Billionaire and former presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg is plotting a massive spending blitz to back Joe Biden's quest for the White House.
The former New York mayor and his closest political advisors are discussing whether Bloomberg's expenditures will include major donations to pro-Biden super PACs, Biden's joint fundraising effort with the Democratic National Committee, or another independent group, according to people familiar with the conversations. These people declined to be named as the talks were private.
There are at least three super PACs backing Biden that Bloomberg could give to: Unite the Country, Priorities USA and American Bridge. Donors can give unlimited funds to super PACs, but are limited in how much they can give to campaigns and joint fundraising campaign committees.
"As Mike has said, he supports Vice President Biden in defeating Donald Trump. We're currently looking at how to best support Vice President Biden as well as Democratic victories up and down the ballot in November, just as Mike Bloomberg has done in previous cycles," a Bloomberg spokesperson told CNBC.
Though it's unclear how much Bloomberg will eventually spend, some of the people familiar with the matter noted that they anticipate Bloomberg to end up spending in excess of $250 million to support Biden, the apparent Democratic nominee. Any major financial support from Bloomberg backing Biden does not include what he could put toward assisting congressional Democrats. After dropping out of the Democratic primary for president in March, Bloomberg endorsed Biden and later announced his campaign would transfer $18 million to the DNC.
With six months to go until the general election, Bloomberg investing part of his $58 billion net worth would be a critical boost for the former vice president. Biden and other leaders of the Democratic Party have been trying to build a general election juggernaut that would have a chance of overcoming President Donald Trump's war chest.
The coronavirus pandemic has forced all campaigns to go virtual and, although Biden kept up with Trump in fundraising in April, raising $60.5 million, he is still behind in cash. The president's campaign and the Republican National Committee have a combined $255 million in reserve. The Biden campaign told reporters on Friday that it had $103 million on hand at the end of April when combined with the DNC.
A Real Clear Politics polling average shows Biden ahead of Trump nationally by close to 5 points.
Bloomberg has become a major contributor to Democratic campaigns and causes favored by the party, including gun safety. His contributions helped Democrats become the majority in the U.S. House of Representatives during the 2018 congressional midterm elections.
"Historically, the former mayor has spent big, spent late and won. Look at the history because Democrats have often won big with Bloomberg's backing," said a person close to Bloomberg who is also familiar with the talks. Bloomberg's team has previously said that he spent $110 million on Democrats throughout the 2018 congressional campaign.
Biden joined Bloomberg and more than 350 local leaders, including city mayors, on a virtual forum on Thursday to discuss the efforts being made to combat the coronavirus. Although Bloomberg didn't show his hand on how he plans to help Biden, he praised the former vice president and even took a moment to reflect on when the two faced off in the Democratic primary.
"You might remember we didn't work quite as closely this past winter, but we have always been united in this love of country and public service and that's what this is all about," Bloomberg said. Biden had praise for Bloomberg, too. "Mayor Bloomberg has been one of the great mayors of this country and also one of the great leaders of this country," said the former vice president.
Bloomberg had planned on creating a super PAC that would target Trump. But he decided against it and ended up laying off field staff in key battleground states across the country. He finished spending $1 billion on an entirely self-funded campaign that only secured 55 delegates, including a victory in the American Samoa caucuses on Super Tuesday.
The former New York mayor has previously said he would not rule out spending up to $1 billion against Trump, whether he was running for president or not. Trump's campaign manager, Brad Parscale, has said they plan to spend at least $1 billion defending the president and getting him reelected.
The 2020 election cycle is looking to be one of the most expensive yet, especially as it pertains to campaigns' spending on advertisements. A recent study by Advertising Analytics shows campaigns could end up investing $6.7 billion in advertising alone. They cite the coronavirus as one of the reasons there could be such a focus on ads this year. "The lack of face-to-face campaigning driving higher shares of budgets to paid media," the report said.
Since his short-lived run for president, Bloomberg has focused on funding a large-scale tracing and testing program that could help fight the coronavirus. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's team has previously said that Bloomberg is contributing up to $10 million to those efforts.
Bloomberg's tech firm, Hawkfish, has been working with Bloomberg Philanthropies on creating social media assets that promote the program and discuss the impact of the coronavirus, according to a member of the philanthropic group. Many of the videos it has put together are on the Twitter and Facebook pages of Bloomberg Philanthropies.
While the firm has struggled to pick up clients as political organizations are switching gears due to the coronavirus pandemic, Biden's team still has not ruled out bringing on the Bloomberg-backed entity.
A spokesman for the Biden campaign did not return a request for comment.