NYC's Billionaire Mayor Eyes White House

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is the 23rd richest person in the world according to Forbes magazine, has spent $266 million on his three campaigns for mayor. In 2009, he ran the most expensive self-financed campaign in U.S. history, spending $108 million of his own funds. As for his prior mayoral bids, he spent $73 million in 2001 and $85 million in his 2005.
(AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and other potential independent presidential candidates are joining prominent Republican and Democratic centrists at a meeting that will consider the merits of a third-party bid for the White House.

The Jan. 7 event was organized by former Democratic senators David Boren and Sam Nunn, and about a dozen prominent figures are expected to participate, including Bloomberg, former Republican senator John Danforth of Missouri and Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., each of whom has been mentioned as a possible independent candidate.

Plans for the meeting were first reported by The Washington Post.

Boren said the meeting will serve as a form of "shock therapy" to the major-party candidates to stop bickering and provide Americans with a blueprint for bipartisanship in Washington. The event will be at the Norman campus of the University of Oklahoma, where he is president.

"We used to work together across party lines and we used to cooperate with each other," Boren said of his relationships with current and former senators who plan to attend. "It is a message to the two parties: Please rise to the occasion. If you don't, there is always a possibility out there of an independent."

In an interview with the New York Times, Boren suggested that if the prospective major party nominees failed within two months to formally embrace bipartisanship and address the fundamental challenges facing the nation, "I would be among those who would urge Mr. Bloomberg to very seriously consider running for president as an independent."

Bloomberg's spokesman Stu Loeser told the New York Post that "[Bloomberg] is going [to Oklahoma] because he has seen again and again as mayor how hyper-partisanship in Washington isn't just getting in the way of big reforms, it's getting in the way of any meaningful progress on a whole host of issues."

"He's looking forward to the opportunity to sit down with like-minded leaders to try and find solutions," Loeser added.

The meeting comes one day before the New Hampshire primary.

"We need statesmanship, not politics," Boren said. "The meeting in itself implies there could be other possibilities" than a two-party contest.

A Dec. 18 letter from Boren and Nunn to participants asserts that the political system is "at the least, badly bent and many are concluding that it is broken at a time where America must lead boldly at home and abroad. Partisan polarization is preventing us from uniting to meet the challenges that we must face if we are to prevent further erosion of America's power of leadership and example."

"As the letter says, we've literally become a house divided," Boren said. "We really need a government of national unity."

Bloomberg, once a Democrat, then a Republican and now an independent, has denied any interest in running for the presidency even while keeping speculation alive that he might.

"Despite public statements that he has no plans to run as an Independent candidate for president, his staff has laid out exact plans for the press on many occasions," reports senior political editor Vaughn Ververs. "A billionaire businessman who has in the past indicated his future lies in philanthropy could easily spend that money on a campaign instead." (read more in Horserace)

Like the meeting's organizers, the mayor has criticized the tone of the campaign as one of overbearing partisanship. He said last month the country "needs somebody that says, 'I'm going to get the best from both parties.'"

Boren said some of the presidential candidates want to embrace a bipartisan platform but fear being attacked politically if they do so. "Many of the major issues are just not being addressed," he said.