New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg not only has a tremendous amount of money, but he clearly likes to use it to carry out his agenda for society.
As the 2012 election season nears its conclusion, that means creating his own political action committee – a “super PAC” – that forwards millions of dollars of the government leader and business titan’s personal assets to the campaigns of those candidates for office whom he favors most.
A billionaire and registered independent – who feels no particular allegiance to either of the two main political parties – Bloomberg is set by November 6 to have expended anywhere from $10 million to $15 million in extremely competitive local, state and Congressional races. These funds are sponsoring an array of media advertising on behalf of Democratic, Republican and independent candidates who back three of his most prominent policy initiatives – stronger gun control legislation, legalization of same-sex marriage and the operational redesign of public schools.
Some of the specific candidates being backed by the mayor include State Senator Gloria Negrete McLeod, who is challenging a fellow Democrat, California Representative Joe Baca, who has been too passive on the gun control issue according to Bloomberg; former Governor Angus King, an independent aiming for a United States Senate seat in Maine; and Representative Bob Dold, an Illinois Republican and proven supporter of gun-control measures.
Bloomberg’s newfound generosity in this regard manifests his deep-seated desire to put candidates in office who he views as centrist and pragmatic, willing to take on what he deems the most serious issues currently facing the United States.
Until the recent past, the mayor has played a more limited role in the political world beyond New York, periodically contributing to favorite candidates and causes, and occasionally presenting fundraising events for such entities at his Manhattan townhouse. Beginning two years ago, however, he ramped up his participation in the wider political arena, attempting to establish a base of influence that will reverberate long after his mayoral term ends in January 2014.
“This spending sends a clear message that the mayor intends to keep his wallet open after he leaves office to influence national policy around issues like guns, education and marriage equality,” related a highly-placed Bloomberg adviser. “If anything, leaving office will free him to do even more.”
Bloomberg has fashioned a public image that abandons the typical political partisanship in favor of unbridled pragmatism, which has meant coming out with unpopular positions such as restricting the size of sodas sold in eateries and supporting the development of an Islamic community center near the site of the destroyed World Trade Center.
The mayor has expressed particular disdain for the campaign substance and style of the two presidential candidates, stating that both President Obama and Governor Romney avoid speaking out on the issues that really matter to the average American.
Bloomberg has selected Howard Wolfson, a deputy mayor and a highly experienced organizer of Congressional and presidential campaigns, to direct the activities of his new super-PAC. Wolfson is charged with deciding where funds should be directed and fine-tuning the themes of television advertisements.
In total, the mayor will be investing in about a dozen Senate and House races, choosing the ones that he is convinced will have the most impact. He could even end up putting as much as $1 million in a specific race, an especially notable amount given that some candidates for Congress typically lay out less than $2 million on their entire campaigns.
Bloomberg’s latest foray into political influence is occurring in the aftermath of a 2010 Supreme Court decision that laid the groundwork for a massive number of independent expenditures through super PACs, which are taking a major spotlight in this fall’s elections. While he is not spending nearly as much, the mayor is joining other well-heeled Americans by financing outside groups in order to sway elections. These include the Koch brothers, business leaders who have bankrolled conservative causes, and George Soros, the billionaire investor who has backed liberal ones.
Bloomberg’s organization – entitled Independence USA PAC – is legally free to spend unlimited amounts of money on behalf of a particular candidate or issue, but it is prohibited by federal law from coordinating its activities with candidates.
Besides backing state and federal candidates, Bloomberg’s political action committee is dispensing funds to state legislative and local school board candidates who espouse his goals for the country’s educational system. Those include more exacting evaluation for teachers and stricter standards for tenure.
In addition to specific local candidates in California, Colorado and Louisiana, the mayor will likely support ballot initiatives in Maine and Washington that aim to legalize same-gender marriage. The overwhelming majority of Bloomberg’s money will be handed out through his super PAC.