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Promises, promises: Bloomberg cuts staffers loose despite one-year pledge

Give Michael Bloomberg credit for yet another campaign innovation. Normally, politicians wait until they’ve won at least one election before reneging on their campaign promises. Instead, Bloomberg’s breaking his promise to keep much of his paid staff under salary through November after winning nothing at all, although he’s giving them used tech equipment as a parting gift, according to Politico:

Mike Bloomberg’s shuttered presidential campaign is dismissing staffers across the country and inviting them to reapply for jobs on his new independent committee — despite extending guarantees of being paid through the November election when they were hired.

The consolation prize: They get to keep their Bloomberg-issued iPhones and MacBooks.

Multiple Bloomberg aides told POLITICO they participated in termination calls with the campaign on Monday. Some of them complained after the calls that they were originally told they would be paid by Bloomberg though the November general election regardless of whether he remained in the race. Most staffers will receive their last paycheck on March 31, sources said.

So much for the Bloomberg economic stimulus! Those souvenirs must feel pretty sweet, though, to people who just lost eight months of promised salary. Did Team Bloomberg offer to unlock them, or will those iPhones and MacBooks be used to monitor NDAs?

This is a good lesson in the difference between a promise and a signed contract. A promise can have the same force as a contract, but it’s not easy to prove that the promise existed without it being in writing. A contract can be broken too, for that matter, but not without some consequence to the one who breaks it.

In this case, though, it might be that even a contract wouldn’t help. The Bloomberg team insists that FEC regulations force it to reincorporate into another entity, which requires a complete reorganization. They still plan to operate in six swing states, but they have to clear the decks first — or so they claim.

Their team members aren’t buying that explanation:

Federal rules require that Bloomberg designate a new vehicle to fund Democratic efforts and pay staffers. Three aides who were on different calls with the campaign said those possible jobs with the outside group were not presented as being guaranteed.

Said a staffer, “I think they are using the FEC regulations as an excuse to lay off a bunch of people” because they have to set up a new entity.

One has to wonder just how effective Bloomberg’s new organization will be anyway, but especially after this show of loyalty. The former mayor pledged to spend up to a billion dollars against Donald Trump, whether Bloomberg won the nomination or not. That kind of money and organization will come in handy if Joe Biden wins the nomination, given Biden’s lack of talent in both areas. He has routinely come up short when running for national office on funds and organizational strength.

The problem for Bloomberg is that money doesn’t actually buy enthusiasm or effective organization. If it did, Bloomberg would have a delegate lead right now, having spent somewhere between $540-700 million over the last four months before Super Tuesday. Instead, Bloomberg only got a few dozen delegates in fifteen states and never seriously contended in any of them, despite saturating the airwaves in all 15 states. (Every commercial break in the Twin Cities seemed to feature at least one Bloomberg ad since at least the Super Bowl, and yet he only got 8% of the vote here in Minnesota.)

The problem for Bloomberg is that he was a lousy candidate. Putting all of that money behind a good candidate might produce enough of a shift in the electorate to matter. Putting it behind another lousy candidate, however, one who has trouble sticking to his message and sometimes being coherent, does not sound like a promising prospect. Combine that with an organization that just screwed its own people — and whose remaining staff saw how they were treated by its wealthy patron — and excellence is likely to be a far-off goal. Bloomberg might do better putting the money into lottery tickets instead.