Michael Bloomberg, Abandoning Super PAC Plans, Gives $18 Million to D.N.C. Instead

WASHINGTON — Michael R. Bloomberg is abandoning plans to form a new super PAC for the presidential race and pay his field organizers through November, instead opting to give $18 million to the Democratic National Committee for the party’s battleground states program.

Mr. Bloomberg’s presidential campaign had promised at its outset that it would finance a field program through the November election. Then upon his withdrawal from the race earlier this month, Bloomberg officials said the former New York mayor would continue to employ many of his campaign’s field staff through an independent campaign organization.

In the end Mr. Bloomberg, a multibillionaire, has chosen to do none of those things. He has transferred $18 million from his campaign account to the D.N.C., which intends to use the funds to hire its own organizing staff in battleground states.

“While we considered creating our own independent entity to support the nominee and hold the president accountable, this race is too important to have many competing groups with good intentions but that are not coordinated and united in strategy and execution,” the Bloomberg campaign wrote in an unsigned memo released Friday.

“We therefore believe the best thing we can all do over the next eight months is to help the group that matters most in this fight: the Democratic National Committee.”

The Bloomberg campaign had already paid rents through November for dozens of field offices in states expected to be competitive in the general election. Ownership of those offices will be transferred to Democratic state parties, which D.N.C. officials said would hire organizers using the $18 million from Mr. Bloomberg’s campaign. The Bloomberg memo said new D.N.C. staffing would be “drawing in part from our own incredibly experienced and talented organizing staff.”

Mr. Bloomberg’s $18 million contribution to the D.N.C., a figure that far exceeds individual limits, is legal, party officials said, because it is coming in the form of a transfer from the Bloomberg campaign. Individuals are allowed to make unlimited contributions to their own campaigns and campaigns can make unlimited transfers to political parties.

Brynne Craig, a senior adviser to Mr. Bloomberg, said on Friday morning that the former mayor remained determined to fund the campaign to topple President Trump.

“We’re changing the mechanism, not our commitment,” Ms. Craig said. “An I.E. field program is not as effective as a coordinated field program,” she added, referring to independent-expenditure groups.

But Mr. Bloomberg’s decision not to form a new super PAC represents an abrupt retreat from months of chest-thumping promises from some of his political advisers, particularly his campaign manager, Kevin Sheekey.

Mr. Sheekey boasted for months to Democratic officials and reporters that the former mayor would end up either mounting the best-funded presidential candidacy in history, or funding the biggest independent-expenditure effort ever. If Mr. Bloomberg ends up doing the latter, it appears it will not come in the form Mr. Sheekey frequently outlined — a monumental new super PAC.

Representatives for Mr. Bloomberg declined to explain the reversal beyond the rationale in the campaign’s public memo. But that document offered only a thin explanation: The main factor it cited, the risk of creating too many competing outside-spending groups, was readily apparent for months.

After Mr. Bloomberg ended his campaign on March 4, Mr. Sheekey told reporters that Mr. Bloomberg was already in the process of trademarking a name for an independent-expenditure group.

But at the time, other Bloomberg advisers cautioned that the former mayor was still a long way from deciding exactly how he would spend his money in the general election and that nothing could move forward without exhaustive and as-yet incomplete vetting by campaign finance lawyers.

Mr. Bloomberg is all but certain to remain a major funder of the Democratic Party, even in the absence of a new organization under his direct control.

And the transfer to the Democratic National Committee is not expected to be Mr. Bloomberg’s last huge contribution to the campaign against Mr. Trump: In recent weeks, he has also announced large donations to three major progressive groups — Swing Left, Collective Future and Voto Latino — and those checks are likely to keep coming.

“With this transfer from the Bloomberg campaign, Mayor Bloomberg and his team are making good on their commitment to beating Donald Trump,” said Tom Perez, the D.N.C. chairman. “This will help us invest in more organizers across the country to elect the next president and help Democrats win up and down the ballot.”

Mr. Bloomberg also has an existing super PAC, Independence USA, that he used to help Democrats take control of the House of Representatives in the 2018 midterm elections. The former mayor is said to have a particular sense of pride about the Democrats’ House majority, and one subject on which his advisers have always been consistent is Mr. Bloomberg’s determination to help keep those lawmakers in power.

With Mr. Biden’s emergence as the almost-presumptive Democratic nominee, multiple other super PACs have already staked claims on being major outside forces supporting his candidacy. Strategists for several of those groups have already been in contact with Mr. Bloomberg’s advisers about plans for the general election.

Priorities USA, a major super PAC that supported former President Barack Obama in 2012 and Hillary Clinton in 2016, said after the March 10 primaries that it was getting behind Mr. Biden. And a super PAC formed last fall to back Mr. Biden’s candidacy, Unite the Country, released a memo on Wednesday arguing that Mr. Biden’s victories this week had “effectively ended the race” for the Democratic nomination, and declaring that it was turning its attention to Mr. Trump.

“We started this organization to be the outside voice for Joe Biden, and we plan to see that work through to Election Day,” the pro-Biden organization said in a memo.

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