Person

Michael Bloomberg

Mike Bloomberg Headshot (link) by Bloomberg Philanthropies is licensed CC0 (link)

Michael Bloomberg is a former three-term mayor of New York City and unsuccessful candidate for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. Bloomberg, a billionaire financier and media mogul who is among the wealthiest men alive, is also a prominent political donor and philanthropist, pouring billions into left-of-center political campaigns and philanthropic causes.

Bloomberg began his term as mayor of New York City in 2002 as a Republican, but implemented a range of left-of-center policies before declaring himself as an Independent. After his mayoralty, he became a liberal activist and Democratic political donor before running in the Democratic presidential primary in 2020. Bloomberg ran one of the most expensive presidential campaigns in history, spending over $900 million in just five months before dropping out of the race in March 2020.

Numerous people have accused Bloomberg of discriminatory comments towards women, with 58 women suing Bloomberg and his company, Bloomberg LP, for sexual harassment and sex discrimination in 2008. One woman alleged Bloomberg told a pregnant employee to “kill it” upon finding out she was pregnant. Bloomberg’s alleged derogatory comments towards women became a heated subject of debate during his presidential campaign.

Financial Career

Michael Bloomberg was born in Medford, Massachusetts to a middle-class family in 1942. [1] Bloomberg took an early interest in service, becoming the youngest Eagle Scout in history at age 12. [2] Bloomberg went on to attend Johns Hopkins University before receiving a degree from Harvard Business School. [3]

Prior to entering electoral politics, Bloomberg had a long career in finance, beginning at New York City investment bank Salomon Brothers. [4] Though Bloomberg began his time at Salomon Brothers doing menial labor, Bloomberg soon advanced to become a Wall Street trader and a partner at just 30 years old in 1972. [5] [6]

In 1978, Bloomberg took over the firm’s information technology division, which was then considered to be a demotion. [7] Bloomberg was let go by the company shortly after it was acquired in 1981. He was given a $10 million severance package which he then used to establish his own IT company, Innovative Market Solutions. [8] The company began to provide financial brokers with quick market data for exorbitant fees through the now-legendary Bloomberg Terminal. [9]

The Bloomberg Terminal, which exists to this day, hosts a mass of financial data from around the world and can be used to do financial calculations, compare potential investments, and make trades. [10] The Terminal also serves as a social space for traders and dominates Wall Street. [11] As of 2018, subscriptions to the Terminal cost over $20,000 and over 325,000 subscribers pay for the service. [12] Bloomberg LP has been the largest market data firm in the world for eight years since overtaking Thomson Reuters in 2012. [13] Of the entire Bloomberg empire, the Bloomberg Terminal, now known as Bloomberg Professional, accounts for an estimated 75% of the business. [14]

Aside from Bloomberg Professional, Bloomberg owns 88% of Bloomberg LP, now a multinational corporation which employs over 19,000 people in more than 176 offices. [15][16] The company continues to dominate the field of financial data and technical services, in addition to running the Bloomberg News left-of-center media empire and Bloomberg’s personal grantmaking arm Bloomberg Philanthropies. [17]

Political Career

Bloomberg served three terms as mayor of New York City from 2002 to 2013. In 2001, Bloomberg launched a campaign to become mayor of New York City, running in the Republican primary election despite being a registered Democrat prior to the election cycle. [18] Halfway through his mayoral term, Bloomberg switched his registration to Independent and spoke in favor of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in 2016 before registering officially as a Democrat in 2018. [19]

Mayoral Terms

Despite having first been elected as a Republican, Bloomberg instituted a sweeping left-of-center policy agenda in New York City as mayor. [20] Bloomberg began his time as mayor by instituting a range of anti-market policies, most notably in his public health measures. In July of 2002, Bloomberg signed a cigarette tax which raised the cigarette tax in New York City to the highest level in the United States. [21]

Bloomberg further pushed regulatory policies under the promise of public health, banning smoking in bars and parks, requiring chain restaurants to post calorie counts on menus, and prohibiting restaurants from selling foods containing artificial trans fats. [22] In 2012, Bloomberg proposed his most controversial anti-market measure: a 16-ounce cap on all non-diet soda and other sugared beverages sold in commercial establishments. [23] The regulation was struck down by New York courts. [24]

