Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has quietly reserved more than $30 million in television advertising for Democratic candidates in swing districts in the two weeks before next month’s midterm elections.
The advertising spending, described by several sources watching the television marketplace, comes through Bloomberg’s Independence USA PAC.
Bloomberg pledged to spend at least $80 million helping Democrats reclaim control of the House — a sign, some believed, that the billionaire businessman might try to run for the party’s presidential nomination.
But Democratic strategists privately complained that they had not seen the money actually flow into campaigns, even as conservative billionaire Sheldon Adelson cut his own eight-figure checks to the most prominent Republican super PAC battling for control of the House.
Now, Bloomberg’s cash is beginning to flow.
About a third of the total spending is coming against two California Republicans who find themselves facing tough Democratic challengers for the first time in years. Bloomberg’s PAC has reserved more than $4.1 million in airtime against both Reps. Steve Knight (R) and Dana RohrabacherDana Tyrone RohrabacherGeorge Papadopoulos launches campaign to run for Katie Hill's congressional seat The Hill's Morning Report - Trump, Biden go toe-to-toe in Iowa Ex-GOP lawmakers are face of marijuana blitz MORE (R), who hold districts covered by the Los Angeles media market.
Independence USA Pac will spend nearly $3 million on behalf of pediatrician Kim Schrier (D), who faces former state Sen. Dino Rossi (R) in a fiercely contested battle for a Republican-held seat whose residents voted for Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonFive landmark moments of testimony to Congress Top diplomat said request for specific probes in Ukraine was 'contrary' to US policy Feehery: What Republicans must do to adapt to political realignment MORE in 2016, just outside of Seattle.
The group also reserved $2.5 million in airtime in the Las Vegas media market, where former Reps. Steven HorsfordSteven Alexander HorsfordProgressive freshmen jump into leadership PAC fundraising Mass shootings have hit 158 House districts so far this year Pelosi announces launch of formal impeachment inquiry into Trump MORE (D) and Cresent Hardy (R) are fighting to reclaim their old job. And it will spend $1.9 million on behalf of state Sen. Jennifer Wexton (D), who appears likely to oust Rep. Barbara ComstockBarbara Jean ComstockGun debate raises stakes in battle for Virginia legislature Progressives face steep odds in ousting incumbent Democrats K Street giants scoop up coveted ex-lawmakers MORE (R) in the Washington, D.C., suburbs.
Many of Bloomberg’s other targets are familiar denizens of the toss-up category, including Reps. Carlos CurbeloCarlos Luis CurbeloProgressive Latino group launches first incumbent protection campaign The Memo: Bad polls for Trump shake GOP Anxious GOP treads carefully with Trump defense MORE (R-Fla.), Peter Roskam Peter James RoskamFeehery: How Republicans can win back the suburbs Ex-GOP Rep. Roskam joins lobbying firm Blue states angry over SALT cap should give fiscal sobriety a try MORE (R-Ill.), Kevin YoderKevin Wayne YoderFeehery: How Republicans can win back the suburbs K Street giants scoop up coveted ex-lawmakers Kansas Senate race splits wide open without Pompeo MORE (R-Kan.), Mike Bishop (R-Mich.), Erik PaulsenErik Philip PaulsenTwo swing-district Democrats raise impeachment calls after whistleblower reports Hopes dim for passage of Trump trade deal Fight over Trump's new NAFTA hits key stretch MORE (R-Minn.), Jason LewisJason Mark LewisTwo swing-district Democrats raise impeachment calls after whistleblower reports GOP Senate candidate said Republicans have 'dual loyalties' to Israel The Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch MORE (R-Minn.) and John CulbersonJohn Abney CulbersonFormer GOP Rep. Walters joins energy company Bottom line Lack of transparency may put commercial space program at risk MORE (R-Texas).
Bloomberg is aiming to help Democratic candidates in open seats currently held by Reps. Darrell IssaDarrell Edward IssaWhy the GOP march of mad hatters poses a threat to our Democracy Elijah Cummings, native son of Baltimore, gets emotional send-off from Democratic luminaries Lawmakers come together to honor Cummings: 'One of the greats in our country's history' MORE (R-Calif.), Lynn JenkinsLynn Haag JenkinsFormer GOP Rep. Costello launches lobbying shop Kansas Republican dropping Senate bid to challenge GOP rep Anti-corruption group hits Congress for ignoring K Street, Capitol Hill 'revolving door' MORE (R-Kan.) and David Trott (R-Mich.).
But Bloomberg’s PAC is also looking a little farther afield, apparently in hopes of expanding the battlefield into some unlikely territory.
The PAC has reserved airtime in Washington’s 3rd District, where Rep. Jaime Herrera BeutlerJaime Lynn Herrera BeutlerGOP lawmakers offer new election security measure GOP group calls out five House Republicans to speak up on Ukraine Dems push to revive Congress' tech office MORE (R) is seeking her fourth term. She faces Carolyn Long, a college professor, in a district President TrumpDonald John TrumpTariffs threaten 1.5m jobs: Study Trump says he'll meet with dictators if it helps the US Barr to launch anti-gun violence initiative during public impeachment hearing MORE won by 7 points in 2016. A Siena College poll conducted for The New York Times last week showed Herrera Beutler leading Long 48 percent to 41 percent.
Bloomberg will also spend nearly half a million dollars in Georgia’s 6th District, a suburban Atlanta area that was the epicenter of a hotly contested special election last year in which Democrat Jon Ossoff raised tens of millions of dollars in an ultimately unsuccessful bid against Rep. Karen HandelKaren Christine HandelOssoff raises 0k in first three weeks of Senate bid, campaign says McBath passes on running for Senate GOP buys JonOssoff.com after Democrat launches Georgia Senate bid MORE (R).
Handel now faces Lucy McBath, a businesswoman and gun control activist — an issue near to Bloomberg’s heart. The only public poll in the race, conducted last week, shows Handel leading by just 4 percentage points.
And Bloomberg even hopes to fill the conservative district once held by former Rep. Ron DeSantisRonald Dion DeSantisSaagar Enjeti: Republicans lost Kentucky by failing to appeal to working class Saagar Enjeti: Republicans lost Kentucky by screwing the working class Burr promises bill to tax scholarships of student athletes who profit off their likenesses MORE (R), who quit his seat to focus on his run for governor of Florida. The Independence USA PAC has reserved nearly $1.3 million on behalf of Nancy Soderberg, a high-ranking official on Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonPennsylvania's other election-night story Democrats debate how to defeat Trump: fight or heal As impeachment goes public, forget 'conventional wisdom' MORE’s National Security Council.
Soderberg faces an uphill bid against Mike Waltz, a former top aide to Vice President Dick Cheney, in a district that went for President Trump by nearly 20 points. So far, the vast majority of the outside spending in the race has come on Waltz’s behalf, from Bloomberg’s old foe, the National Rifle Association.
The PAC’s spending is being reported to the Federal Election Commission by its treasurer, Howard Wolfson. Wolfson did not respond to a request for comment Friday morning.
Independence USA PAC has already spent more than $19 million on advertising backing Democratic candidates in the last month, reports that include some of the current buys.
The remaining buys that have yet to be reported will vault that total north of $35 million, making Bloomberg a more prominent player in the 2018 midterm elections than all but eight other outside groups, according to a running tally maintained by Political MoneyLine.