Michael Bloomberg’s next (political) move

November 13, 2012

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg spent upwards of $9 million of his own money in the final ten days of the 2012 campaign in support of candidates who shared his views on gun control and political moderation, a sizable sum that portends how the billionaire envisions his life outside of the mayor's office after his third term concludes in 2013.


"This is just the beginning," promised Howard Wolfson, a top aide to Bloomberg who ran the Independence USA PAC, a super PAC through which Bloomberg doled out some of his fortune in the final days of the 2012 campaign. "On issues like guns and education, Mike Bloomberg is poised to play an even bigger role in advancing a mainstream agenda and influencing elections."

Given Bloomberg's national profile and massive wealth, the prospect of him as a sort of free radical in the political space going forward is an intriguing one for political observers and a potentially frightening one for politicians who find themselves on the wrong side of Bloomberg's activist government agenda.

Take California Democratic Rep. Joe Baca.  Bloomberg spent more than $3.3 million on ads and direct mail against Baca due in large part of his "A" rating with the National Rifle Association.  That was more than three times as much as Baca had spent as of Oct. 17 ($957,000) and roughly 15 times what Baca's opponent Gloria Negrete McLeod (D) had spent on the contest.  McLeod won the race by 12 points, a convincing victory attributed by many in the local media to Bloomberg's spending.

The defeat of Baca is a model for future endeavors from the Bloomberg super PAC, according to Wolfson. Due to the pricey Los Angeles media market, there was little competition for the Bloomberg PAC ads -- allowing the Mayor to get the most bang for his buck.

Bloomberg also spent heavily ($2.4 million) on behalf of Democratic congressional Val Demings, a former police chief who he had worked with on gun control measures, in an Orlando-area House seat, and put sizable chunks of his own cash behind Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane (D) ($674,000) and Maine Sen.-elect Angus King ($500,000), who was elected as an independent but is expected to announce which party he will caucus with as soon as Wednesday. Demings lost while Kane and King won.

Bloomberg also dropped a pretty penny -- love that phrase! -- on two moderate Republican candidates with less positive results. The super PAC spent $1.2 million on behalf of Andrew Roraback in Connecticut's 5th district and $988,000 for Rep. Bob Dold (R). Both men lost.

What's clear from Bloomberg's heavy spending in such a short period of time is the mayor has no plans to leave the national political stage once his third term expires next year and, in fact, seems likely to gear up rather than ratchet down his spending for those who support his agenda and against those who don't. That Bloomberg spent heavily to defeat an incumbent Democrat and to help two Republicans also suggests that he is genuinely committed to backing candidates of either party who share his vision on issues. (Bloomberg was elected mayor in 2005 as a Republican but switched his party affiliation to independent in the summer of 2007.)

The message from Bloomberg's world is clear: The mayor is here to stay as a political force.  And that has to make politicians -- in both parties -- a little uneasy. Which is exactly how Bloomberg wants it.

Chris Cillizza writes “The Fix,” a politics blog for the Washington Post. He also covers the White House.
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Sean Sullivan | November 13, 2012