The Ego Candidates

Bloomberg Lands First Endorsement: Abe Hirschfeld

At this point, Bloomberg's handlers are keeping the would-be candidate away from most reporters except those from national magazines. The man who wrote in his 1997 autobiography, Bloomberg by Bloomberg, that, as a bachelor trader, he "had a girlfriend in every city" shoots from the hip, and no one's taking any chances at this point. Not since Bloomberg gave a what-me-worry interview to the Times' Elizabeth Bumiller in January has a local political reporter won a sit-down with him. In the interview, Bloomberg cried foul at being referred to as a billionaire. "Would you rather elect a poor person who didn't succeed?" he demanded. Asked about what he does with his money, Bloomberg grew testy. "I don't have to answer questions about the size or spirit or duration of my philanthropy," he said.

A curious answer from a guy who is said to have given $100 million last year to more than 500 organizations. There's certainly no reason to doubt Bloomberg's charity. As a young stock trader, he was a volunteer literacy teacher in poor neighborhoods. But, as with his campaign expenses, aides are holding back details about his income and philanthropy.

The only public documents currently available on Bloomberg's donations depict someone whose concerns are more Upper East Side than East Harlem. The Michael R. Bloomberg Family Foundation Trust's report to the IRS for 1999 lists $9.5 million in contributions, more than half of it to the exclusive private girls' schools attended by Bloomberg's two daughters. The Spence School on Park Avenue got $5 million and the Purnell School in New Jersey got $250,000. The foundation gave $2.5 million to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, $1.25 million to the Jewish Museum, $333,000 to Hadassah Medical Relief, and $100,000 to the United Jewish Appeal. It also doled out $110,000 to the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Team Foundation.

Bloomberg's aides say the foundation represents just a small part of a big picture that will soon be revealed. In another openhearted gesture, the would-be mayor made news last month when he said that if elected, he would take just $1 in pay. That just shows he has a lot to learn, said the gray-haired sage of the Queens House of D. "That was a big mistake. He shouldn't say he will take only $1. Give it your full time, get paid—then do with the money what you want. Spend it on charity, girls, whatever."

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