Bloomberg is proud of his self-financed campaigns, often celebrating the fact that he takes no contributions from anyone. But the evidence is mounting—with 33 of Bloomberg LP's top 124 customers having business with the city—that we may be getting the quid without the quo. The mayor's friends and prime-time business supporters appear to be reaping the same rewards as those big donors used to get, only minus the donations, and the circle of insiders that openly rallied to him during the term limits debate is, by and large, the same group that is prospering from his discretionary decisions. The New York City Partnership, co-chaired now by Goldman's Lloyd Blankfein and Rupert Murdoch, has become Bloomberg's modern version of an oldline political club.

Even as the mayor can make the case that his health initiatives and other priorities benefit the poor, his near 100 rezonings, construction deregulations, generous subsidies, and other policies have fed the aura of a government of, for, and by the elites.

When I was in high school, and John Kennedy and Richard Nixon were squaring off, my father helped me craft a list of the qualities and issues we should use to judge the two candidates, a score card so logical that it did not take into account the heart or the gut. I wound up the only kid in my class, at a small Catholic high school in Virginia, willing to champion Nixon in a debate.

Jason Seiler


Research assistance: Steve P. Ercolani, Aaron Howell, L.C.E. Jordan, Kate Rose, Amanda Sakuma, Grace Smith

There is only so far that a checklist of pluses and minuses can carry you, though this one is not as detached as the one I concocted in 1960. I won't let my emotions rule, either, however. I believe that the self-serving reversal of term limits was the greatest abuse of power I have covered in more than three decades on this beat. But elections are choices between names on the ballot—not opportunities to file a protest.

In some ways, this choice is between the Mike Bloomberg of his first and second term, when he moved from determined to distracted. The negatives explored here mushroomed in and after 2005. A city that is shuddering with uncertainties has to figure out which one of the two Bloombergs we are likely to get the third time around.

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