The Bloomberg-Berlusconi Axis: Mark Green Hits the Big Money Boys

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Office of the Mayor
There's a tough column today by Mark Green (on Huffington Post and in this week's Observer), a reminder that, no matter how much the ex-candidate sometimes gets on our nerves, he always has something smart to say.

Green's subject is the growing trend of mega-millionaires jumping into politics, with an emphasis on our own City Hall exec whom he dubs "the Berlusconi of New York" (the comparison appears to be limited to the fact that both the mayor and the Italian prime minister are billionaire pols who made their dough in communications, not their respective libidos).

Green cites the California Republican primary wins of ex-eBay chief Meg Whitman and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina who "pulled a Bloomberg" by spending a combined $100 million out of their own deep pockets.

That, plus the mayor's annual two-hour Tour de Wallet in which he gives reporters that much time and no more to scour his personal financial filings, Green says, made Bloomberg pop "up on my radar." (Actually, we'd bet Bloomberg has been popping up out of Green's cornflakes every morning since he lost a squeaker to the mayor in 2001).

The former Nader's Raider was also rightly disturbed by the Supreme Court's decision last week to refuse to review the ruling that knocked out Arizona's clean money law (just in time for the statewide immigrant purge there).

Money doesn't guarantee victory, Green acknowledges. But the tennis fan asks: "Who's favored if the world's 100th-ranked tennis player gets five serves per point while Roger Federer gets just one?"

If that sounds like someone who's still bitter about watching a huge lead vanish as he was outspent by some $50 million in that almost decade-old mayoral race there's good reason. And it doesn't make him wrong. He writes:

The more billionaire candidates run and win and serve because of their undeniable financial edge, the more democracy evolves into plutocracy. Let's look ahead 10 or 20 years. Every cycle, we'll likely see more such one-sided financial disparities, with more predictable results. The quiet casualties are tens of thousands of talented women and men who will never run and serve because they're priced out of the process. ... Are we really going to go back to the future when rich people openly bought offices in the Gilded Age, before the direct election of senators?

Makes you wonder a little what political life might be like in this town had Green won his bid last fall for a second round as Public Advocate. (Ok, he'd be fighting to save his budget, just like winner Bill de Blasio is doing. But with much sharper elbows.)

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