The DNC is Changing the Rules for Michael Bloomberg

Quick Hits:
  • On Friday, January 31, the DNC announced changes in its qualification criteria to participate in upcoming debates.
  • By eliminating the individual donor requirement, this revision opens the door for Michael Bloomberg to reach the debate stage.
  • The move has sparked controversy, after party officials refused to alter the rules in December for candidates like Cory Booker and Julian Castro, effectively ending their campaigns.

On Friday evening, January 31, the Democratic National Committee made a major announcement. After the New Hampshire primary, the party’s previously rigid debate participation requirements will be receiving a significant overhaul. Naturally, this news made a lot of Democrats extremely unhappy.

To date,

the debate qualification criteria have consisted of a combination of individual donors and poll numbers. Depending on where the party set the polling cut-off – it’s gradually increased with each subsequent debate – the candidate would need to meet the threshold either in four national polls or two statewide surveys.

As of mid-January, the DNC also decided to include any candidate to win at least one pledged delegate in the Iowa caucuses on the New Hampshire debate stage on February 7. But these latest changes seem designed to benefit one specific person: Michael Bloomberg.

That looks bad to the Democratic electorate, who watched Cory Booker’s appeal to have the qualification thresholds changed shot down by DNC leadership in December.

The DNC apparently stuck to the rules when they were helping to eliminate candidates of color. Having eliminated them, the rules are being scrapped to give a billionaire a chance to buy the election and not have to compete against the eliminated ones. https://t.co/DIJWOPIVxw
— Anand Giridharadas (@AnandWrites) January 31, 2020

Now that their billionaire super-donor wants to play, Tom Perez and company suddenly don’t mind ditching the individual donor requirements – a change that only helps the self-funded former Mayor, who happens to be worth $60 billion.

The new rules will go into effect in time for the ninth debate in Nevada, which will take place on February 19 – three days prior to the state’s caucuses.

Sanders’s campaign on DNC debate rule change: “To now change the rules in the middle of the game to accommodate Mike Bloomberg, who is trying to buy his way into the Democratic nomination, is wrong. That’s the definition of a rigged system.”
— Dave Weigel (@daveweigel) January 31, 2020

Money Talks

With this announcement has come widespread speculation as to why Democratic officials had a change of heart, just a week away from the eighth primary debate, and a mere handful of days from the Iowa caucus. It’s hard to believe their motives weren’t tied to the candidate’s immense wealth, and what it could possibly do for the DNC as a whole.

Billionaire Bloomberg just bought the @DNC. #PayToPlay #StandWithTulsi
— Tulsi Gabbard ? (@TulsiGabbard) January 31, 2020

The validity of this theory is reinforced by the fact that Michael Bloomberg gave the party $800,000 before joining the race back in November, in addition to the hundreds-of-millions he’s already spent on campaign advertisements.

At a Bernie Sanders rally in Iowa, and enraged Michael Moore vented to the crowd about the recent development. “I’d like to hear full transparency from the DNC and tell us how much he has offered to give in the November election if they let him on the stage,” Moore said. “I just think this is what we’re so used to on our side where people that are supposed to be on our side end up being for the people with the money.”

Opponents of Bloomberg will also point to the massive network of Mayors and other beneficiaries of Bloomberg Philanthropies, which has purchased quite a bit of loyalty and endorsements for the world’s fourteenth-richest man.

Throw in an outrageously large team of over 1,000 staffers – each of whom were given iPhone 11s, MacBooks, and bloated salaries that no other campaign could afford, and you can see why the masses are crying “foul.” Employees of Team Bloomberg even get their housing covered and three free meals per day. They’ve already spent more than $10k on sushi alone!

Let’s make one thing clear: @TheDemocrats decision to change the rules now to accommodate Mike Bloomberg and not changing them in the past to ensure a more diverse debate stage is just plain wrong. https://t.co/BoCVpahWpx
— Tom Steyer (@TomSteyer) January 31, 2020

All-in-all, the uber-wealthy Democratic contender is doing very little to dispel the notion that he’s attempting to buy the nomination. And I’m not sure we’ve heard the half of it!

Debt Relief in Exchange for Control?

In 2016, it was abundantly clear that the Democratic National Committee was doing everything it could to tip the scales in favor of Hillary Clinton. However, there’s more to that story than most people realize. Many of these decisions weren’t made out of blind loyalty but out of financial necessity.

Check out this excerpt from Donna Brazile, the former interim chair of the DNC’s book, Hacks: The Inside Story of the Break-ins and Breakdowns that Put Donald Trump in the White House:

“The Saturday morning after the convention in July, I called Gary Gensler, the chief financial officer of Hillary’s campaign. He wasted no words. He told me the Democratic Party was broke and $2 million in debt.

“What?” I screamed. “I am an officer of the party and they’ve been telling us everything is fine and they were raising money with no problems.”

That wasn’t true, he said. Officials from Hillary’s campaign had taken a look at the DNC’s books. Obama left the party $24 million in debt—$15 million in bank debt and more than $8 million owed to vendors after the 2012 campaign—and had been paying that off very slowly. Obama’s campaign was not scheduled to pay it off until 2016. Hillary for America (the campaign) and the Hillary Victory Fund (its joint fundraising vehicle with the DNC) had taken care of 80 percent of the remaining debt in 2016, about $10 million, and had placed the party on an allowance.”

Brazile goes on to detail a secret agreement the Clinton campaign made with the Democratic Party. In exchange for covering the debt and continuing to finance election expenses, Hillary was given unprecedented control of the DNC.

