It turns out that the party-jumping old rich guy with a soft spot for strongmen, a love of nondisclosure agreements and a habit of naming things after himself, who finally pulled the trigger on a presidential run after several cycles of publicly flirting with the idea but never actually doing it, wasn’t so trustworthy.
I’m talking, of course, about 78-year-old Michael Bloomberg, who’s gone on for decades about giving his roughly $60 billion to worthy causes but then took his fortune and walked away after his 100-day, billion-dollar vanity campaign for the Democratic nomination fell flat everywhere except American Samoa.
To put the $935 million Bloomberg spent in perspective, the Clinton and Trump campaigns combined to spend just over $1.1 billion. Bloomberg spent more on ads—$558 million—than the $398 million Donald Trump spent on his entire 2016 campaign. And Trump, you know, won.
And Bloomberg’s official spending was, as is always the case for him, a significant undercount of his actual spending. Suffice it to say that Bloomberg spent $3.3 billion on charitable giving in 2019 as he prepared to run, more than he had in the five previous years combined, according to a New York Times analysis.
That’s Mike’s money, and that would be his own business except for his promise as he ran this year that he would spend what it took in support of the Democratic nominee, even if that wasn’t him.
“Mike Bloomberg is either going to be the nominee or the most important person supporting the Democratic nominee for president,” Kevin Sheekey, Bloomberg’s campaign manager, told NBC in January. Those words proved to be worth as much as Bloomberg’s ad spending.
A few headlines, showing the 1-percenter dropping to 1.8 percent of what he’d talked about doing, and hoping we’d just forget about what he’d promised to do for the Democratic Party back when he hoped to take it over something like Trump had the GOP:
Jan. 10: Bloomberg to fund sizable campaign effort through November even if he loses Democratic nomination.
Exclusive: The former New York City mayor plans to continue paying hundreds of staffers and funding his digital operation to defeat Trump even if he’s not the nominee.
Jan. 11: Michael Bloomberg Is Open to Spending $1 Billion to Defeat Trump
March 4: Bloomberg bows out of presidential contest but his money will stay
March 11: Michael Bloomberg Campaign Transfers $18 Million to DNC to Beat Trump
March 20: Bloomberg lays off hundreds as coronavirus bears down
Campaign staffers who were promised jobs through November no matter what are left high and dry.
March 23: Bloomberg sued by aides for stiffing them on yearlong pay promise
“Whatever our disagreements may be, I've come here to say (that) we must put them aside for the good of our country. And we must united around the candidate who can defeat a dangerous demagogue,” Bloomberg said about Trump at the last Democratic convention.
That was hardly a decade after he’d spoken at the Republican convention at Madison Square Garden after his NYPD (“the seventh largest army in the world,” he once called it) had rounded up protesters and unlucky passersby en masse and threw them in a makeshift jail on a pier until the political circus where he thanked President Bush “for leading the global war on terrorism” and declared that “the president deserves our support” had left town. (The city later paid $18 million, without admitting guilt, in what remains the largest civil rights settlement for mass arrests in U.S. history.)
I’m not saying Hillary Clinton would have come out on top if Bloomberg had put his money where his mouth was then, but it’s hard to imagine that $100 million, or less than half of what he spent on primary ads this January, would have hurt in an election where fewer than 80,000 votes in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin would have made her president.
You think Joe Biden would mind some help in bootstrapping a competent video operation right now? Or to be relieved of the need to spend such a big chunk of his time on fundraising?
Bloomberg kicked off his campaign last November by calling Trump an “existential threat” to America and warning that “We cannot afford four more years of President Trump's reckless and unethical actions… Every day it seems to bring another example of just how unfit he is to serve as our president and commander-in-chief.”
Bloomberg conceded the Democratic nomination to Biden in early March, two weeks after the first coronavirus case was reported in America, with a pledge that “I will work to make him the next president of the United States.”
Apparently, work didn’t mean spend, even as the examples of Trump’s unfitness have piled up, with hundreds of thousands of bodies soon to follow.
If Bloomberg meant what his campaign promised Democratic voters, if he meant what he’s said about the danger Trump presents, all he’d have to do is put his money where his mouth is, even though that money would no longer be going toward putting him in the White House.
If Bloomberg is anything like the anti-Trump he sold himself as, he should be able to offer something more than the idea that I alone can fix it.