In its zeal to unseat President Donald Trump without sacrificing one iota of its waning power and influence, the Democratic National Committee is now for a “moderate” savior for the party’s nomination. It appears to matter little to DNC operatives whether this late entry is a Democrat, a Republican, or simply a political opportunist whose loyalties or agendas, whatever they are, must be accepted
Enter Michael Bloomberg. After five years of resistance to the candidacy of Sen. Bernie Sanders, the DNC uncritically embraces in Bloomberg a billionaire who once praised President George W. Bush and deployed his vast resources to help keep the Senate under Republican control. This, despite the fact that in Sanders, the Democratic Party can claim an independent who delivers a progressive and innovative policy platform, a huge wave of multi-generational popular support and even caucuses with the Democrats.
In stark contrast, former New York City mayor Bloomberg calls himself an environmentalist while investing in fracking, championing it politically (as he did at this week’s Democratic presidential debate), and donating to a notorious green-washing environmental organization, the Environmental Defense Fund, in an ongoing but doomed effort to make fracking safe. As just these kinds of research attempts served as the basis for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 proposed “safe energy policy,” which relied on discredited technology that sought to trap methane, I covered this unsuccessful agenda to manipulate science for Truthdig in 2016.
Nonetheless, Bloomberg remains committed to it. He even spent nearly $6 million to reelect a Senate Republican who sponsored a bill to prohibit any future president from banning fracking.
“Michael Bloomberg is often sold to people as a climate hero. Headlines that tout him as a green visionary adorn the pages of The New Yorker and Vanity Fair. He skips across the globe as the UN’s special envoy for climate action,” Derek Seidman wrote in Eyes on the Ties. “Bloomberg’s framing of fracking as the practical, common-sense option is a big obstacle to more far-reaching measures needed to curb carbon emissions now.”
At this week’s Democratic presidential debate in Las Vegas, Bloomberg reiterated his support for fracking, dismissing the Sanders-backed Green New Deal. Bloomberg also opposes plans to transition to renewables within the time frame dictated by reports issued by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Bloomberg Money Played Pivotal Role in Keeping the Senate Red
Bloomberg’s support for both fossil fuels and Republicans may be connected. Consider this useful research provided by Alex Kotch of the Center for Media and Democracy:
Over the last decade, Bloomberg helped Republicans take and maintain control of the U.S. Senate, which, in the Trump era and under Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) leadership, has confirmed scores of right-wing judges, blocked liberal legislation passed by the House, and shielded the president from any repercussions after seeking foreign election assistance, tampering with witnesses and defying congressional subpoenas.
For several decades up to and through 2018, Bloomberg, whose own party affiliation has changed repeatedly, “donated over $900,000 directly to Republican candidates’ campaigns, national GOP party committees and federal PACs of state Republican Party committees,” Kotch reported. Bloomberg added millions more through his two super PACs, one of which spent over $10 million “supporting Republican federal candidates from 2012-16.”
The Toomey Campaign
In what The Philadelphia Inquirer called a “pivotal” 2016 campaign that “many thought could decide control of the Senate,” Bloomberg “poured millions of dollars into the contest — to help Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Pat Toomey” gain reelection. Bloomberg’s $5.9 million donation, used to buy television ads in key Philadelphia suburbs, portrayed the pro-fracking Republican as a moderate centrist, helping him win by a narrow margin over Democrat Katie McGinty, an environmental policy expert.
A Bloomberg spokesperson now claims the billionaire’s support for Toomey was based on the latter’s stance on gun control, even though Toomey’s challenger McGinty “supported far stronger gun measures, including bans on assault-style weapons.”
Raising further questions as to Bloomberg’s actual agenda in pushing Toomey, McGinty campaign adviser Mike Mikus noted that with the Senate secured by Republicans, no gun bills “would see any light as long as [McConnell] controlled the chamber. The Senate was up for grabs, and [Bloomberg] clearly sided with Mitch McConnell.”
Does Bloomberg Support Pat Toomey’s Pro-Fracking Resolution?
