own many, many “properties” (just look up Tishman-Speyer, for example). In addition, a “family business” is whatever the owner decides it is; many so-called “family businesses” are in fact privately-owned but very large corporations.

If the study were legitimate, it would show how many rent-stabilized properties have absentee landlords. The one figure, that “31% [of owners] actually live in the buildings they own,” fails to take into account landlords who own more than one building — they can’t live in all their buildings. How many buildings rent-stabilized buildings have their owners living in them? Of course the study doesn’t say, but it’s a long-odds bet that the number is miniscule.

Finally, the “study” claims that, “Roughly 60% of owners said revenues exceeded operating costs.” The key word is “said” — owners say one thing, but that doesn’t make it the truth. The fact is that between maintenance, heat, water, property taxes and other “operating costs,” the typical apartment costs less than $700/mo., while the typical rent is significantly higher, so 40% of the owners may have “said” that they don’t make money, but that is clearly not an accurate statement.

Seriously, if you’re going to report propaganda as straight news you should quit your job and stop pretending to be a journalist. You blew this one; now let’s see if you can make up for it.

Dan Jacoby

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October 20, 2009 @ 4:30 pm

Favoring Bloomberg: The Times’ Double Standard

Does The New York Times have a double standard favoring Mayor Michael Bloomberg? Leonie Haimson, executive director of Class Size Matters, says yes.

Via Leonie Haimson and The Huffington Post:

The New York Times was a great cheerleader for continued mayoral control over our schools – including Bloomberg’s ability to appoint a supermajority of members to the Board of Education (which he likes to call the Panel for Educational Policy, to make clear it has no real power to overrule him.) The paper also supported his overturning of term limits, without a peep of dissent.
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October 20, 2009 @ 12:16 pm

WNYC: Dems Denounce Giuliani’s Comments in Support of Bloomberg

THOMPSON: I think it is unfortunate that the Mayor and Rudy Giuliani have resorted to the politics of division, the politics of fear.

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October 19, 2009 @ 5:11 pm

How Lynne Serpe Can Beat Third Term Wannabe Peter Vallone Jr.

Via City Hall News:

Faced with no primary opponent, Democratic incumbent Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. thought he would cruise to his third term in office. Vallone, who holds the same Queens seat his father held for almost three decades, had only $40,000 on hand a few weeks before election day, and decided to forego matching funds, figuring that they were a waste of taxpayer money.

But that was before Lynne Serpe, a 38-year-old environmental activist and Green Party candidate for the seat announced that she had $100,000 on hand and qualified for over $70,000 in matching funds.

“There are people in the district who have wanted resources that they haven’t gotten in 35 years,” she said. “I think people are ready for a change.”
Read rest of story…

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October 19, 2009 @ 4:44 pm

The Republican Mushroom Cloud is Back

Yikes!!! The Republican Mushroom Cloud is back! You remember Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Tenet—the whole sleazy crowd. We suffer from a national memory disorder and a limited attention span, but really, it wasn’t that long ago.

Better invade Iraq: He’s building nukes. He’s going to blow up the world. Germ warfare. Whaddya want? The smoking gun to turn into a mushroom cloud? And then there were all those colorful terrorist alerts right before key political moments. You remember those?

Well, we know how that one worked out. The fraudsters kept their power, their cronies at Halliburton and the other war-profiteers with the sole source contracts made a bundle, a lot of innocent people died—and are still dying—the country went bankrupt, and they left Obama to try to clean up the mess. And they’re still at it; doing everything they can to stop him.

Now we have the New York City version. Whaddya want? Another Detroit?

Giuliani is campaigning with Bloomberg and telling the ultra- orthodox Jewish voters in Brooklyn that unless Bloomberg is reelected, New York City could become another Detroit. Crime will soar—and you know all the rest. You can almost set it in song:

There’ll be muggers and pederasts, and murderers and buffalo wings; these are a few of Thompson’s favorite things.

Giuliani even threw in a reference to the ovens:

“I think, you know, because of the presence of the Holocaust survivors and so many other things, how important this is, so please vote for a mayor that’s been there for you.”

A mugger lurking behind every shul.

This is maybe the most craven and corrupt piece of garbage we’ve seen in what has become a bottomless pit of political trash.

You remember Giuliani, don’t you? He’s the guy who warned New Yorkers that if George Pataki became governor, it “would usher in a state government “of D’Amato, for D’Amato and by D’Amato.” “If the D’Amato/Pataki crew ever get control ethics will be trashed.” Well, he wasn’t wrong about that. But he said it only because he wanted to take over the Republican Party in New York.

He was also the guy who endorsed D’Amato and helped him win another senate term. Here he is with senator sleaze in a made for Hollywood undercover drug buy.

damato_giuliani

Giuliani helped The Fonz present himself as a drug-busting crime-fighter rather than the sleazy political operator everyone knew him to be. He did it because D’Amato had ruined his first effort at becoming mayor and he didn’t want it to happen again. And now Giuliani is with Bloomberg because the mega billionaire will underwrite his next political move. It’s only tip money for Bloomberg.

As for Bloomberg, remember this one?

This is simple folks—Bloomberg is the guy who put his thumb in our collective eye and said “do something about it—I dare you!”

Well, all those New Yorkers who aren’t enthused about Thompson because he doesn’t have the charisma they yearn for, or because they’ve bought into the $200 million dollar spinmeisters’ tale (my grandmother would call it a bubbameiser) that he’s not competent or that the city will turn into Detroit, all you folks who are thinking about sitting home or worse, voting for these serial liars and con artists deserve what you get. I’m a fed up New Yorker, and I’ll do whatever I can to help Thompson help us take back my city.

This election isn’t about Bill Thompson V. Michael Bloomberg; it’s about Michael Bloomberg V. The People of New York City. I know which side I’m on.

– Neil Fabricant

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