A review of Michael Bloomberg’s political career should not be limited, I think, to the fact that he has the debating skills of a baked potato. Nor does it matter much that he focuses his sales pitch on being a great “manager” but clearly can’t manage to hire anyone to tell him he has to prepare for a debate. His use of non-disclosure agreements to hide undesirable stories deserves the criticism it’s getting, but just begins to scrape the toxic moldy surface.
My colleagues at RootsAction.org have looked into Bloomberg’s record in some depth and are organizing against his campaign in early primary states. Let’s review just a few of the facts.
Let’s start with the idea that the way you defeat a Republican is with your own Republican, and the unstated assumption that there would be some value in doing so even if such a strategy could work. Bloomberg was a registered Republican from 2001-2007 and changed his registration to Democratic in 2018. He was elected New York City mayor three times as a Republican and narrowly won his first term over a Democrat in 2001 with crucial support from Republican Mayor Rudy Giuliani. While mayor, Bloomberg funded Republicans and Republican party committees in New York state, which helped maintain Republican control of the state senate.
Bloomberg famously spoke at the 2004 Republican National Convention, where he supported George W. Bush’s reelection, while peaceful demonstrators for peace were arrested outside in large numbers. This was long after even the New York Times had apologized for its role in starting the war on Iraq, a month after Tulsi Gabbard voluntarily joined in that war, and a decade before Pete Buttigieg would stop claiming he was against Bush’s wars and himself take part in one of them. At this time, Bloomberg was opposing any efforts to end the wars on Iraq and Afghanistan.
Bloomberg funded and endorsed Massachusetts Republican Sen. Scott Brown for reelection in 2012 over Elizabeth Warren. Bloomberg spent millions through his PAC on TV ads to reelect Michigan Republican Gov. Rick Snyder in 2014, the year Flint’s drinking water crisis began thanks to a Snyder-appointed Emergency Manager. Bloomberg praised Snyder as “an extremely competent guy who took on the unions.” Yay, team!
“Mike,” as Bloomberg wants us to know him, spent nearly $12 million in 2016 to help conservative Republican Sen. Pat Toomey defeat Democrat Katie McGinty (by less than 1.5 percent) in the swing state of Pennsylvania. And, even while mostly funding (some of the worst) Democrats for Congress in 2018, Bloomberg funded two incumbent (and incompetent!) New York-area Republican congressmen in close races, including Rep. Peter King who won his race.
Speaking of race, there’s Bloomberg’s policing record. He dramatically expanded the policy of “Stop and Frisk” during his years as mayor – stopping and frisking 685,000 people in 2011 alone, only 9 percent of them white, but 88 percent of them innocent. For years after leaving office, and up through a month before running for president, Bloomberg not only failed to pretend that Stop and Frisk hadn’t been his fault or that he had opposed it, but he openly (and deceptively) defended it as the right thing to have done.
In 2015, Bloomberg said: “We put all the cops in minority neighborhoods. Yes, that’s true. Why do we do it? Because that’s where all the crime is. . . And the way you get the guns out of the kids’ hands is to throw them up against the wall and frisk them.”
Bloomberg’s policy wasn’t just awful and racist and destructive. It also got him into trouble with the law. He saw his actions ruled racially discriminatory and unconstitutional in federal court in 2013 after data showed that in 98.5 percent of the stop-and-frisks, over 8 years, no weapon was found.
Bloomberg’s New York policing foreshadows his wished-for U.S. foreign policy. Bloomberg militarized New York’s police, once boasting (falsely) that his NYPD “army” was “the seventh biggest army in the world.” He oversaw brutal mass arrests and surveillance of nonviolent protesters at the 2004 Republican convention and of journalists and activists at Occupy Wall Street in 2011, unintentionally and incompetently helping turn Occupy into a national movement against everything he stood for. Perhaps most ominously, Bloomberg conducted extensive warrantless spying in and far outside of New York City on ordinary Muslim Americans, their businesses, and their mosques.
Bloomberg, campaigning in January — THIS January — said he doesn’t regret his strong support of Bush’s 2003 Iraq invasion — claiming, despite a well-documented record of deceptions, that war advocates had made a “mistake” and “did it honestly.” In 2007, he chastised Democratic leaders in Congress for supposed efforts to wind down the war.
