Bloomberg spends $3 million on third bid so far

March 13, 2009 5:52:27 PM PDT
Billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg has spent just under $3 million of his own money so far on his bid for a third term, setting a more modest spending pace than his last record-shattering campaign. The public gets its first look at the Democrat-turned-Republican-turned-independent mayor's 2009 election spending in a report that the campaign released Friday before filing with the city's Campaign Finance Board next week.

It shows the mayor spent $2.9 million as of March 11, compared with $5 million by this point in 2005. He went on that year to drop $85 million, pummeling his opponent, who spent a total of about $10 million.

When asked last month whether he would agree to cap his spending this time around, Bloomberg said: "I think it's one of the most ridiculous things I've ever heard."

But the founder of the Bloomberg LP financial information company is embarking on his third campaign amid a drastically different economic climate and has argued that New Yorkers need his fiscal expertise for four more years to get through the economic slowdown.

Term-limits law prohibited Bloomberg from seeking another consecutive term, but the mayor successfully pushed to change the law last fall so that he could run again.

Campaign advisers to the mayor, who is not known to spare expenses on his campaigns, say this year's operation will not be "opulent."

While it is true that he has spent less this year when compared with his pace on previous campaigns, Bloomberg is still dwarfing the publicly funded challengers, who must abide by spending limits.

Bloomberg's filing, which covers the period from January 12 to March 11, shows that his biggest costs thus far are a mix of administrative and strategic expenditures as he lays the groundwork for his third-term bid.

Despite declaring just last month that "there is no campaign at the moment," Bloomberg has spent more than $1 million to establish his midtown Manhattan headquarters and the staff who will work there. His new campaign manager, Bradley Tusk, is being paid more than $300,000.

Bloomberg is also starting early on polling and developing a database of voter information, spending some $500,000 thus far. He has poured more than $400,000 into advertising and media consulting and $128,000 into Internet ads and his own Web site.

The former CEO, who is known for his belief that a comfortable office makes for loyal and hardworking employees, has spent tens of thousands of dollars already on office supplies and hundreds on meals for his workers.

The Bloomberg campaign has also found and rented space for campaign offices in the Bronx and Staten Island. A spokesman said offices will open in all five boroughs this month.

Bloomberg, whom Forbes magazine ranks as 17th richest man in the world with an estimated wealth of $16.5 billion, does not take public matching funds and can spend freely as long as he discloses his campaign spending according to the same deadlines as the candidates who accept public financing.

The campaign finance program gives participating candidates $6 in public funds for every $1 raised on contributions of $175 or less.

The leading Democratic candidate, William Thompson Jr., did not release his latest reports on Friday. Supermarket mogul John Catsimatidis, who is using his own money to explore a possible Republican bid, planned to release his on Monday, a spokesman said.