A week after election night, top House Democrat Nancy Pelosi quietly traveled to New York for private events with some of the nation's biggest donors, including potential 2020 presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg, CNBC has learned.
The meetings come as Pelosi's allies are preparing to lobby lawmakers to back her for speaker and Bloomberg, the former New York mayor who recently rejoined the Democratic Party, considers a run for president.
Pelosi met with Democratic donors and advisors in Manhattan on Monday. Her meeting with Bloomberg is planned for Tuesday.
Bloomberg later confirmed to the Associated Press that he met with Pelosi on Tuesday.
"I said, sitting next to her, without mincing words, I said, 'You know, we expect you to do a good job,'" Bloomberg said to the AP. "That's why we supported the Democrats."
Pelosi thanked the donors Monday night for their help during a grueling election season, according to two sources with direct knowledge of the matter. Pelosi hosted the event for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which is the leading group dedicated to electing Democrats to the House.
She praised the financiers for out-raising their rivals, the National Republican Congressional Committee.
According to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, the Democratic committee brought in more than $250 million throughout the 2018 election cycle while the Republican committee raised just over $174 million.
Event attendees privately discussed how they were going to help Pelosi become the next speaker of the House, according to a person who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Several lawmakers within the Democratic House caucus have said they do not want Pelosi to have a second tenure as speaker. However, it remains unclear whether they will actually go through with voting against her in either the initial caucus vote in November or the full floor vote in January.
One potential tactic discussed by lobbyists in Pelosi's inner circle: telling lawmakers on the fence about her that voting against giving her the speaker's gavel would amount to blocking progress for women after a historic election. NBC News is projecting at least 101 women who ran for House seats will win their respective races this year. NBC also projects Democrats will gain at least 31 seats in the House, while Republicans are going to expand their thin majority in the Senate.
Pelosi became the first female speaker in 2007. She handed the gavel to Republican John Boehner in 2011.
Her lieutenants plan to point to her successful fundraising effort in 2018 and will argue that it was one of the reasons so many women won House races. For the 2018 cycle, Pelosi raised $121.7 million for Democrats during the cycle. Since entering leadership ranks in 2002, she's raked in $714.5 million for her party.
A spokesman for Pelosi declined to comment. A spokeswoman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee did not return requests for comment.
On Tuesday, Pelosi turned her attention to a meeting with Bloomberg, her old friend and midterm king maker, according to two people with direct knowledge of the matter.
Before the start of the election season, Bloomberg invited Pelosi to New York to speak with the board of directors of his philanthropic office, Bloomberg Philanthropies, according to a source close to Pelosi. Board members include luminaries such as Disney CEO Bob Iger, former Treasury Secretary and ex-Goldman Sachs CEO Henry "Hank" Paulson and former Morgan Stanley CEO John Mack, the group's website says.
It's unclear whether these executives attended the meeting but the entire board was expected to participate. Representatives for Iger and Paulson did not return requests for comment. Mack could not be reached.
One of the goals of the gathering was to discuss the organization's philanthropic initiatives: the environment, public health, the arts, government innovation and enhancing the public education system. These priorities coincide with many of Pelosi's legislative goals as she prepares to return to Congress.
A source also noted that Pelosi recently indicated to friends she was planning to thank Bloomberg on Tuesday for being a staunch supporter for Democrats running in House races.
Representatives for Bloomberg did not return repeated requests for comment.
The former New York mayor spent more than $110 million to elect Democrats this year. Based on voting projections, 21 of the 24 House candidates he supported through his super PAC Independence USA are expected to win their races.
Political strategists say the Pelosi-Bloomberg get-together is significant because it shows that the billionaire financier is engaging with party leaders whose potential endorsements will be critical in a run for president. It also sends a message to rank-and-file Democrats.
"If you even think about being the nominee of a political party, it's important to have deep relationship with that party's leadership," Democratic strategist Hank Sheinkopf said.
"These kinds of meetings are key. It's also a way to understand that Mike Bloomberg is undoubtedly Democrat, has had a major impact on the Democratic Party and helped Democrats retake the House. Giving him some attention would be wise," he added.