Bloomberg became nationally known for his staunch advocacy for gun control. In May 2006, Bloomberg sued 15 gun dealers across state lines for selling firearms illegally, claiming that guns sold in their shops were linked to guns used in New York City crimes. [25] The suits led to court-appointed monitoring of the accused shops. [26] Bloomberg continued to be an advocate for harsh gun control measures even after his term, launching Mayors Against Illegal Guns and founding left-of-center advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety. [27] Bloomberg has also donated millions to anti-gun candidates. [28]

Despite a commitment to left-of-center reform, Bloomberg initiated some right-of-center policies that outraged members of the left, including expanding school choice in New York City. [29] In June of 2002, Bloomberg executed a plan to give the city control over public schools and worked to expand charter schools, increase school choice, and replace struggling public schools with clusters of small schools. [30] Though Bloomberg was criticized for “fueling segregation” for allowing schools to screen students by test scores and interviews, he left office having improved high school graduation rates by 42% in New York City. [31]

2020 Democratic Presidential Campaign

In November 2019, after years of floating a potential run for President, Bloomberg entered a crowded field of candidates in the race to become the 2020 Democratic presidential nominee. [32] Entering the race several months later than other candidates, Bloomberg launched an unconventional campaign focused on winning on “Super Tuesday,” ignoring the earliest four primary elections. [33]

Bloomberg conducted one of the most expensive campaigns on record, funding his own run after commenting that he would be willing to spend at least $1 billon of his personal fortune to help the Democratic nominee to win the 2020 presidential election, even if it was not him. [34] In January 2020, Bloomberg doubled the spending record for any presidential candidate in a year before voting starts, spending $188 million on his campaign in the fourth quarter of 2020. [35] That same month, Bloomberg spent $826,000 on Facebook ads in a single day, dwarfing the ad spends of any other candidate. [36] By the end of his campaign, Bloomberg had spent over $900 million of his own fortune. [37]

Much of Bloomberg’s spending was funneled through Hawkfish, a secret data company which Bloomberg himself founded in the spring of 2019 to counter the data power of the political right. [38] Hawkfish also worked on behalf of Democrats in races in Virginia and Kentucky, though the Bloomberg campaign refused to disclose which races Hawkfish worked on. [39]

Bloomberg’s campaign instantly faced opposition from the left. In December 2019, Bloomberg’s campaign was racked by allegations that Bloomberg used prison labor to make campaign calls. [40] Bloomberg hired ProCom, a company which runs call centers in New Jersey and Oklahoma, with two of the centers operated out of state prisons. [41] In at least one of the two prisons, incarcerated people made calls on behalf of Bloomberg. [42] The Bloomberg campaign confirmed the arrangement and claimed not to have knowledge that the calls would be make from correctional facilities and ended its relationship with ProCom. [43]

Bloomberg faced allegations of unfair play in January 2020 when the Democratic National Committee announced a rule change dropping the requirement that candidates have at least 225,000 unique donors in order to participate in debates. [44] The rule had kept Bloomberg, who had been funding his own campaign, out of the debates through January. [45] After the DNC announced the change, Bloomberg faced accusations of “buying” the election after journalists discovered that he had given over $300,000 to the DNC on a single day in November, shortly before announcing his presidential campaign. [46] On that same day, Bloomberg gave an additional $800,000 to the Democratic Grassroots Victory Fund. [47] Bloomberg’s rivals jumped on the chance to criticize the move, with Representative Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) claiming that he “bought the DNC” and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) calling the move “the definition of a rigged system.” [48]

In February, Bloomberg’s campaign faltered after his poor performance at the Democratic debate in Nevada, with Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) highlighting allegations regarding Bloomberg’s previous derogatory remarks towards women. [49] Later in the debate, Warren came after Bloomberg again for his record of forcing women who made sexual harassment and discrimination complaints to sign non-disclosure agreements. [50] Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) also attacked Bloomberg in the debate for refusing to release his tax returns, and Sanders critiqued Bloomberg for endorsing President George W. Bush’s re-election in 2004. [51]

Bloomberg faced further accusations of attempting to “buy” the election when he hired Carla Brailey and Alexandra Rooker, who both serve as superdelegates to the Democratic National Convention and Vice Chairs of state branches of the Democratic Party, for senior advisory roles on his campaign. [52] Critics called the move a transparent attempt to “purchase political support.” [53] Critics also accused Bloomberg of plagiarizing at least eight passages from his published campaign plans from various left-of-center groups, a move which Bloomberg’s campaign blamed on MailChimp’s inability to support footnote formatting. [54]

