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Tuesday, 17 July, 2001, 13:46 GMT 14:46 UK
Bloomberg spends mightily in New York
Manhattan by night
New York is one of the most expensive cities in the US
By BBC News Online's North America Business Reporter, David Schepp

It is not easy hiding that you are rich.

And when you are running for mayor of New York, like Michael Bloomberg, and outspending all your opponents put together, well, it is darn near impossible.

Billionaire businessman Michael Bloomberg, founder of the media company that bears his name, so far has spent $8m (5.7m) in pursuit of New York's mayoral office, according to documents filed at the City Board of Elections.

Mike Bloomberg
Bloomberg: Has spent $8m thus far to become mayor

Mr Bloomberg is fast approaching spending more than any other candidate has in his pursuit to replace current Republican Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who after two terms can no longer serve due to term limits.

Mr Bloomberg easily outspent his four Democratic opponents, who are permitted to spend up to $5.5m (3.93m) each by 11 September, the date of the primary election, which will determine which two candidates will vie for the office.

Cash controversy

Mr Bloomberg has no qualms about dipping into his own personal fortune in his bid for Big Apple mayor, telling reporters on Monday that he offers no apologies for his spending spree.

Critics have accused Mr Bloomberg of buying the election, while his opponents say his high-handed spending is dirtying the election.

Controversy struck last week when Mr Bloomberg did his best to avoid telling the media - and by extension New York City residents - how much he made last year.

Michael Bloomberg has laid out $8m easily outspending his rivals

While his disclosure fell within the guidelines of local election law, it opened him up to further criticism by his opponents and the media.

It has put him under a microscope already tightly screwed down.

Business concerns

Mr Bloomberg cited concerns over some proprietary business information that may be contained within his tax returns.

As the major stakeholder in his company (controlling over 60%), he says that much could be revealed to his competitors about Bloomberg the company should his financial statements be made public.

He was, however, very forthcomiing about his generous charitable donations, having donated over $100m (71.4m) of his wealth to charity in 2000 alone.

But his lack of openness over other matters perhaps speaks volumes about the complicated man who last year began mounting his campaign to become the next Republican mayor of the Big Apple.

New York is an overwhelmingly Democratic city, with over 60% of its residents registered as Democrats. Mr Bloomberg was among them until he began his bid for mayor.

But the long odds of another Republican securing the office - along with four Democratic mayoral contenders - has not stopped the 60-year-old candidate from forging ahead with his campaign.

Harsh criticism

Neither have lashings from the press, which has taken him to task for running television ads in which he says that he will not rely on taxpayers' money to run for office.

"Under the city's programme of campaign-finance regulation, participating candidates agree to spending and contribution limits in exchange for getting matching funds from the city," explained New York Times columnist Joyce Purnick.

Ms Purnick has been one of the vocal critics who have viewed Mr Bloomberg's refusal of public money a political cheap shot, aimed at the four Democratic contenders.

The campaign laws clearly lay out who is getting how much and - since it is from the taxpayers' wallet - from where.

Buying elections

It is a crucial question because some are concerned that given his immense wealth Mr Bloomberg could "buy" the election by outspending his competitors in television, radio and newspaper advertisements and through other forms of publicity.

As part of his media empire, Bloomberg operates an AM-band, all-news radio station in New York.

Rich businessmen, aspiring to become politicos and spending millions to do so are not without precedent in the New York region.

Last year, Jon Corzine, a former co-chief executive at investment-banking firm Goldman Sachs, ploughed the millions he had earned into a hotly contested run for the US Senate in neighbouring New Jersey - and won.

Mr Corzine now has the dubious honour of spending the most money ever - over $60m (43m) - for a US Senate seat.

Riding on Rudy's coat tails

Mr Bloomberg is building part of his campaign strategy on the success of New York's current mayor, Rudolph Giuliani.

New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani
Rudolph Giuliani spent $11.8m in his last bid for mayor

While Mr Giuliani is criticised heavily by some citizens for the city's rough hand in civil-rights matters, many New Yorkers are appreciative of his efforts to reduce crime and to make New York a more liveable city.

Giuliani-backers often say he has given the city back to the people.

Mr Bloomberg's pitch is to continue the Giuliani firmness of policy, extending it to a determination to improve education.

With his days numbered, so are the days of Giuliani's mandate, critics say, and the city is a different place.

Whether they are right will be Mr Bloomberg's making or breaking as a politician in a city that has more than its fair share of egos.

Mr Bloomberg is an overachiever who feels his business leadership can translate to political leadership.

In order to succeed he must convince sceptical voters that his ego remains an asset.

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See also:

05 Jun 01 | Americas
Billionaire eyes Big Apple
15 Sep 00 | Americas
Giuliani shrugs off prostate op
20 May 00 | Americas
Profile: Mayor Rudolph Giuliani
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