Bloomberg Campaign Hit With $18M FEC Complaint
EXCLUSIVE: A Federal Elections Commission complaint has been filed against former New York City mayor and 2020 presidential hopeful Mike Bloomberg for an $18 million transfer from his defunct campaign to the Democratic National Committee.
At the core of the complaint is the tenuous distinction between Bloomberg’s personal finances and those of his presidential campaign. The complaint is unique because of the nature of Bloomberg’s self-funded campaign. He took no outside donations and maintained complete control over the campaign’s finances, and the complaint argues this weakens the legal distinctions normally found between campaign cash and a candidate’s personal wealth.
“Allowing these kinds of contributions is everything we’ve said no to in 40 years of campaign finance jurisprudence. Never has this been okay at the federal level.”
— Dan Backer, treasurer of the Great America PAC
Bloomberg’s ill-fated foray into the 2020 presidential race saw him spend more than $900 million of his own money, according to FEC filings. After he suspended his campaign and endorsed Joe Biden, Bloomberg announced he’d be transferring $18 million to the DNC and the campaign’s field offices to state Democratic parties. The complaint alleges that both far exceed FEC limits on campaign contributions.
“Allowing these kinds of contributions is everything we’ve said no to in 40 years of campaign finance jurisprudence,” said Dan Backer, the man who filed the complaint through his pro-Trump Great America PAC. “Never has this been okay at the federal level.”
Backer, who has filed several FEC complaints and subsequent lawsuits against prominent Democratic politicians, said he expects the board members to 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.”
Despite a number of attempts to contact several members of Bloomberg’s campaign team, they declined to provide comment to Fox News.
In response to a detailed list of questions, the DNC referred Fox News to two tweets by their communications director, Xochitl Hinojosa. In one tweet about Bloomberg’s transfer, she said his contribution is different because his candidacy was “in earnest” and that a candidate “moving money just to transfer to a party doesn’t pass the smell test.”
No. Bloomberg was in earnest running for POTUS & transferred money to his campaign ahead of trying to win on Super Tuesday. Didn’t win. He, like any other candidate, can transfer that $ to a party cmte. A candidate moving $ just to transfer to a party doesn’t pass the smell test https://t.co/FyeD3VkjMQ
— Xochitl Hinojosa (@XochitlHinojosa) March 20, 2020
Hinojosa also said the money would help the party to scale up its Battleground Build-Up 2020 initiative and hire more organizers. Both of which are explicitly mentioned in Bloomberg’s March 20 memo to DNC Chairman Tom Perez.
“We hope this investment will dramatically expand the DNC’s Battleground Build-Up 2020 efforts across battleground states, drawing in part from our own incredibly experienced and talented organizing staff,” the memo read.
By deciding to transfer the $18 million to the DNC, Bloomberg reneged on a plan to employ his campaign organizers through November by forming a Super PAC. Former field organizers have filed two class-action lawsuits in a federal New York City court against the campaign earlier this week, alleging that thousands were tricked into taking the jobs under false pretenses.
Campaign contribution limits exist to dissuade actual and purported political corruption. Even if Bloomberg attached no conditions to his contribution, the appearance of an agreement is 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.
If Bloomberg’s proposed transaction is allowed by the FEC, it could open the door to millionaires across the country pulling similar stunts to advance their political ends. Bloomberg is exceptionally wealthy, but it doesn’t take a billion dollars to exceed the FEC’s $35,500 annual limit on contributions to national political parties.
“I think if the FEC does not go after Bloomberg, it will open up a huge loophole in the law.”
— Hans von Spakovsky, former FEC commissioner.
“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.”
Establishing a precedent that keeps this from happening is what Backer wants. He said an FEC fine wouldn’t hurt the former candidate’s bank account, but that it was important to close this potential loophole before it was exploited.
Keeping politics as level a playing field as possible between moneyed interests and voters is a balancing act, one that could be made more difficult for the everyman if Bloomberg’s transfer goes through.
“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.”
Author: Andrew Keiper
Source: Fox News: Bloomberg campaign hit with FEC complaint for $18M transfer to DNC