“I, at last, found the document that described it all: the Joint Fund-Raising Agreement between the DNC, the Hillary Victory Fund, and Hillary for America.

The agreement—signed by Amy Dacey, the former CEO of the DNC, and Robby Mook with a copy to Marc Elias—specified that in exchange for raising money and investing in the DNC, Hillary would control the party’s finances, strategy, and all the money raised. Her campaign had the right of refusal of who would be the party communications director, and it would make final decisions on all the other staff. The DNC also was required to consult with the campaign about all other staffing, budgeting, data, analytics, and mailings.”

When you read how the Democrats were operating four years ago, you have to wonder if a similar arrangement hasn’t been struck in 2020. Is it possible that Michael Bloomberg has offered to erase the party’s debt, fund down-ballot races throughout the US, or provide much-needed resources for the eventual nominee in the generals?

The mega-billionaire hasn’t been shy about using his absurd wealth to gain advantages in every other aspect of his campaign; why wouldn’t he buy additional influence with the DNC itself?

Prior Criticisms

1. The DNC process sucked.

2. Bloomberg SHOULD be on the debate stage at this point. The reality is that he has bought himself into contention and shouldn’t be able to avoid scrutiny by moderators and competitors.

3. Oligarchy is real.

— Krystal Ball (@krystalball) January 31, 2020

Now, it’s worth noting that just this week, primary opponents were complaining that the former NY Mayor wasn’t participating in the debates. By funding the entirety of his campaign, himself, and refusing outside donations, Bloomberg was kept off the debate stage, which other candidates saw as a way for him to avoid being challenged on his record.

Instead, he was just ignoring the early states while flooding Super Tuesday markets with aggressive advertising schemes that other campaigns could not yet afford. This approach helped the Bloomberg candidacy gain traction, while the frontrunners fought amongst themselves for Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina – and it worked, the finance/media mogul is now polling in the double-digits in some surveys.

So, now he’ll likely be on the debate stage where he’ll have to meet his fellow challengers head-to-head. Bloomberg needs to hit 10 percent in four national polls, or 12 percent in two statewide polls in South Carolina and Nevada to qualify. At the moment, he’s already met the requirement in one national poll – just three more to go before February 18.

What Do We Take from This?

The financial incentives for accommodating Michael Bloomberg are obvious, but I don’t think they’re the only reason the Democratic Party made these changes. I also don’t think his donations will buy the billionaire anywhere near the access and total control that Hillary Clinton enjoyed in 2016.

What this means to me is that the DNC is losing faith in Joe Biden as their top establishment-friendly candidate. The former Vice President is clearly struggling mentally and being propped up and carried through the primaries – he doesn’t seem to know where he is half the time. Recently, Biden’s team provided him with index cards with healthcare talking points, because he could no longer reliably answer questions from voters at various events.

The Democrats aren’t willing to just hand the nomination to Bernie Sanders that easily. While Bloomberg’s initial plan was to wait until Super Tuesday to win delegates, this is an attempt to get him engaged two states sooner, in Nevada. From there, I think he’ll gradually take over for Joe as Senator Sanders’s main competition.

What will be interesting is seeing how voters respond to an insanely wealthy candidate moving to the forefront of the race. It was one thing when he was languishing below 5% while spending tens-of-millions per week, but now he’s a serious contender.

With so much of the campaign rhetoric centered around economic anxiety, healthcare, and forcing corporations and the wealthy to pay their fair share, how will Bloomberg’s message play? Friday’s news will also put the billionaire in the crosshairs for the first time this election cycle. How will he stand up to scrutiny when challenged on “stop and frisk,” his business relationships in China, or his alleged history of mistreating female employees in his organization?

More Changes to Come?

In addition to the revisions made to the debate criteria, Politico revealed on Friday that some DNC officials have begun contemplating further changes aimed at preventing a Bernie Sanders nomination. According to David Siders:

In conversations on the sidelines of a DNC executive committee meeting and in telephone calls and texts in recent days, about a half-dozen members have discussed the possibility of a policy reversal to ensure that so-called superdelegates can vote on the first ballot at the party’s national convention. Such a move would increase the influence of DNC members, members of Congress and other top party officials, who now must wait until the second ballot to have their say if the convention is contested.

Since this story broke, DNC Chairman Tom Perez has responded with the following Tweet:

Absolutely not. We put in the work to ensure power was returned to the grassroots, we will be following the rules set forth by the DNC. We will not bend on this, we will not change our rules.
— Tom Perez (@TomPerez) January 31, 2020

Of course, this comment was widely met with a collective rolling of the eyes, considering the party just changed the rules to their debate requirements. It doesn’t help that Perez recently stacked the committees overseeing the rules and DNC platform at this year’s nominating convention with corporatist Democrats with a history of despising Bernie Sanders.

Despite his reassurances, Sanders supporters are seeing the deck stacked incrementally against them. And that’s why Michael Bloomberg’s sudden acceptance onto the debate stage is being met with such frustration and cynicism.

Progressives can see another 2016 coming, but it’s not yet clear how the Democratic Party will execute their plan.
Will Cormier / Author

Will Cormier is a sports and political betting writer living in downtown Las Vegas, Nevada. When he’s not wandering around the streets of the Arts District aimlessly, a lifetime of pessimism and paranoia has made Will perfectly suited for handicapping politics. Cormier tries to analyze current events as objectively as possible – a strategy that often enrages loyalists on both the right and the left. When he’s not covering major upcoming elections, Will enjoys writing about basketball, football, and MMA from a betting perspective. He also loves dogs, ice cream sundaes, the movie “Stomp the Yard,” and long walks on the beach.

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