Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg plans to spend at least $80 million to help Democrats take the House this fall, a massive investment that will help offset what had, until now, been an outside-spending advantage that appeared to favor the GOP.
“Republicans in Congress have had almost two years to prove they could govern responsibly. They failed,” Bloomberg said in a statement Wednesday afternoon, shortly after the New York Times reported on his plan. “As we approach the 2018 midterms, it’s critical that we elect people who will lead in ways that this Congress won’t—both by seeking to legislate in a bipartisan way, and by upholding the checks and balances that the Founding Fathers set up to safeguard ethics, prevent the abuse of power, and preserve the rule of law.”
The pledged $80-million investment is, by far, the largest single commitment this year to date, easily topping the $30 million that casino magnate Sheldon Adelson reportedly gave to the Paul Ryan-aligned Congressional Leadership Fund last month. Bloomberg’s promise is in the same neighborhood as the $89 million that Tom Steyer spent during the 2016 cycle, when the hedge fund manager-turned-environmental activist topped the individual leaderboard for super PAC donors in a presidential year. Steyer has continued spending big this cycle, sending roughly $30 million (and counting) to his NextGen super PAC, which has focused on voter-turnout and a push to impeach President Trump.
Unlike Adelson, who gave his money to a super PAC he doesn’t control, Bloomberg plans to pick and choose which candidates get his support. The multibillionaire has, according to the Times, “indicated to aides that he only wants to support candidates who share his relatively moderate political orientation, avoiding nominees hailing from the populist left.” And while he has not yet announced which specific candidates he will back, he’s expected to focus his efforts in moderate suburban districts, out of concern his cosmopolitan image could do more harm than good for Democrats competing in more rural parts of the country.
Bloomberg is said to be especially intrigued by a list of candidates compiled by Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton, and has also been conferring with Rep. Joe Crowley, a moderate Democrat who represents parts of Queens. The former Republican mayor is reportedly looking for candidates who share his left-of-center policies on gun control, immigration, and climate, and who are not campaigning on a promise to impeach Trump. “Nothing could be more irresponsible,” he said. That puts him at odds with Steyer and the grassroots left, which has long been skeptical of Bloomberg’s ties to Wall Street and have not forgiven him for his aggressive approach to policing as mayor. But Bloomberg’s preference for moderates should align nicely with the DCCC’s general strategy, and could provide a major boost in suburban swing districts.
It’s unclear what vehicle Bloomberg will use to funnel his cash into the midterm contests, but the most obvious one would be his Independence USA super PAC, which he used to deploy the vast majority of the $23.7 million he gave to outside groups two years ago. Last cycle, that group divvied up its cash across the political divide, spending big both to reelect Republican Sen. Pat Toomey, who had co-authored gun control legislation Bloomberg supported, and to defeat Republican Sen. Senator Kelly Ayotte, who had opposed that same bill. Bloomberg seems likely to support at least a few moderate Republicans this cycle too. One of his only personal donations so far this year went to Rep. Dan Donovan, the former Republican district attorney of Staten Island, who is trying to hold his seat against a primary challenge next week.