Mike Bloomberg's super PAC spends over $2 million to support seven Democratic women running in House races

Key Points
  • A super PAC funded mainly by billionaire Mike Bloomberg has spent more than $2 million this month in support of seven women running to unseat veteran House Republicans.
  • The commitment comes after Bloomberg declared he would be pushing ahead with an $80 million investment to support Democratic candidates.
  • Six of the seven target districts are labeled as either safe or lean Democratic by the nonpartisan analysis site Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball.
Former New York City Mayor and founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies Mike Bloomberg
Jim Watson | AFP | Getty Images

A super PAC funded almost entirely by billionaire and former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg has opened up its coffers to seven women running to unseat veteran Republican incumbents in the House of Representatives.

The super PAC, called Independence USA, has spent just more than $2 million this month in backing the Democratic challengers, according to a new Federal Election Commission filing submitted late Friday. Election Day is Nov. 6.

The candidates include:

  • Jennifer Wexton, a Virginia State Senator running to unseat Rep. Barbara Comstock in the state's 10th District. The PAC spent slightly more than $343,000 to back Wexton.
  • Kim Schrier, a pediatrician looking to flip a seat that's been held by seven-term Republican Rep. Dave Reichert in Washington's 8th District. The PAC spent more than $600,000 on internet ads to back Schrier and oppose her GOP rival, Dino Rossi.
  • Former Obama administration official Haley Stevens, who is looking to replace outgoing Rep. Dave Trott in Michigan's 11th District. The group spent $593,000 on an internet ad buy.

Most of the seven candidates are in districts favorable to Democrats, who are trying to flip the House out of GOP control. Nonpartisan political analysis site Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball marks only one of them as a toss-up: Michigan's 8th District, where former Obama official Elissa Slotkin is running against GOP Rep. Mike Bishop. The others are in areas considered "lean" or "safe" Democratic.

Mike Bloomberg re-registers as a Democrat as he considers presidential run
Mike Bloomberg re-registers as a Democrat as he considers presidential run

Before the PAC's most recent investment, it had spent $568,982 for Democrats and $1.4 million against Republicans, according the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.

Aaron Fritschner, a spokesman for the Wexton campaign said gaining support from independent groups such as Bloomberg's is the latest sign their message is resonating with those from within and outside their district.

"The Wexton campaign is focused on fighting for every vote until polls close on November 6th," Fritschner said. "While we cannot coordinate these decisions with outside organizations which take an interest in the race, the desire to change representation in Virginia's 10th District for the better is undoubtedly resonating," he added.

A spokesman for the PAC did not return requests for comment. Representatives for the the other Democratic campaigns also did not return requests for comment.

The efforts by the Bloomberg-affiliated PAC come as record numbers of women run for office in this year's midterm elections. Overall, 256 women have qualified for the November elections who are running for House or U.S. Senate seats. The vast majority of the women who made it through the primaries are running on the Democratic ticket.

Republicans hold majorities in both the House and the Senate. Experts peg Democrats as tentative favorites to win back the House. The GOP, meanwhile, is expected to hold on to or expand its slim margin in the Senate as most of the seats up for grabs are held by Democrats. Ten of them are in states President Donald Trump won in 2016.

Bloomberg's spending blitz

Bloomberg, who has held office as a Republican and an independent, announced in June that he would be spending $80 million to support Democrats in the upcoming elections. At the time, he criticized Republicans for achieving little while they've controlled the government.

"Republicans, who control both houses of Congress, have done little to reach across the aisle to craft bipartisan solutions – not only on guns and climate change, but also on jobs, immigration, health care, and infrastructure. As a result, Congress has accomplished very little," he said in a statement.

The filing about the donations also came the same day as Republicans Susan Collins and Jeff Flake announced they would vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. Kavanaugh was under scrutiny because of sexual misconduct accusations that related to his high school and college years. The Senate confirmed Kavanaugh on Saturday by a vote of 50-48.

Bloomberg himself made controversial remarks about the #MeToo movement in a recent interview with The New York Times. When discussing veteran host and interviewer Charlie Rose, who had been accused of sexual harassment, Bloomberg seemed to question the validity of some of the claims.

Kavanaugh confirmed amid sexual misconduct allegations
Kavanaugh confirmed amid sexual misconduct allegations

"The stuff I read about is disgraceful — I don't know how true all of it is," Bloomberg told the Times. "We never had a complaint, whatsoever, and when I read some of the stuff, I was surprised, I will say. But I never saw anything and we have no record, we've checked very carefully."

The two political consulting firms the PAC appears to be working with are also linked to Bloomberg.

SKDKnickerbocker, with offices across the country, has been a key component of the Bloomberg PAC operations throughout the 2018 election cycle.

The firm employs veteran media strategist Bill Knapp, who produced the advertising juggernaut during all three of Bloomberg's mayoral campaigns, according to its website. Andrew Shipley, the firm's senior vice president for advertising and creative services, was also involved with one of Bloomberg's runs for mayor.

Then there's Bully Pulpit Interactive, a communications firm based out of Washington, D.C., that also has offices in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago.

Ben Labolt, a partner at the company, was a top communications advisor to Bloomberg Philanthropies, an organization that funnels some of the former mayor's wealth and resources to address issues such as the environment, public education and health, among others.

Representatives from both firms did not return requests for comment.

Correction: This article has been updated to reflect that Kim Schrier is looking to flip a seat that's been held by Republican Rep. Dave Reichert.