Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg was willing to spend over $1 billion on his shot to win the Democratic presidential nomination, all by focusing on a strategy of campaigning almost exclusively in the Super Tuesday states.
The day after Super Tuesday, he announced he was withdrawing.
Before then, he was pilloried, and not only for helicoptering in late in the process with his immense personal fortune. There was also the New York City Police Department’s “stop-and-frisk” policy that Bloomberg championed while he was mayor, nondisclosure agreements signed by women in his employ, controversial remarks about redlining and a clanging debate performance that doomed him even before Super Tuesday.
Not only had he spent all that money to lose, he spent all that money to become loathed.
One way to get back into the good graces of Democrats? Spending $16 million he raised, reportedly so that nearly 32,000 — 31,790 to be exact — black and Hispanic felons could vote in a swing state.
According to a Tuesday report in The Washington Post, Bloomberg is partnering with the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition to ensure certain convicted criminals who have less than $1,500 to pay in fines, fees and restitution are able to vote in the nation’s biggest traditional swing state.
In 2018, voters in Florida passed an amendment to the state’s constitution which allowed most felons (excluding murderers and sex offenders) to regain their right to vote once they’d completed their sentences. However, those felons are also required to pay back any fines, fees or other penalties owed due to their convictions. That translates to over 770,000 people in Florida who can’t vote because of money they haven’t paid.
Bloomberg — who raised the $16 million “from individuals and foundations over the past week,” according to The Post, which cited his advisers — cast this as a victory for suffrage and against discrimination.
“The right to vote is fundamental to our democracy and no American should be denied that right,” a Bloomberg spokesperson told Axios.
“Working together with the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, we are determined to end disenfranchisement and the discrimination that has always driven it.”
Language like that makes you want to wave the flag, set off some fireworks in the backyard and play a John Philips Sousa march over the “I Have a Dream” speech. Of course, nothing any politician does is ever that guileless, and when it comes from Michael Bloomberg, the motives are even more cynical than those of the median politician.
Here’s the actual reasoning, according to The Post: “[Bloomberg] saw the donations as a more cost-effective way of adding votes to the Democratic column than investing money to persuade voters who already have the right to vote, a Bloomberg memo said.”
“We have identified a significant vote share that requires a nominal investment,” the memo reads. “The data shows that in Florida, Black voters are a unique universe unlike any other voting bloc, where the Democratic support rate tends to be 90%-95%.”
And while Joe Biden is “polling worse among Cuban American voters than Hillary Clinton,” he’s “winning other Hispanic groups by a margin of 3 to 1,” The Post added, citing the memo.
“Mike wanted to get this done for two reasons,” said a Bloomberg adviser, speaking anonymously to The Post.
“One, because it’s the right thing to do for the democracy. And two, because it immediately activates tens of thousands of voters who are predisposed to vote for Joe Biden.”
So while this is very discriminatory, it’s discriminatory for the left.
That makes it a good thing for democracy, apparently. You work out how that computes.
The Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, it should be noted, doesn’t necessarily share Bloomberg’s naked political purpose. The group is nonpartisan and says it’s trying to raise money to return former felons to the state’s rolls regardless of their political persuasion.
“Different people may give for different reasons, but we are in this for one reason, and that reason is to place people over politics,” Desmond Meade, the group’s president, told The Post.
“We are concerned with people from all walks of life, from all sorts of politics.”
Meanwhile, Politico reported that Meade “brushed aside an assertion that the money would be targeted primarily to help Black and Hispanic felons seeking to have their rights restored.”
That’s all well and good, but it sounds like Meade should familiarize himself a bit more with the folks he’s working with, especially considering this line from The Post’s story: “The Bloomberg effort, which his aides said will be pooled with about $5 million already raised by the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, is narrowly focused only on Black and Hispanic voters who are already registered to vote and whose debts are less than $1,500.”
It certainly seems as though Meade’s group’s program is being used by Bloomberg’s effort — so to the extent that Meade is a part of this, he’s putting politics over people.
Florida is always a big story during a presidential election, but this time, there’s no realistic path to victory for President Donald Trump that doesn’t involve carrying the state. It looked so good for Biden, too, as he had a RealClearPolitics polling average lead of over 5 percentage points throughout much of the summer.
That’s changed, however, with the polling average on Thursday only showing Biden 1.3 percentage points ahead.
There are a few reasons for this, among them the fact that Biden has underperformed among Hispanic voters in the state. On top of that, Politico reported Thursday that Democrats are worried the GOP’s voter registration efforts in the state are outpacing expectations.
Stopping that hemorrhaging is part of Bloomberg’s effort to get back into his party’s good graces, with the former New York City mayor pledging $100 million to help Biden win the state earlier this month.
However, thanks to his effort to get felons back on the voter roles, he could already have run afoul of the law.
The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported that Republican Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody has asked the FBI and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to look into whether Bloomberg violated a Florida statute which makes it a crime to “directly or indirectly give or promise anything of value to another in casting his or her vote,” according to a letter she sent to the agencies.
In the letter, Moody said that “even otherwise innocuous offering of an incentive simply to vote could run afoul” of the state’s laws.
“Incentives could be offered to a voter in a way that would be designed to directly or indirectly cause the voter or a larger group of voters to vote in a particular matter,” she added.
Bloomberg’s apparent effort to get black and Hispanic felons back on the voter roles is barely out of the gate and already, it could be over. Just like his campaign.
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