Bloomberg’s campaign also faced criticism for tweeting out doctored footage of the February debate which made it appear as if the other candidates fell into a 20 second silence when asked by Bloomberg if any of them had started their own business. [55] Later in February, opponents brought up Bloomberg’s controversial support of stop-and-frisk policies during his time as mayor of New York City, a policy which a federal court in New York ruled in 2013 violated the civil rights of tens of thousands of New Yorkers. [56]

Bloomberg’s ratings continued to fall throughout February as former Vice President Joe Biden gained momentum, despite his spending an average of $17 million per day in the month of February. [57] Less than five months after declaring his candidacy, Bloomberg dropped out of the race in March after a devastating performance on Super Tuesday, winning just American Samoa despite spending hundreds of millions on advertisements in key states. [58] Upon leaving the primary race, Bloomberg endorsed Biden, who had swept Super Tuesday, as the candidate most capable of “defeating Donald Trump.” [59] Bloomberg also gave a collective $18 million to the Democratic Party and its affiliates as he left the race. [60]

Harassment Allegations and Lawsuits

Bloomberg has long been the subject of allegations of sexual harassment, with four women filing sexual-harassment or discrimination suits against his company with Bloomberg himself as the primary target. [61]

Sekiko Sakai Garrison, a former Bloomberg sales representative, alleged a history of sexual harassment by Bloomberg in her lawsuit against the company. [62] Garrison alleged that when she came into work wearing an engagement ring, Bloomberg ridiculed her appearance, allegedly asking Garrison: “What, is the guy dumb and blind? What the hell is he marrying you for?”[63] When Garrison later became pregnant, she alleged that Bloomberg told her to “Kill it!” before muttering “Great, No. 16” in reference to the sixteen women at the company who were then pregnant. [64]

Bloomberg denied all allegations, going so far as to claim he passed a lie detector test but refusing to release the results. [65] Despite denying making the comments, Bloomberg reportedly called Garrison, claiming that he “didn’t say” the statements on her pregnancy, “but if I said it, I didn’t mean it.” [66] Despite denying the claims regarding Garrison’s pregnancy, Bloomberg conceded that he had said of Garrison and other female employees “I’d do her,” while insisting that “doing” someone meant “to have a personal relationship.” [67] Garrison settled the lawsuit with undisclosed terms in 2000. [68]

In 1998, Mary Ann Olszewski filed a lawsuit alleging that Bloomberg created a pattern of harassment at his company which culminated in her being raped by a direct superior. [69] The case was dismissed because Olszewski’s lawyer missed a deadline to respond to a motion for dismissal, but Bloomberg testified in a deposition that he would not consider Olszewski’s rape allegation unless there were an “unimpeachable third-party witness” to corroborate the incident, which she alleged happened in a private hotel room. [70]

By 2008, 58 women had sued Bloomberg LP for sex discrimination. [71] In 2018, another female employee reignited a 2016 civil suit which held Bloomberg responsible for creating a hostile work environment which resulted in her alleged rape by a Bloomberg manager when she was 22. [72] As of 2018, the case had not advanced. [73]

“Wit and Wisdom”

As Michael Bloomberg announced his decision to run for president in 2019, his previous remarks on women sparked outrage and accusations of sexism. [74] In 1990, a group of colleagues put together a 32-page book of Bloomberg’s statements as a birthday gift. [75] The book was filled with expletives, including several sexist statements commenting on the supposed vanity and incompetence of women.

The book opened with Bloomberg advising his colleagues to “Make the customer think he’s getting laid when he’s getting [expletive].” [76] The booklet went on to note several of Bloomberg’s regrettable comments regarding the intelligence of women in general, including the saying, “If women wanted to be appreciated for their brains, they’d go to the library instead of to Bloomingdales.” [77] The book continued with Bloomberg claiming, “any self-respecting woman who walks past a construction and doesn’t get a whistle will turn around and walk past again and again until she does get one.” [78]

Bloomberg came under fire for the booklet both during his initial run for mayor and during his 2019-2020 presidential primary bid in the Democratic Party. [79] Bloomberg repeatedly shifted his story on the quotations, first claiming that he did not recall having made the statements in the booklets before his presidential primary campaign spokesperson Julie Wood told ABC News that Bloomberg “believes his words have not always aligned with his values and the way he has led his life.” [80]

