February 11th, 2011
This blog has been updated to try to make clearer which actions were taken by Bloomberg LP and which by the Bloomberg administration.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg likes to slam politics as usual, attack special interests and portray himself as someone who’s above all that. Yet, as an article in The Nation spells out, Bloomberg can play the game of politics with the best of them when it comes to his own special interest — his company, Bloomberg LP, and the man himself.
In the article, Aram Roston describes how Bloomberg LP hired high-priced lobbyists who set up an organization with the lofty – and admirable — name Coalition for Competition in Media to push the Federal Communications Commission and the Justice Department to block the merger of NBC and Comcast. The merger went through — to the dismay of many who really want competition in media — but Bloomberg LP, according to the Nation, prevailed anyway. In approving the deal, the FCC required Comcast to group similar channels together — a victory for the nascent Bloomberg financial cable TV channel. This apparently was what he wanted all along.
To accomplish his victory, Bloomberg LP did a few things familiar to all of us in New York who have watched Mayor Bloomberg over the past nine years.
(The details after the jump.)
His company, which he still plays a role in, spent money freely to hire who it wanted (remember all those campaign bonuses?). Those hired guns then set up a group with a seemingly innocuous title to promote Bloomberg’s “cause,” pulling in many whose interest wasn’t quite so vested. (See Learn NY, set up to push for mayoral control of schools, financed with a lot of money from ally and fellow billionaire Bill Gates) and fronted by Geoffrey Canada, whose Harlem Children’s Zone has received money both from the city and from the mayor himself.
Through this, Roston finds a blurry line between the Bloomberg administration and the mayor’s business interests. Daniel Doctoroff, who as president of Bloomberg LP put out a statement lauding the FCC decision, once served as deputy mayor. To lobby against the merger — and to create the coalition — Bloomberg LP hired the Glover Park Group, a firm partly owned by Howard Wolfson, who now is another deputy mayor. (If you’re keeping track Wolfson replaced Kevin Sheekey, who now works for Bloomberg LP.)
“To sum up,” Roston says, “Seven months after Wolfson went to work for Mayor Bloomberg’s administration in New York, Wolfson’s former company, Glover Park Group, registered as a lobbyist for Bloomberg’s company in Washington.” Wolfson said he divested himself of interest in the firm when he joined the administration.
As for Bloomberg’s own involvement in all this, Roston writes, “Though Bloomberg doesn’t run the day-to-day affairs of Bloomberg LP, he still owns almost all the shares, handpicks the firm’s managers, talks with them as much as he feels he needs to, and therefore imposes his own will on the firm when he likes.”
Roston goes on to say that New York’s “ineffectual” Conflicts of Interest Board “allows him to “maintain the type of involvement that he believes is consistent with his being the majority shareholder.”
He neglects to note that the mayor appoints the board members.By Gail Robinson on February 11, 2011, 10:03 am
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