Mike Bloomberg is worth more than $60 billion and has used his riches to influence politics on both sides of the aisle. He’s also plowed more than $500 million into his own presidential campaign, leading his 2020 Democratic primary competitors to warn — less as an accusation and more as a stipulation of the obvious — that the former New York mayor is trying to buy the presidency.
Not playing against type on the debate stage Tuesday night in South Carolina, Bloomberg appeared to brag of buying Democrats a House majority in 2018.
As a post-Citizens United megadonor stepping out of the wings and onto debate stage, Bloomberg has a tricky track record to tout. It’s obviously to his benefit to brag of having helped fund Democratic victories. But Bloomberg went further than that on Tuesday night, momentarily bragging that his $100 million in spending for Democrats last election cycle had “bought” the party control of Congress. (Barely had the word “bought” escaped his mouth than Bloomberg backtracked to substitute in the word “got” instead.)
In the debate, the candidates had been arguing about the impact of the party’s presidential nominee on down-ballot races, with several on stage warning that a Bernie Sanders nomination could hurt the party’s prospects in the Senate and the House. “Let’s just go on the record,” Bloomberg cut in. He bragged that of the 40 net Democratic seats the party picked up in 2018, “21 of those were people that I spent $100 million to help elect.” Nothing controversial there, but then things got interesting: “All of the new Democrats who came in, who put Nancy Pelosi in charge and gave the Congress the ability to control this presidency,” Bloomberg added, “I bought— I, I got them.”
Bloomberg’s momentary boast was a classic Washington gaffe, as defined by the journalist Michael Kinsey: “When a politician tells the truth — some obvious truth he isn’t supposed to say.” And it caught the attention of the billionaire’s critics on both the far left and the far right. Justice Democrats — the progressive outfit closely allied with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — shared the clip on Twitter …
Michael Bloomberg: "All of the New Democrats that came in and put Nancy Pelosi in charge…I bought, I got them." pic.twitter.com/9yqmmlhgs9
— Justice Democrats (@justicedems) February 26, 2020
… and so did the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr.
He’s admitting he
BOUGHT those seats!
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) February 26, 2020
Bloomberg’s candidacy is breaking all personal spending records. And perhaps it’s best to just be honest about what’s at stake here. A donor who has recently been as important to the Democratic Party’s prospects as Sheldon Adelson is to the GOP has decided he’s done with buying seats for the middlemen, and wants to buy the Oval Office for himself. It’s an American oligarch’s power move. And it’s not the way any self-respecting democracy is supposed to function.