WASHINGTON – Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg‘s suspension of his own presidential campaign means he can now put some of his own massive campaign apparatus behind former Vice President Joe Biden, who he endorsed earlier Wednesday.
“I’ve always believed that defeating Donald Trump starts with uniting behind the candidate with the best shot to do it, and after yesterday’s vote it is clear that candidate is my friend and a great American: Joe Biden,” Bloomberg told supporters at the Sheraton Hotel in Midtown Manhattan in New York City after announcing his exit from the race earlier in the day.
Bloomberg can now use the vast resources at his disposal to boost Biden.
Erin Chlopak, Director of Campaign Finance Strategy at the Campaign Legal Center, told USA TODAY the Bloomberg operation would have to function independently of the Democratic nominee’s campaign in order to avoid running afoul of campaign finance laws.
“It certainly would violate campaign finance law for a candidate to devote all of their campaign resources to a former candidate” because standard contribution limits of $2,800 apply to an in-kind gift, Chlopak said.
Campaign finance law, however, “makes it easy to accomplish similar goals,” she explained, by converting the campaign organization into a super PAC, or a political action committee that may raise and spend unlimited amounts of money boosting a candidate independent of the candidate’s campaign.
Staff who used to work for Bloomberg could choose to work for a PAC voluntarily without violating campaign finance rules, Chlopak said.
During his three months in the race, Bloomberg rejected all donations to his campaign, entirely self-funding the operation from his own personal wealth, which Forbes estimates at over $58 billion. The campaign said it hired more than 2,400 staff around the country in 43 states and territories, with 400 people in its New York City headquarters alone. Ad-tracking firm Advertising Analytics said Bloomberg had spent about $558 million on ads during his time in the race.
Bloomberg has said he would put some of the campaign resources behind the Democratic nominee, with the exception of Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who said he would reject the help.
Biden deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield told reporters on a conference call Tuesday the Biden campaign was still determining how to work with Bloomberg’s resources.
“(Bloomberg) only just announced a couple of hours ago that he’d be endorsing, so I think a lot of those details are still to be worked out,” she said.
Matt Dallek, a professor of political management at George Washington University, said Bloomberg’s resources could create a “superpower SuperPAC the likes of which we’ve never seen.”
Dallek thought Bloomberg’s spending could help keep pressure off the eventual Democratic nominee to fundraise, too.
Despite the campaign’s conclusion, its staff showed no signs of going anywhere soon.
In response to a tweet from Trump calling on Bloomberg to fire his staff, including senior adviser Tim O’Brien, O’Brien shot back on Twitter, saying Biden, Bloomberg, and the “rest of the @Mike2020 team are still here” and would beat Trump in November.
The Bloomberg campaign responded to a Trump tweet mocking the campaign’s end with a Star Wars clip on Twitter, adding “See you soon, Donald.”
The clip from Star Wars: A New Hope includes a pivotal scene in which Obi-Wan Kenobi is defeated by Darth Vader – but before Kenobi is defeated, he tells Vader, “If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.”
Contributing: William Cummings and Rebecca Morin, USA TODAY
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