That’s merely the ante, according to one of Michael Bloomberg’s advisors, from which we can expect the former NYC mayor to raise. Bloomberg may or may not run for the presidency himself, but he wants to do everything he can to deny Donald Trump a second term. If that means parting with a single percentage point of Bloomberg’s net worth, Politico reports that Bloomberg has no problem doing so:
Billionaire philanthropist Michael Bloomberg is preparing to spend at least $500 million from his own pocket to deny President Trump a second term, according to Democratic operatives briefed on his plans. …
“That’ll get us through the first few months,” Kevin Sheekey, a top advisor to the former New York City mayor, told POLITICO when asked about the $500 million plan, which is just 1 percent of Bloomberg’s estimated net worth.
“Mike spent $100 million in his last New York City election. And you can do the math as you think more broadly but New York City is 3 percent of the national population,” Sheekey said. “I’m not suggesting it’s straight math. But I’m suggesting that when Mike Bloomberg is committed to making a difference and seeing something though, generally speaking he’s pretty unabashed in doing so.”
Politico calls this Bloomberg’s moonshot. It sounds more like lunacy, but it’s a measure of what we have allowed the presidency to become. It has become an imperial position rather than an executor of the laws passed by a legislature. That development has been driven by a Congress that avoids tough votes in favor of endless posturing, and by rising populism that demands strongman tactics from the executive branch. Small wonder that the titans of business see value in investing in their access to the seat itself; in bygone days, they would just have been satisfied to donate money to leading candidates.
Of course, it’s Bloomberg’s money and he can spend it any way he wants. However, it might not be a very comfortable fit in a party that has insisted on pushing public-funded elections and rails constantly about the need to get money out of politics. Unfortunately Democrats have no one to blame but themselves, for it was Barack Obama who put a spike in the old system that limited presidential-campaign spending. That didn’t necessarily limit a candidate from bringing in his own money, but it would have made it tough for Bloomberg to spend it … theoretically, at least.
On top of that, as Politico points out, Bloomberg will have other headwinds at play if he runs himself. He’s one of the world’s richest men in a party that regularly demonizes billionaires and “the one percent.” He’s an old white male in a party that relies on identity politics, one that will get pressured to find a woman or candidate of color for the nomination. But $500 million will make up for a lot of other disadvantages, as one Democratic operative explained:
“Five hundred million is just an obscene amount of money. It’s crazy, enough to buy up all the TV ad inventory in the seven or eight states that really matter in a primary,” said a Democratic consultant familiar with the plans who privately shared information from a conversation with a top Bloomberg advisor.
All the ad money, all the campaign workers, all of the road signs — you name it, Bloomberg can buy it. With a net worth of $47 billion, Bloomberg could spend $500 million just in 2019 if he chooses to run, or even if he doesn’t. His ultimate goal is to use the money to take over the DNC as Hillary Clinton did, or to eclipse it — whether to support himself as the nominee or his hand-picked candidate.
Will it pay off by stopping Trump? The 2020 election will be tough for Trump even without Bloomberg’s purse clasp opened up. However, it’s far from clear that voters will gravitate to another egotistical billionaire as an alternative to the one that’s already in office. Democrats would be better off with a contrast candidate, not just another flavor of oligarch or robber baron. But I don’t have $500 million to ante up for that bet. Do you?