A Federal Elections Commission complaint has been filed against former New York City mayor and ex-2020 presidential hopeful Mike Bloomberg concerning an $18 million transfer from his now defunct campaign to the Democratic National Committee.
The complaint is centered around distinguishing between Bloomberg’s personal finances and the finances belonging to his presidential campaign. Since Bloomberg received no donations and ran a self-funded campaign, this is a unique situation. The complaint that was filed argues that this self-funded campaign style makes it difficult to determine the legal distinctions that are normally found between the candidate’s personal wealth and the cash of the campaign.
Bloomberg spent over $900 million of his own money on his failed presidential campaign, according to FEC filings. Once he conceded and suspended his campaign, Bloomberg announced that he would be endorsing Joe Biden, then he said he would be transferring $18 million to the DNC and the campaign’s field offices to state Democratic parties. This exceeds the limits by the FEC on campaign and is the reason behind the complaint.
“Allowing these kinds of contributions is everything we’ve said no to in 40 years of campaign finance jurisprudence,” said Dan Backer, who filed the complaint through his pro-Trump Great America PAC. “Never has this been okay at the federal level.”
Backer has filed several FEC complaints and lawsuits against Democratic politicians and said he expects that the board members will agree with his assessment of Bloomberg’s contribution to the DNC.
“If you allow Bloomberg to do this, you’re giving democracy to a billionaire oligarch,” Backer said. “… Having been unable to buy voters, he’s doing the next best thing and buying the party itself.”
The transfer of the $18 million to the DNC means that Bloomberg also failed to follow through on a plan to employ his campaign organizers through November by forming a Super PAC. Due to this, former field organizers have filed two class-action lawsuits in a New York City federal court against the campaign earlier this week. The field organizers allege that thousands of people were tricked into taking the jobs under false pretenses from Bloomberg.
Political campaign contribution limits exist to help to dissuade political corruption. Even if Bloomberg did not attach any conditions to his contribution, the appearance of an agreement is still there.
“Even if we want to pretend he’s not corrupting Tom Perez, it sure as hell looks like he is,” Backer said.
“The DNC likely would have control over how they spent the money, regardless of the insinuations in Bloomberg’s memo”, said former FEC Commissioner Hans von Spakovsky. He added that the complaint is filed on “substantive legal ground.”
“It does appear that he is using the campaign to launder a contribution to the DNC that is a massive violation of the contribution limits to those political parties,” von Spakovsky said.
Allowing Bloomberg’s proposed transaction by the FEC could open the door to similar actions around the country with politicians trying similar unethical tricks. The FEC’s $35,500 annual limit on contributions to national political parties is easily a number of politicians can exceed.
“I think if the FEC does not go after Bloomberg, it will open up a huge loophole in the law,” von Spakovsky said. “All any rich individual would have to do is file one form with the FEC declaring their candidacy, open up a campaign account, file one report with the FEC, and then withdraw as a candidate.”
“Bloomberg is entitled to spend as much of his own money on his candidacy as he wants, but that’s an expenditure and not a contribution,” Backer said. “Federal election law understands the difference, and whatever money he put into his campaign is still an expenditure — not a contribution.”