More than anything else, money has been the determining factor in the most lopsided mayor’s race that, mercifully, will end in early November. Regardless of what one thinks of Mayor Bloomberg, it is obvious that any candidate who can spend $64 million (as of the end of October), or 17 times more money than his opponent, stands a pretty good chance of winning. Needless to say, there isn’t much that money can’t buy in this town.
The point of the city’s progressive public financing system—which provides matching funds of up to 6-1 in cases of financially mismatched elections such as the present one—is to create a reasonably level playing field. The justification for candidates like Bloomberg being able to circumvent that system is the Supreme Court’s ruling, in Buckley v. Valeo (1976), that the self-financing of political campaigns is protected under the First Amendment.
But as anyone subjected to Bloomberg’s deluge of ads on the airwaves, in print, and everywhere else knows, a self-financed political campaign isn’t free speech—it’s paid media. Lots of it.
In his dissent to the portion of Buckley v. Valeo dealing with self-financed campaigns, Thurgood Marshall explained quite reasonably that financing restrictions reduced “the natural advantage of the wealthy candidate” and “promoted equal access to the political arena by all potential candidates.” Alas, Marshall’s views now seem quaint, as the Age of Equality ended with the ascent of Ronald Reagan.
The only present obstacle to the reign of Bloomberg is term limits. And we can only hope that Mayor Mike doesn’t finance a campaign to do away with them. Otherwise, future challengers will face a similar fate as the current one, who in this election at least, will be remembered simply as poor Freddy Ferrer.
All of us here at the Rail would like to send a real big “thanks” to Amelia Hennighausen, our outgoing print designer, and Amanda Luker, our outgoing Webmaster. Both did wonderful design work for us. Amelia’s efforts receive further mention on p. 4 of this issue. We are also pleased to welcome the dynamic duo of Kiu Yi and Walter Chiu, who will handle both our print and Web layout and design with continued verve and aplomb.