Bloomberg has been an unwavering defender of Israeli military actions (even disproportionate attacks on people living in Gaza — arguing repeatedly and explicitly in favor of disproportionate attacks). He opposed Obama’s 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran.
Bloomberg has been as awful as your most unelectable politicians in either big party when it comes to corporate trade agreements, backing NAFTA and TPP without regret. He even backed the TPP in a column co-written with the CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. He has favored fracking and pipelines.
Well, at least a billionaire is good for an economy in some way, right? Well, much of the good news (what there is of it) in the U.S. economy lately is the result of restoring some value to state and local minimum wages, something Bloomberg has fiercely opposed. As mayor of New York in 2012, he sued his own City Council after it overrode his veto of legislation raising the pay of construction and building service workers to $11.50 per hour. Too much! Outrageous! Bloomberg’s campaign has found a better solution in prison labor.
Bloomberg, like Buttigieg and Biden, regularly promotes misleading health-insurance industry attacks on Medicare for All. Bloomberg, like Biden and Trump, has repeatedly advocated cuts in Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid benefits (but not military spending) – once calling for higher Medicaid co-pays so poor people would “think twice before they use services.” He’s promoted the right-wing line that the Wall Street meltdown was caused not by greed, fraud, or predatory lending, but by the curtailment of the racial discrimination in lending known as “redlining.”
To this stellar resume, Bloomberg adds a truly exceptional record of nasty sexism. At the company he founded, dozens of sex discrimination and sexual harassment lawsuits have been filed against him and his firm by 64 women. According to an in-depth Business Insider report, “women who worked there have called it a toxic, sexually charged nightmare.” As an employer, Bloomberg has a long history of inappropriate sexual comments and remarks about women’s appearances. This may have been mentioned in the most recent debate.
Yeah, yeah, whatever, the point is that Bloomberg is incorruptible because he’s rich, and capable of defeating Trump because he’s rich. Really? Is Trump incorruptible or doing the bidding of every industry and government and plutocrat willing to cough up a buck? Is Bloomberg going to inspire actual voters in huge numbers while standing for nothing they want or need? If so, telling young people they support Bernie because they’re dumb is not a promising start. Here’s a Trump ad I would run against Bloomberg if I were Trump: “I know Donald Trump. He’s a great guy . . . I’m a big fan of Donald Trump” –Michael Bloomberg.
Bloomberg has also produced memorable quotes opposing taxing the rich, against respecting transgendered people, in favor of fingerprinting people who need housing, and in favor of not providing anyone housing, opposing the minimum wage, claiming wealth inequality doesn’t exist, and justifying regressive taxation. Who wouldn’t want to campaign against this guy?
This candidate is a mass of contradiction. He’s spent more money already than any candidate ever had in so little time, yet he claims to be giving away all of his hoarded loot even while spending more of it to elect himself. And, just like Trump, Bloomberg actually is courting big “donors.” He’s just directing them to fund the DNC, which in turn has changed its rules to benefit Bloomberg.
Bloomberg’s foundation has hidden at least $300 million in offshore tax scams. His 12 homes include one in Bermuda. Although his opponents have revealed their financial details, Bloomberg was granted an extension on his financial disclosure filing until March 20, after most delegates will have been chosen.
Bloomberg does appeal to the great masses of people who love getting cheated by a rigged system. To win his first election as mayor by a margin of 50-48 percent, he spent a record-shattering $69 million of his own money ($92.60 per vote) – outspending his Democratic opponent by more than 4 to 1. Bloomberg changed New York election law so he could run for a third term as mayor, and opposed efforts to put the law change before voters in a referendum. And just days before his November 2019 presidential campaign launch, Bloomberg made a major “donation” to the DNC, which later amended its debate requirements to allow Bloomberg’s inclusion.
Bloomberg is Trumplike in his dedication to profiting personally from public office. He had about $4 billion when he took office as Mayor of New York. He had about $33 billion when he left. If that story inspires you, you’re probably aware that you’re already voting for Trump.