No one quite knows the direction Democrats will take in the 2020 presidential primary. The basics are obvious: whoever wins the nomination will prefer some sort of intrusive government solution to alleged problems including higher spending and further erode the legislative process set up in the Constitution. Whether it’s the populist democratic socialism of Bernie Sanders, the blank slate of Pete Buttigieg or the so-called ‘return to normalcy’ of Joe Biden is yet to be seen.

One possible wildcard is Michael Bloomberg. The billionaire isn’t the choice of the social media commentariat, partially for the despicable stop and frisk policy he pushed while New York City mayor but also because he was a ‘Republican’ for most of his time in office. One must not forget the only reason Bloomberg registered Republican from Democrat was to ride Rudy Giuliani’s coattails into City Hall. He also has yet to appear on the debate stage and is spending most of his money on television and web ads.

Yet, endorsements are pouring in for Bloomberg mainly from mayors. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner lauded Bloomberg as someone who recognized the need to invest in people and places. Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa called Bloomberg someone who wants to increase the quality of life for all and ex-Flint Mayor Karen Weaver suggested a potential Bloomberg presidency would focus on clean air and clean water. More than 100 other U.S mayors are part of Bloomberg’s Mayors for Mike campaign.

Why are all these endorsements rolling in? Graft or, at least, the appearance of it.

A search of Bloomberg Philanthropies’ annual report and the Mayors for Mike campaign finds a rather astonishing crossover between names. At least eight mayors endorsing Bloomberg’s run for president are from cities that received money from Bloomberg Philanthropies. These include the aforementioned Turner and Villaraigosa along with Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles, Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, and Huntington Mayor Steve Williams. Two former mayors, Michael Nutter of Philadelphia and Bill White of Houston, saw money come to their cities via Bloomberg although both were after they were out of office. Former Miami Mayor Manny Diaz endorsed Bloomberg and also just happens (note sarcasm) to be on the Bloomberg Philanthropies board.

Quite curious of a coincidence.

Bloomberg’s involvement in Democratic Party politics is astounding. His Independence USA PAC spent $110M in 2019 on congressional candidates. Former Virginia Governor Terry McAullife told The New York Times he believed Bloomberg was one of the most important Democratic donors over the last several election cycles. McAuliffe has yet to make an endorsement in 2020 but he did appear with Bloomberg at a news conference last month.

The campaign may be working. Bloomberg was recently first in a poll of likely Florida voters in the Democratic presidential primary. He placed third in North Carolina’s most recent poll and fourth in Texas’ most recent poll, just five points out of third.

T.A. Frank at Vanity Fair suggested Bloomberg’s rise could end up hurting Sanders the most because the former might take over the so-called center lane in the Democratic primary. This ignores the fact, pointed out by Matt Lewis at The Daily Beast, that Bloomberg is an authoritarian of the highest degree and praised Chinese President Xi Jianping as “not a dictator” to PBS last September. His bizarre reasoning was Xi has a constituency to answer to even though he’s not elected by the people. And you thought Sanders’ decision to spend his honeymoon in the Soviet Union was bad.

So much for that ‘center lane.’

Bloomberg would likely get more of a welcome by the establishment and so-called centrist Democrat voters because he’s not a populist. Populist forces tend to be more strident in their support and can resort to violence when they feel necessary. However, Bloomberg is corrupt in the sense he’s using his philanthropic network to garner endorsements from those who are fearful the money train might suddenly switch off. One has to wonder if Bloomberg’s philanthropical efforts are simply a calculated move to ascend to the presidency at the right time.

Those who might consider a Bloomberg vote due to local support need to follow the money before casting any ballots.