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Bloomberg: The Power, Pitfalls of Wealth and Fame
Bob Franken.jpg
Bob Franken is an Emmy winning, syndicated columnist. - photo by File photo

This will be sacrilege to “Never Trumpers,” but Michael Bloomberg and Donald Trump share some similarities. It is true that Bloomberg’s charitable foundation actually does good work, while Donald Trump had to pay a $2 million fine for basically using his for self-promotion. And it is true that Bloomberg has financed gun control efforts, while Trump, as president, has groveled before the National Rifle Association.

It is also true that the Donald now calls himself a Republican -- in fact, he’s taken over the party -- but he has switched between GOP, Democratic and even independent in his past. The Michael has a similarly checkered past, running as a Democrat in his current incarnation, but he was mayor of New York City as a Republican.

Bloomberg is filthy rich, worth more than $50 billion, and Donald Trump claims to be, although he refuses to release his tax returns, so we just have to take his word on that, and we know how much his word is worth. Bloomberg also has been stingy about making his tax returns public, but what he has shared is enough for the astute accountants to estimate he could buy Trump’s holdings out of petty cash.

It’s what they do with their wealth that is the same -- obnoxiously the same. What they do is mishandle what they own. Much has been made of the Trumpster refusing to divest his properties and facing lawsuits charging him with violating the “emoluments clause.” The founders believed that a president must avoid profiting from the office, so much so that they made it part of the Constitution. It sure looks like his administration is for sale, to the point that it’s surprising he doesn’t do TV ads that come with a 1-800 number. What could be worse than that, you ask?

How about a superrich guy who accumulated his massive wealth mainly in the media biz -- most notable publicly are Bloomberg News and Bloomberg Opinion. The boss has decreed that neither will do investigative pieces on him or any other Democratic candidate, nor will they do any unsigned editorials about them. That basically cuts the heart out of any organization that pretends to do journalism, reducing it to what several have called “stenographers,” reporting candidate PR releases and doing “he said, she said” news.

Bloomberg’s explanation is that it’s the only way he could guarantee credibility for his properties. Besides, as he said last year: “I don’t want the reporters I’m paying to write a bad story about me. I don’t want them to be independent.” 

Here’s how he could save its credibility, and here’s where he’s also similar to Trump: Both can dispose of their properties, or at least place them out of their reach, thereby avoiding the stigma of wealth. Trump wears it proudly, and Bloomberg is spending hundreds of millions of dollars mainly on TV to foist himself on the American public. Of course he’s also antagonizing the American public, because no matter where viewers watch, they see the same ad, almost as much as Black Friday commercials. Actually, did Donald Trump let a good merchandising idea pass him by?

Unfortunately, it occurs to so many really, really rich guys that their superwealth means they could be president. They should know that buying an election is not the American way. Is it? 

Bob Franken is an Emmy Award-winning reporter who covered Washington for more than 20 years with CNN.

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