Those closest to Bloomberg have insisted on the accuracy of the published quotations. [81] Elisabeth DeMarse, Bloomberg’s head of marketing in the 1990s who compiled the booklet, told New York magazine in 2001 that Bloomberg spoke the quotations contained in the booklet “to customers and new hires and anyone who comes into the office.” [82] DeMarse further insisted in the foreword of the booklet that the quotes were completely accurate and attributable to Bloomberg, writing, “Yes, these are all actual quotes. No, nothing has been embellished or exaggerated. And yes, some things were too outrageous to include.” [83] although DeMarse has since signed a confidentiality agreement with Bloomberg LP, DeMarse confirmed her 2001 statements to ABC News in December 2019. [84]

The book only scratches the surface of allegations of sexually inappropriate comments Bloomberg has made towards women, including comments made to reporters on the record. Speaking to a reporter, Bloomberg advertised himself as a “single, straight billionaire in Manhattan” who enjoyed “chasing women” and called his life of conquests “a wet dream.” [85] Bloomberg is further reported to have said in relation to the Bloomberg Terminal that it “will do everything, including give you [oral sex]. I guess that puts a lot of you girls out of business.” [86]

Despite the allegations of demeaning comments towards women by Bloomberg, he nonetheless received a vote of confidence from several left-of-center, supposedly pro-woman organizations, with former national chairwoman of Planned Parenthood Jill Lafer claiming that “To say he’s one of the biggest champions for women in this country and all over the world would be an understatement.” [87]

Philanthropy

Bloomberg is one of the largest charitable donors in the United States, topping the list of America’s largest donors in 2020 after giving $3.3 billion to charity in 2020 alone. [88] The majority of Bloomberg’s 2020 donations went to Johns Hopkins University, with Bloomberg giving the university $1.8 billion to fund its financial aid program. [89] Over the course of his life, Bloomberg has given over $9.5 billion to charitable foundations. [90] Bloomberg has also signed the “Giving Pledge,” requiring him to donate the majority of his $60 billion fortune in his lifetime. [91]

Nonetheless, even left-of-center publications have criticized Bloomberg’s philanthropy as a front for political giving. Bloomberg is a top donor to left-of-center organizations including the Sierra Club, Planned Parenthood, and the League of Conservation Voters. [92] In 2018, the Sierra Club alone received $8 million from the Bloomberg Foundation. [93] Critics accused Bloomberg of using philanthropy to buy support for his presidential bid, going so far as to run his campaign office out of Bloomberg Philanthropies’ headquarters. [94]

Bloomberg Philanthropies, the charitable arm of Bloomberg LP, has given billions to projects around the world, notably in support of the arts and left-of-center environmentalist causes. [95] Bloomberg Philanthropies has also given major grants to American cities with left-of-center leadership, grants from which Bloomberg may have benefited during his presidential run. [96] During his short-lived primary bid, Bloomberg secured endorsements from nine mayors who had received grants from Bloomberg Philanthropies. [97]

Bloomberg Philanthropies also funded a program for mayors at the Harvard Business School. [98] A number of the graduates of the programs who were mayors during his primary bid went on to endorse Bloomberg. [99] Bloomberg Philanthropies have also been controversially tied to China, having worked for years to finance Chinese initiatives on climate change in collaboration with the Chinese government. [100]

Political Donations

In 2018, Bloomberg and his organizations spent over $100 million during the midterm elections. [101] This included substantial contributions to former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams’s campaign, including $500,000 directly to her campaign and $5 million to her voter protection initiative. [102]

In addition to giving directly to Democratic candidates, Bloomberg has given substantially to left-leaning political action committees, with donations amounting to tens of millions of dollars over the years. In 2018 alone, Bloomberg contributed to the Senate Majority PAC ($20 million), the League of Conservation Voters Victory Fund ($5 million), and VoteVets ($1.5 million). [103] Bloomberg has also given substantially to left-of-center, pro-abortion organizations Emily’s List and Planned Parenthood Votes. [104] Bloomberg is also the largest donor to his own Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund and its sister action fund. [105]

In 2018, Bloomberg funneled most of his political donations through his own super PAC, the Independence USA PAC, spending $63.5 million through the PAC in 2018 alone. [106] The PAC primarily provided support to Democratic campaigns by spending millions on advertising. [107]

Prior to and during Bloomberg’s presidential campaign, he contributed millions to PACs affiliated with the Democratic Party. [108] In December 2019, Bloomberg gave $10 million to the House Majority PAC and $5 million Abrams’s Fair Fight. [109] Bloomberg also gave thousands to state wings of the Democratic Party across the country just weeks after declaring his presidential run. [110]

References

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