Whatever his purported motive in helping Toomey, Bloomberg spent considerable funds to reelect a fracking apologist who represented the environmentally devastated swing state of Pennsylvania, the second most important natural gas state after Texas. Fracking may represent a boon to investor-donors like Bloomberg and their vested politicians, but the practice poses a clear health hazard to Pennsylvania communities as well as climate hazards to the global community. A recent review of scientific literature found close correlations between “health impacts including cancer, infant mortality, depression, pneumonia, asthma, skin-related hospitalizations and other general health symptoms” and “living near unconventional oil and gas development [in] Pennsylvania.”
In November 2019, Toomey introduced federal legislation to unilaterally prevent future presidents from introducing a moratorium on fracking. The Pike County Courier reported that the measure squarely aims “at several Democratic presidential candidates” by thwarting their potential moves with regard to introducing fracking regulations.
Bloomberg’s intervention — supporting a pro-fracking senator and keeping the Senate under Republican-control — unleashed other serious consequences. One related outcome of that Senate race is that in preserving GOP control, the Senate was able to see through Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination. In Justice Kavanaugh, the nation’s top court gained an anti-choice ideologue who had faced credible charges of sexual predation.
The Kavanaugh Travesty
The problematic aspect of Bloomberg’s personal history vis-s-vis allegations of his own sexist remarks and actions was discussed at Wednesday night’s Democratic presidential debate. After being energetically challenged on the debate stage by Democratic rival Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Bloomberg explained that he had needed to sign non-disclosure agreements with several women in his professional milieu who he claimed were offended because “they did not like a joke I told.”
Aside from his highly suspect personal conduct, Bloomberg’s use of his financial resources also did women no favors. His hefty donations helped to preserve the Republican majority, giving Republicans judicial oversight over the 2018 Supreme Court nomination process — and of course, the attempted impeachment of Trump.
Both political conflicts would have played out differently under a judicial committee helmed by Democrats. In the Kavanaugh case, despite testimony that alleged he had assaulted a fellow student, Republican senators awarded the judge a lifetime seat on the Supreme Court. To add insult to injury, one of Bloomberg’s PACs also gave $486,000 to Republican Sen. Susan Collins.
Collins, to whom Bloomberg also made direct personal donations, most recently cast a key vote to acquit Trump on all impeachment charges. In 2018, she was widely criticized for her role in the Kavanaugh nomination, in which she also held a determining vote. Over the course of the hearings, Collins repeatedly hinted to advocates that she might vote against Kavanaugh.
Then, “during a nearly 50-minute speech on the Senate floor,” as the Cut’s Lisa Ryan reported,” Collins betrayed the interests of the women and sexual-assault survivors she professed to support.” Ryan asked, “How can one claim to be pro-choice and then allow herself to be played by a decidedly anti-choice nominee, whose record shows exactly how he will vote on abortion?”
Collins concealed her allegiances by professing one thing and doing another. As both parties have to different extents lost the trust of voters because of that kind of behavior, the last thing we can afford at this juncture is to jettison rare candidates of integrity for Bloomberg, “a figure without connections or the same value system as the party he seeks to represent, with racial and sexist skeletons in his closet, and a penchant for subverting democracy and showing contempt toward the rule of law,” as David Dayen wrote in the Prospect.
The exploitation of people, earthly resources and money cannot be ignored or dismissed. Bloomberg now poses a new danger by using his largesse to act, in turns, as either a kingmaker or candidate, thus threatening the nomination process and the will of American voters. Sanders, currently the clear Democratic front-runner, is the sole candidate who has pledged to rely only on donations from citizens rather than from the billionaires who fund nearly all the other candidates.
Through the campaign this year, Sanders has helped Americans to grasp what has been apparent but long denied: Billionaires like Bloomberg have been controlling the country, decimating the middle class, putting health care out of reach and destroying the environment for profit. Democrats can’t afford to anoint a candidate who uses his money and influence to rob them of their futures.
Alison Rose Levy is a New York-based journalist who covers the nexus of many converging issues, such as: environment, health, science, food, agriculture, public policy, the media and popular attitudes. She has reported on climate, fracking, pipelines, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Green New Deal, regenerative agriculture, health impacts, collective psychology, and media influence for Truthdig, Truthout, Common Dreams, Huffington Post, Alternet and Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting. She hosts the podcast “Connect the Dots” (https://connectthedots.podbean.com), now in its tenth year.