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Bloomberg Funds Campaign-Style Ad Rebutting Foes

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Mayor Michael Bloomberg (credit: Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images)

Mayor Michael Bloomberg (credit: Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Mayor Michael Bloomberg is paying hundreds of thousands of dollars out of his own pocket to fund campaign-style television ads touting his budget plan in what his administration says is an effort to rebut critical advertising funded by unions representing the city’s teachers and municipal workers.

The ads are set to launch Wednesday, a week after the release of a Quinnipiac University poll that found the mayor’s approval ratings had fallen to the lowest they’ve been in eight years. But Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson said they are primarily a response to $3 million in television and radio advertising by the United Federation of Teachers and the AFL-CIO.

“There’s been a vacuum on television in the last month. The UFT has had their say. The AFL-CIO has had their say on radio. And now it’s time for the mayor to have his say on behalf of New York City,” Wolfson said.

The billionaire mayor will pay in the “upper six figures” for one week of ads on network and cable TV in the New York City market, Wolfson said Tuesday.

Using scenes from old campaign footage featuring Bloomberg talking to workers and schoolchildren, the 30-second spot touts the mayor’s budget plan for the city and his effort to win state approval to eliminate seniority protections for teachers. It’s produced by Squier Knapp Dunn Communications, the same media firm that did the mayor’s campaign ads.

As the ad ends, the voiceover says: “Independence – not for the special interests, but for all New Yorkers,” as the words “Mike Bloomberg” and “independence” appear over the city skyline.

It appears to be an ad promoting Bloomberg himself rather than his budget, said political scientist Doug Muzzio, a professor at Baruch College.

‘Sure looks like he’s running for something,” he said.

But, Muzzio said, that something may not be an elected position and might actually be more akin to “running for independent wise man.” In the heightened political climate in Albany, where legislators are in a final push to make a budget deadline at the end of the month, such heavy campaigning is not out of place, he said.

“He’s not running for anything, as he has said many times,” Wolfson said of the third-term mayor.

The mayor’s office said the UFT had spent an estimated $2.7 million on ads that accuse Bloomberg of unnecessarily pushing for teacher layoffs and refusing to raise taxes on the wealthiest New Yorkers. The union declined to confirm those numbers. The office said the AFL-CIO has spent about $250,000 on radio spots linking the mayor with the actions of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who recently signed a law that ends most collective bargaining rights for public workers in his state.

“Instead of pulling out his checkbook in a vain attempt to change New Yorkers’ minds, the mayor should just admit that teacher layoffs are unnecessary and join us in getting a fair budget from Albany, including an extension of the millionaires’ tax that would help prevent drastic cuts to our workforce and our schools,” UFT President Michael Mulgrew said in a statement responding to the release of the mayor’s ad, which was first reported by news station NY1.

The Senate’s Republican majority, long allied with Bloomberg, is pushing for the mayor’s teacher-seniority effort in budget negotiations. But it faces an unlikely future because of opposition by the Assembly’s Democratic majority and Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s competing plan to create an independent teacher evaluation system first.

The so-called millionaire’s tax advocated by both the UFT and AFL-CIO faces even less of a chance in closed-door negotiations, according to reports from lawmakers and the governor’s office. Cuomo strongly opposes it and says he won’t bend on his basic principles, while Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, a Nassau County Republican, said the issue is dead.

 (Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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