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Six questions Mike Bloomberg must answer

Michael BloombergMichael BloombergYang: 'Defund the police is the wrong approach for New York City' New York mayoral candidates go viral for vastly underestimating housing costs Melinda Gates tapped divorce lawyers in 2019 after Epstein links to husband: report MORE will finally appear on a debate stage tonight, and you can be sure his rivals will be gunning for him. He and five other candidates vying for the Democratic nomination will meet in Las Vegas, just days before the Nevada caucuses on February 22. Bloomberg made the cut for the debate by scoring more than 10 percent in four national polls; the most recent qualifying survey was a NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist survey showing the former New York City mayor with 19 percent of the vote nation-wide.

The Democratic National Committee changed the rules to make way for the New York billionaire. Formerly, candidates had to meet a certain donor threshold to take the stage. Since Bloomberg is self-funding his campaign, on which he has already spent at least a half billion dollars, including more than $400 million on ad buys, he was not able to participate.

Money talks, and that has changed. It was a wise step for the DNC. Ratings have plummeted as candidates go round and round on the same issues, especially health care, leaving audiences paralyzed with boredom. Allowing Bloomberg to join the fun will not only boost audiences, it will allow voters to get a glimpse of the real man behind the polished-up fellow plastered all over their TV sets and news feeds, who up until now has not been tested through either debates or the kind of free-wheeling town halls that can expose a candidate’s weaknesses.

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That lack of exposure is not fair to the other candidates, who have been slugging it out for months. It is also not fair to voters. In any event, the public will finally get a look at the 67 billion-dollar man. And they will no doubt hear him challenged on a number of fronts.

As he has climbed in the polls, much has been written about Bloomberg’s seeming change of heart on several issues – stop-and-frisk, financial services regulation, higher taxes and so forth – all of which will likely produce fireworks in Nevada.

It also will prompt several important questions. Here are six that should be asked:

1) Mayor Bloomberg: You have argued persuasively in the past that getting guns off the streets makes neighborhoods, and especially those in minority communities, safer. In New York City, you used stop-and-frisk to remove thousands of guns from would-be troublemakers. Today, you say that was a mistake. But the number of homicides in New York, while still at a low level, is increasing now; might that be the result of reversing stop-and-frisk? At what point should city officials return to stop-and-frisk in order to save black and brown lives?

2) As mayor of New York City, you were a strong advocate for school choice, and an enthusiastic backer of charter schools. During your 12-year tenure, New York City saw the number of charter schools grow from 18, serving 4,000 students, to 183, with over 71,000 children. All of your rivals support the status quo in education, and in particular, advocate handing even more money over to our existing schools and institutions, even though as a country we spend more per pupil than nearly any other country. In addition, Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenSanders: Netanyahu has cultivated 'racist nationalism' Tensions mount among Democrats over US-Israel policy Warren says Republican Party 'eating itself and it is discovering that the meal is poisonous' MORE (D-Mass.) and Bernie SandersBernie SandersSanders: Netanyahu has cultivated 'racist nationalism' Former OMB pick Neera Tanden to serve as senior adviser to Biden Tensions mount among Democrats over US-Israel policy MORE (I-Vt.) would eliminate all federal funding for charter schools. Why are you right to push for school choice, and your competitors wrong to line up behind the teachers’ unions?

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3) The New York Times has reported that activist Tom SteyerTom SteyerTop 12 political donors accounted for almost 1 of every 13 dollars raised since 2009: study California Democrats weigh their recall options Why we should be leery of companies entering political fray MORE and Bernie Sanders have received endorsements from black leaders who in some cases are also on their campaigns’ payrolls, raising questions about possible quid pro quos. Federal campaign records show that Sanders, for instance, paid consulting fees to at least one African-American member of the South Carolina legislature, who in turn officially signed on to supporting his campaign. You have recently announced many African-American endorsements. Have any of those individuals or companies associated with them been hired by your campaign in any capacity, or have you made charitable donations to organizations tied to those backers?

4) In the past, you have staunchly opposed increased taxes on and heightened regulation of Wall Street. And yet you have just recently proposed a transaction tax of 0.1 percent on every trade. Studies show that in countries where a transaction tax has been implemented, such as Sweden and France, the volatility of markets goes up and the liquidity of the markets goes down. You cite the United Kingdom as a country in which a transaction tax has not hurt markets, but in that case the government exempted more than 60 percent of all trades. Why would a transaction tax, which would raise costs and might reduce liquidity, be a good thing for the 52 percent of Americans who own stocks?

5) You have promised to spend “whatever it takes” to defeat President TrumpDonald TrumpVirginia GOP gubernatorial nominee acknowledges Biden was 'legitimately' elected Biden meets with DACA recipients on immigration reform Overnight Health Care: States begin lifting mask mandates after new CDC guidance | Walmart, Trader Joe's will no longer require customers to wear masks | CDC finds Pfizer, Moderna vaccines 94 percent effective in health workers MORE, even if you are not the nominee. Would you spend $1 billion to elect Bernie Sanders, even if it meant that he might implement socialist policies that you have claimed would jeopardize the U.S. economy and hurt American workers? Don’t policies trump personality? 

6) You have denounced President Trump’s “hateful rhetoric” and say he is divisive; you portray yourself as the adult in the room. And yet in a tweet you called the president a “carnival barking clown"; are you really elevating the discourse? 

Liz Peek is a former partner of major bracket Wall Street firm Wertheim & Company. Follow her on Twitter @lizpeek.