Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Goliath Beats David -- Mike's Millions Win in a Landslide

As Lisa Colangelo and David Saltonstall report in the New York Daily News, billionaire mayor Mike Bloomberg eked out a record-setting victoy in yesterday's New York City mayor's race over opponent Fernando Ferrer. Not including the $250,000 he threw down for his victory party last night, Bloomberg spent some $66.3 million and counting on the race, nearly $92 for each of the 720,000 votes he received.

Ferrer spent around $8 million.

Bloomberg is worth $5.1 billion, ranking him the 40th richest person in the U.S., according to Forbes. New Yorkers will tell you that Mike's millions went to flood their television sets with his ads, their telephones with the recorded messages of his flacks, and their mailboxes with his campaign mailings.

And Ferrer? Ferrer was forced to stay off the air until the campaign's waning days, when the election was all but decided.

Wealth need not decide elections like this. Media outlets could provide free airtime for debates. Ferrer and Bloomberg had one televised debate. Or the city could pass mandatory spending limits for city races, much like Vermont did for state races. This would at help prevent the buying of democracy that the nation's billionaires thrive upon. Instead, they tinker at the edges of the city's public financing system.

As long as wealth determines election outcomes, ordinary Americans will be scarcely represented in this democracy. And as long as the people occupying office got there by outspending their opponents, the rest of us can count on very little help to solve this problem.

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