Bloomberg denies his wealth intimidates challengers

March 12, 2009 4:48:17 PM PDT
Billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Thursday he doesn't believe his wealth is intimidating potential challengers and causing them to sit out of the mayor's race this year. A day after a leading Democratic contender, U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner, signaled he might opt out of the race because he wants to focus on the economic crisis in Washington, Bloomberg was asked if his ability to spend without limit is affecting the field of contenders.

The Democrat-turned-Republican-turned-independent mayor, who spent $85 million on his 2005 re-election while his opponent spent $10 million, noted there are still at least two Democrats running in this year's primary. In this left-leaning city, however, a Democratic mayoral primary typically draws four or five major candidates.

Before Weiner told supporters this week that he was re-evaluating his political future and might not run, Council Speaker Christine Quinn said last year she would not run for mayor and would instead seek re-election to her council seat.

Bloomberg said independent wealth or other perceived advantages should not make a difference or disqualify anyone from politics. He built his fortune after founding the financial information company Bloomberg LP in the early 1980s.

"Some are lucky enough to have inherited money, some are lucky enough to have made a lot of money, some are lucky enough to go to great schools," Bloomberg said. "We don't preclude you from running because you got a better education than I did or are better looking or more photogenic or whatever. There are a lot of different things that go into it."

Weiner has not said publicly that Bloomberg's money is the problem, but advisers acknowledge that it makes the race much more difficult to win.

Forbes magazine this week estimated Bloomberg's worth at $16 billion, making him the 17th richest person in the world, although other estimates have been as high as $20 billion. Forbes raised the estimate from last year's $11.5 billion after Bloomberg bought back a greater stake in his company from Merrill Lynch.

The mayor, who gives hundreds of millions away to charity each year, was asked Thursday about the new Forbes ranking, and he dismissed it as "relatively meaningless."

"My focus in terms of money is on philanthropy, and that's where it's going to stay," he said. "Everything's going to go to philanthropy, either directly or through the company or through the foundation, and this just lets me do more of that, and that's great."


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