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Opinion: Bloomberg’s Methods Raise Serious Issues That Ads Can’t Hide

“But Mike’s team has a combo that’s rare – maybe even unprecedented – in U.S. politics: unlimited money, elite intelligence & Machiavellian ethics,” Blake Zeff warned on Twitter Thursday as Mike Bloomberg soared in the Democratic primary.

Bloomberg’s money and connections are manipulating Democrats, who are so desperate to defeat Trump they seem willing to jump into bed with a man who not so long ago dissed Barack Obama, hung out with Rudy Giuliani, and was a Republican advocating for harmful and racist stop and frisk policies.

Zeff broke down the many ways Bloomberg is avoiding accountability and transparency in an epic twitter thread:

The degree to which Michael Bloomberg is using his fortune to fundamentally alter & manipulate U.S. politics to his personal advantage extends way beyond ads. I’ve worked against him, covered him as a journalist & worked with his top aides. Here’s their playbook: (1/17)

Let’s start with endorsements. Background: Bloomberg was a GOP mayor & Rudy Giuliani ally, whose police stopped innocent black men so often his tactics were ruled unconstitutional. So how did he possibly get key Democratic endorsements in NYC? Here’s one way 👇 2/17

But come on, it’s not like he can do that in *this* campaign. Sure he’s compiling a ton of random endorsements nationwide despite merely being a former mayor. But that’s because they loved his soda ban. Or his speaking style. Or…👇 3/17

Bloomberg Spent Millions To Put Them In Congress. Now, They’re Endorsing Him.
Three House Democrats supporting the billionaire for president received a total of $8.9 million from his super PAC in the 2018 midterms.

In 2018, Mike spent $110 million to boost 24 candidates now in Congress. Turns out, giving people $2 million can be the start of a beautiful friendship. Then there are mayors: Want a grant from Bloomberg for new programs in your city…? 4/17

Bloomberg Philanthropies Selects Top 35 Innovative Urban Ideas as Finalists in 2018 Mayors Challenge | Bloomberg Philanthropies
Bloomberg Philanthropies announced the 35 Champion Cities in the 2018 U.S. Mayors Challenge, a nationwide competition that encourages city leaders to uncover bold, inventive ideas that confront the t…

You may also see “community groups” back Mike’s candidacy. As mayor, non-profits supported him when he reversed a voter referendum on term limits & made a backroom deal to help himself get a 3rd term. How’d that happen, you ask? He applied himself.👇 5/17

Charity Backing Bloomberg 3rd Term Got Millions
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has donated millions to the Doe Fund, whose leaders helped him alter term limits.

You may also see fewer critics bash Mike’s candidacy than you’d expect. After changing parties from GOP to Independent in 2007 as mayor, the local GOP rarely attacked anything he did. How’d he pull that off? I’ll give you a million guesses… 6/17

Bloomberg Gives Record $1M to State Senate GOP | WNYC | New York Public Radio, Podcasts, Live Streaming Radio, News

Mayor Michael Bloomberg donated a hefty $1 million to state Senate Republicans’ general fund in the final weeks of this year’s campaign season – the single largest donation ever received by the house…

Forget endorsements: This campaign has grassroots support! Mike held events in various states recently & got huge crowds. They were clearly inspired by that “Mike Will Get It Done” energy. But *this* probably didn’t hurt, either…👇 7/17

Then there’s staff. Mike poaches talent away from other campaigns, by giving folks huge salaries & perks (catered meals, etc). His money also lets him hire more staff than all his opponents combined, while grassroots campaigns have to run on $18 checks from G’ma Millie. 8/17

Mike’s wealth even affects his rivals’ fundraising. Using his relationships with other rich donors, he’s personally asking them to sit the election out, so his rivals can’t raise cash. Because having $61b to spend, versus $20mil for the other Dems, is too close for comfort 9/17

This one I’ll just leave here. (10/17)
Mike Bloomberg will pay you $150 to say nice things about him
What will Bloomberg try to buy next? His campaign is quietly hiring Instagram influencers to make him seem cool

OK, let’s discuss the non-stop ads. Saturating the airwaves gives you the huge advantage of never needing media coverage – which means rarely having to submit to interviews or scrutiny. If they want, they can make sure this👇 never happens again 11/17

Bloomberg 2020 manager confronted over racial profiling record on live TV
MSNBC’s Chief Legal Correspondent Ari Melber presses Michael Bloomberg’s Campaign Manager Kevin Sheekey on Bloomberg’s longstanding “stop and frisk” policing policy, which targeted minorities and was…

Let’s be honest: Ads also enable Mike to mislead voters without being corrected. One ad portrays him as Obama’s BFF, even though Mike didn’t back him in ’08 & barely did in ’12, when he scolded Obama for being partisan, divisive & populist. But few will see this pushback👇 12/17

The issue’s not just that Mike’s ads help him “get his story out more.” It’s that they enable him to *craft* whatever story he wants, blast it to every voter 1000 times, & bypass the media. And if the story takes creative licenses, oh well. How will viewers ever find out? 13/17

One reason it all works so well is that Mike & the team he was able to acquire, are smart. Other rich candidates have failed. But Mike’s team has a combo that’s rare – maybe even unprecedented – in U.S. politics: unlimited money, elite intelligence & Machiavellian ethics. 14/17

For example, they know Mike has real vulnerabilities in the primary on issues & his GOP past. But they also know Dems hate Trump. So, that’s where the campaign turns all its focus. This achieves several things. First, makes him seem “above” the internal primary bickering. 15/17

Also: Positions him as a general election candidate now, evades discussion of Dem primary issues where his record is toxic, & presents one of biggest GOP donors ever (Mike) as a loyal Dem who just wants to see Trump (his old golf pal) lose. So far, voters are lapping it up. 16/17

3 months ago, polls found Mike Bloomberg “widely disliked” with the highest negatives in the race. Now he’s a top 3 contender for the Democratic nomination. One of the richest humans ever is trying to upend every part of the process. And this is just the stuff we know about. /END

Others added additional thoughts:

None of this describes a candidate devoted to the values and principles we need to restore democracy, like transparency and accountability.

Democrats are so angry at Trump that they are aligning with a man who is operating his campaign too much like Donald Trump operated his 2016 campaign for comfort. It’s as if Democrats have conceded that only money and corruption can fight Trump’s dark money and corruption. That’s a bad and dangerous bet if the goal is to fight fascism.

Bloomberg has his mental faculties, and that alone recommends him over Trump. But fundamentally, his current methods are not ones that speak to a burning desire to restore democracy.

Is he better than Trump? Of course. But Bloomberg is not the antidote to Trump.

Ms. Jones is the editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA.

Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.

Sarah has won two Telly Awards and is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.

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