Buying a Billionaire?
March 28th, 2007
The conventional wisdom has long been that Mayor Michael Bloomberg remains immune to the blandishments of special interests, since he is too rich to be bought. And certainly the mayor has not needed a penny of campaign contributions to finance his $70 million plus election campaigns.
But does that mean money is not one way to this man’s heart?
Forest City Ratner, developer of Atlantic Yards, gave between $450,000 and $1 million to a “nonprofit closely associated” with Bloomberg, just as the debate over the controversial megaproject was heating up, Matthew Schuerman reports in today’s Observer. The firm’s Bruce Ratner is a registered lobbyist, and according to Schuerman, “The donation came six months after a meeting with Mr. Bloomberg and Deputy Mayor Patricia Harris that… Ratner reported was a lobbying contact—although the parties now dispute that it should have been characterized as such.”
Much of the money was earmarked for restoration of the Coney Island carousel “It is not the same as a campaign contribution, but it nevertheless is a contribution to a cause that is dear to the mayor’s heart,” said Megan Quattlebaum, the associate director of Common Cause New York, a watchdog organization. “Forest City Ratner has used a number of different strategies to advance the Atlantic Yards project. The open question for the public is whether this is part of the larger effort.”
The account, writes No Land Grab, a blog that opposes Atlantic Yards, answers a question that puzzled some New Yorkers: “How does The Brucester get every top politician on his side, though he’s been telling everyone for years that he no longer contributes to political campaigns?” (His relatives do, though.)
This is not the first time the issue of contributions has arisen. When Bloomberg and his Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff were still fantasizing about New York as the site of the 2012 Olympics, businesses gave millions to NYC 2012. Although WNYC could not find a “quid pro quo,” its Andrea Bernstein reported at the time, “Some donors… told us they felt they HAD to give, but they didn’t want their names used for fear of souring city business deals. One businessman said Doctoroff told him – after a city hall meeting on a non-Olympics-related matter, that he’d hear from Jay Kriegal, executive director of NYC2012. He did, and he gave a six figure contribution.”
More recently, in his capacity as chair of the World Trade Center Memorial Foundation, Bloomberg has not been shy about hitting up developers – developers who have business with the city – for big bucks. And as one told the Observer earlier this year, “When the mayor of the city in which you are doing business asks you for money, it is almost impossible for you to say no.”By Gail Robinson on March 28, 2007, 9:18 am
In category: Electoral Politics, Gotham City, Land Use | 1 Comment »