Mike Bloomberg won't need the money if he runs for president, but some Wall Street executives are getting ready to line up behind him, and that could be bad news for other moderate Democratic contenders looking for a fundraising boost.
Bloomberg, the 77-year-old billionaire former mayor of New York, has said he will not conduct any fundraising and will self-finance a run for president. Yet his campaign could pull financial industry support from more moderate Democratic candidates such as former Vice President Joe Biden, South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Kamala Harris.
Former Morgan Stanley CEO John Mack has already told Bloomberg's team that he's "all in" if his longtime friend gets into the race, according to a person familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity because the conversation was deemed private. Mack is on the board of Bloomberg's philanthropic group. He contributed $2,800 to Biden's campaign in May, a Federal Election Commission filing shows. Biden finished the third quarter raising only $15 million.
Bloomberg has yet to announce whether he will enter the primary, but he has privately signaled to his associates that an announcement is likely by this weekend. Most people who know him are convinced he will be getting into the race, according to those familiar with the matter. His team has been interviewing and hiring aides for a potential run for president, these people added. Bloomberg also has dedicated $100 million in spending on digital attack ads against President Donald Trump, whether the former mayor runs or not.
Some of Biden's supporters have been privately fretting that Bloomberg's candidacy could split the moderate vote and clinch the candidacy for the more progressive Sen. Elizabeth Warren. A private equity executive told CNBC on the condition of anonymity that a Bloomberg campaign represents an alternative to Biden and Harris. This executive preferred Biden and Harris to the field, but he has felt unimpressed with their campaigns in recent weeks.
The fifth Democratic primary debate is set for Wednesday night. Biden, Warren, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Buttigieg and Harris will be under intense scrutiny.
Biden continues to lead the field nationally, although Warren and Sanders have doggedly remained in second and third place. Biden's standing in early state primary polls has also been on shakier ground. Yet Bloomberg hasn't shown that he has broken through to voters yet. A recent Morning Consult poll shows that Bloomberg has only 4% of support in the Democratic primary if he were to jump into the election. Biden still leads in most of the national polls.
Bradley Tusk, a venture capitalist and former mayoral campaign manager for Bloomberg, will be assisting Bloomberg's political organization from the outside, a person with knowledge of the matter said. His role has yet to be fully determined and he won't be leaving his company, Tusk Holdings, to work on the campaign. Tusk has a political advisory firm as part of his larger business named Tusk Strategies. He has written checks to a variety of candidates, including Buttigieg.
Joshua Steiner, a senior advisor at Bloomberg's company and a co-chairman Castleton Commodities International, will also likely play an external role with the campaign, according to a friend of the former mayor.
Robert Steel, a partner at Perella Weinberg, and once a member of Bloomberg's mayoral administration, has been acknowledging to his colleagues that Bloomberg could be a strong candidate for president, said people with knowledge of the matter. Prior to his role as the deputy mayor for economic Development, Steel was CEO of the defunct bank Wachovia. He also previously worked at Goldman Sachs.
Steiner did not deny that he might be involved with Bloomberg's potential campaign and referred CNBC to the former mayor's press team.
A spokesman for Bloomberg declined to comment. Mack, Tusk and Steel did not return requests for comment.
Bloomberg's allies point to his experience in government and private enterprise, where he built one of the world's largest fortunes. Forbes pegs his net worth at just over $55 billion.
"He's just a very effective executive and manager who's got a strong set of beliefs and value," Walter Isaacson, a senior advisor at Perella Weinberg and a longtime board member of Bloomberg Philanthropies, told CNBC in an interview. "I think he would be a great chief executive."