Bloomberg donates $28 million to fight Big Toback over California ballots
Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has poured nearly $29 million over the past month into the Yes on Proposition 31 campaign, which seeks to fight back against Big Tobacco’s challenge to California’s 2020 flavored tobacco bans.
The billionaire philanthropist has raised a huge amount even though polls show the Yes on Prop. 31 amassed a staggering lead. A Berkeley IGS Survey conducted earlier this month showed the campaign to uphold the ban was ahead by 26 points, with only 12% of voters undecided.
It is unclear how the money, which will help the campaign pay for a dizzying array of digital ad buys, mailings and consulting contracts, will have a significant impact on the race given the Yes camp’s huge lead in the polls. Bloomberg’s last-minute spending is aligned with a fast-approaching three-year deadline pledge he has spent $160 million to ban flavored e-cigarettes by the end of 2022. It has also spent tens of millions to battle Big Sodom.
Shaun Bowler, a political science professor at UC Riverside, said he was shocked that Bloomberg would donate such a huge amount of money with the race looking like a done deal.
“Wow, wow, and wow again! That’s a lot of money!” he said. “The only thing I can tell is that Bloomberg needs someone to tell him how to spend his money better … what are his goals here?”
Bowler says California’s election races often tighten as Election Day approaches. And an internal examination of the campaign could indicate that the race is tighter than public opinion polls indicate. But given the number of competitive races across the country this cycle, Bowler says Bloomberg could have spent the money more efficiently.
For Bloomberg, this month’s donations are chump change, totaling about 0.038% of his net worth, which Forbes currently assessments to about 76.8 billion dollars. His donations are equal to a millionaire’s contribution of $375.
For the average minimum wage worker in the US, it would take nearly 1,913 years of full-time work to earn the amount Bloomberg set aside to quell the tobacco industry’s challenge to California’s ban.
There are plenty of them speculations that the tobacco companies that qualified to vote never expected to win at the polls. Only having Proposition 31 on the ballot triggered a nearly two-year hiatus on the statewide ban on flavored tobacco sales, allowing them to continue selling their products in the state.
Supporters of the ban say the delay allowed tobacco companies to make an assessment 830 million dollars in the sale, a huge payout for the $20 million investment that campaign finance records show they sunk into the race.
Bloomberg’s $28.8 million donation still dwarfs contributions in some of California’s most expensive ballots. Two competing sides of gambling reform measures, Prop. 26 and Prop. 27, have raised in the vicinity of half a billion dollars. Campaigns Prop. 29, which would add additional regulations to dialysis clinics, have raised a total of $86.4 million.
When asked about Bloomberg’s recent donations, a spokeswoman for the Yes on Prop. 31 Molly Weedn said the campaign is backed by a “diverse coalition of health organizations, philanthropists, civil justice groups and children’s advocates…” Nearly 97% of the campaign’s funding comes exclusively from Bloomberg.
Beth Miller, spokeswoman for the No on Prop campaign. 31, quickly brought up Bloomberg’s last-minute donations as a sign that the Yes campaign was getting nervous.
“That the party clearly believes that this measure could be threatened,” she said. “The only results that matter are those achieved on election day.”
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