The former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg spent almost a billion dollars to try to win the Democratic nomination but his audacious bid ended with victory only in tiny American Samoa.
That embarrassing defeat was held up by some critics as proof it is still hard to use spending power alone to win a US election. But Bloomberg’s enormous wealth and influence is still strong in the party via a growing network of groups, former associates and allies sprinkled across the Democratic party universe.
Even before Bloomberg dropped out of the presidential race in May the media mogul billionaire vowed he would work to defeat Donald Trump even if he didn’t get the nomination.
That’s precisely what he is doing.
“He was one of the biggest contributors to Democratic causes before he ran and he still is after,” Abe Rakov, a veteran Democratic campaign manager, said of Bloomberg. “There are a lot of organizations and programs across the country that would be in really bad shape if he decided to disengage after he ran.”
The initial plan was to continue to fuel the massive field operation Bloomberg’s campaign built. The former mayor changed his mind and instead transferred $18m to the Democratic National Committee, the main organization charged with boosting the party’s presidential nominee.
It’s possible Bloomberg could move more money as well. The Bloomberg campaign also transferred leases for over a dozen of its field offices to the DNC, adding to the DNC’s campaign spaces around the country.
Bloomberg himself is staying visible, working with the New York governor, Andrew Cuomo, to launch a testing and tracing program. He spoke via video conference call during Cuomo’s press briefing on Thursday. The governor, currently one of the most prominent Democrats in the country, said in late April that Bloomberg was working with him.
A network of operatives and Bloomberg-connected political organizations is also active in Democratic presidential circles. Bill Knapp, a longtime Bloomberg adviser, recently joined Priorities USA, the Super Pac the Joe Biden campaign has signaled is its outside organization of choice for the general election.
During Bloomberg’s campaign, he poured almost $67m into a new digital and technology firm called Hawkfish. Hawkfish has stayed active since Bloomberg dropped out. The firm is reportedly in talks to work for Biden’s presidential campaign although nothing is finalized.
Hawkfish also got into negotiations to buy another Democratic analytics firm, Blue Labs Analytics, according to four Democrats with knowledge of those talks, but negotiations fell through. Hawkfish and Blue Labs still have ties.
In Washington Democratic analytics circles Hawkfish has become a hot topic as a firm trying to elbow its way into the group of top-tier data analytics firms.
The business discussions between Hawkfish and various campaigns and outlets within the Democratic campaign universe underscores how Bloomberg-connected operatives and groups continue to set down deep roots within the party.
Some former digital and data staffers for the Bloomberg campaign have talked with Biden campaign officials about joining the campaign, according to a Democratic strategist with knowledge of those talks.
The Biden campaign did not return a request for comment.
“I think Mayor Bloomberg has made it very plain, through his actions and his investments, his commitment to defeating Donald Trump and helping to elect Democrats across the country,” said the former Michigan congressman Mark Schauer, who supported Bloomberg during the mayor’s short-lived presidential campaign. “I think those contributions are valuable, they’re significant, and they’ll have an impact this November.”
The end goal for Bloomberg, 78, is still somewhat murky.
The former mayor has repeatedly said he would use his considerable resources to oust Trump from office. But the rapid expansion of Bloomberg-connected groups and operatives around Washington also suggests Bloomberg intends to hold a seat at the table among the most influential Democratic party leaders, albeit one outside of elected office.