Billionaire Mike Bloomberg’s deep pockets and history of political spending seem to have benefited the Democratic presidential candidate as the race tightens — Bloomberg is being endorsed by Democrats who benefitted from his millions in the 2018 midterms.
Other candidates such as former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) are endorsed by Democrats who received money from their leadership PACs. But Bloomberg’s spending in support of lawmakers was in millions via super PACs, in comparison to the $10,000 or less given by PACs affiliated with the other Democratic presidential candidates.
For example, Rep. Harley Rouda (D-Calif.) got a boost from Independence USA PAC as the super PAC spent nearly $4.5 million against his Republican opponent in the 2018 House race. Rouda endorsed the billionaire in January.
Some lawmakers benefitted both from Bloomberg’s super PAC and from other groups to which he gave significant money.
Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-N.J.), who is now endorsing the billionaire, was boosted by over $2.2 million from Independence USA and $404,000 from With Honor Fund, a super PAC funded by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to which Bloomberg contributed $250,000.
Rep. Haley Stevens (D-Mich.) on Feb. 8 announced her endorsement for Bloomberg as well. In 2018, Independence USA spent over $2.2 million supporting her. The League of Conservation Voters spent almost $103,000 backing Stevens. Bloomberg was the super PAC’s top donor, giving $5 million.
“Some of the candidates Mike has supported over the years have supported his presidential campaign, many have not,” Stu Loeser, a longtime Bloomberg spokesperson told the Huffington Post. “But Mike is hardly alone in building relationships with candidates who later supported him ― other 2020 Democrats have gone out of their way to show that they were doing the same thing.”
The group also spent almost $109,000 attacking her opponent.
“It is a sort of classic strategy to curry favors and build a network,” said Eleanor Powell, a political scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “Those contributions help make it easier for the campaign to reach out since they already have a relationship with the elected official.”
There are several other lawmakers at the state and local level who benefited from Bloomberg’s donations and are endorsing him. Others, like Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams, whose group Fair Fight received $5 million from Bloomberg, aren’t publicly endorsing him but are defending the hundreds of millions of dollars he’s spending on his campaign. That record personal spending is under scrutiny.
“Every person is allowed to run and should run the race that they think they should run, and Mike Bloomberg has chosen to use his finances. Other people are using their dog, their charisma, their whatever,” Abrams said on ABC’s “The View.” “I think it’s an appropriate question to raise. But I don’t think it’s disqualifying for anyone to invest in fixing America.”
Among the other frontrunners, Biden is being backed by over a dozen lawmakers who benefited from his leadership PAC, American Possibilities, in the 2018 midterms. That includes Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.), Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (D-Pa.) and Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Pa.).
Biden launched the PAC both to help Democrats in the midterms and to lay the groundwork for his presidential bid. Along with supporting candidates financially, Biden campaigned for Democrats in key races such as those featuring Jones and Lamb. Biden’s PAC also donated to Democratic Party committees in early primary states South Carolina and New Hampshire.
Each of the 2020 Democrats currently in Congress have a leadership PAC. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) is endorsed by two Minnesota lawmakers who were backed by her PAC Follow the North Star Fund in 2018. Both candidates received $10,000 from her group.
Three representatives who received $10,000 each from Warren’s leadership PAC in 2018, including Senate candidate Joe Kennedy III (D-Mass.), are now endorsing the candidate. But those leadership PAC contributions are considerably less than the amount Bloomberg spent via super PACs.
“It does not only have to be about the history of contributions. Endorsements can be about ideological opinions and similar views. A more liberal lawmaker will endorse a more liberal candidate — shared identity traits and history of supporting similar causes are important factors too,” Powell said.
Bloomberg quickly gained endorsements from significant members of the Democratic Party, second to Biden, according to FiveThirtyEight. Spending over $400 million on advertisements, he has improved in polls. Additionally, he won’t have to file financial disclosures until late March, weeks after more than a dozen states hold their primaries on Super Tuesday. The Federal Election Commission recently granted him a second extension.
Bloomberg passed on the early contests in Iowa and New Hampshire to focus on Super Tuesday instead. While the Iowa caucuses were held, he toured California with former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on whom he spent millions in 2018. He was also accompanied by San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, and in Providence, R.I., was endorsed by Gov. Gina Raimondo, who he backed in 2014.
He also received the endorsement of Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, who is now co-chairing his national campaign.
Bloomberg made the largest single contribution in history in 2018 when he gave $20 million to Democrats’ Senate Majority PAC. He followed that up with a $10 million contribution to House Majority PAC late last year. He is endorsed by several House Democrats in toss-up races who will likely find support from the Democratic super PAC. That list includes Rep. Max Rose (D-N.Y.), who defeated a Bloomberg-backed Republican incumbent in 2018.