Bloomberg campaign rebuts claims it’s using cheap candidate ad rates to damage Trump

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Michael Bloomberg’s late entry into the 2020 Democratic field spurred charges his candidacy was actually a veiled attempt to access to lower advertising rates for commercials aimed at harming President Trump’s reelection chances, rather than a serious bid to win the presidency.

The Bloomberg campaign says that’s not so.

Federal Communications Commission regulations require that broadcasters give candidates for federal office the lowest available ad rate for a period before an election, but those rules do not apply to groups like PACs and super PACs. As a result, outside groups end up spending more for airtime, meaning political contributions don’t go as far.

“He’s going to get more bang for his buck with the campaign ads he’s putting up,” Fox News contributor Lisa Booth said of Bloomberg on Tucker Carlson Tonight on Tuesday. “So what he gets to do is throw a Hail Mary campaign, ‘Maybe I’ll win, I probably won’t, but who cares?’ And what he also gets to do is put all this money in to damage President Trump in the process.”

A Business Insider analysis published Friday said that his campaign “could be part of a strategy to pay the cheapest rates possible to air anti-Trump ads.”

Bloomberg campaign spokesman Marc LaVorgna said Wednesday that’s not the case.

“The theory is ridiculous,” LaVorgna told the Washington Examiner. “He is running because he is the best candidate to ensure Donald Trump is not reelected, to start to rebuild from the damage Trump has caused, and to deliver results for the country.”

Bloomberg, New York mayor for 12 years starting in 2002, is worth an estimated $54.6 billion. Bloomberg, 77, is self-funding his campaign with no outside political donations. He has dished out more than $30 million on a weeklong nationwide ad blitz, a show of strength and way to play catch-up as a late entry in a crowded primary with candidates who have been campaigning for most of the past year.

[ Related: A tale of two billionaires: Trump and Bloomberg disrupt primaries four years apart]

Rather than a takedown of Trump, however, the ads introduce the former New York mayor as a candidate and overwhelmingly focus on Bloomberg’s biography and accomplishments.

Trump is not mentioned by name in the ads, but he appears on-screen briefly as a narrator condemns “the denial of this administration to protect the only home we have from the growing menace of climate change.” The White House is pictured alongside a reference to “a different kind of menace coming from Washington.”

Bloomberg earlier this month pledged to spend $100 million of his own money on a digital ad campaign against Trump. Digital ads are a category not affected by the FCC regulation, meaning that Bloomberg’s candidacy gives him no better bang for his buck.

The $100 million in anti-Trump ads is in addition to what Bloomberg will spend on showcasing himself as the best candidate to win the Democratic presidential nomination, according to the New York Times. The ads, which have messages such as, “A tweet shouldn’t threaten our country’s security” and “Trump doesn’t care,” direct to Bloomberg’s campaign website.

And the FCC regulation that guarantees the lowest available rates for federal candidates only applies during “political protection” periods: 45 days before a primary and 60 days before a general election. Bloomberg’s first broadcast ads are running 68 days ahead of the first-in-the-nation Feb. 3 Iowa caucuses, well outside the period where the regulation makes a measurable difference.

Bloomberg is expected to skip campaigning in the first four early nominating contest states — Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina — and instead focus on winning votes in March 3, “Super Tuesday” states and beyond.

Rival candidates have condemned Bloomberg’s massive self-funded campaign.

“If you get out and knock on 1,000 doors, he’ll just spend another $37 million to flood the airwaves. And that’s how he plans to buy a nomination in the Democratic Party,” Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren said during a campaign stop in Iowa on Monday.

Bloomberg responded to the attacks by pointing to his previous political and charitable spending. When he was mayor, he founded Mayors Against Illegal Guns, which later became Everytown for Gun Safety, and has donated billions to charitable causes.

“For years, I’ve been using my resources for the things that matter to me,” Bloomberg told reporters Monday. “I’m fully committed to defeating Donald Trump. I think he’s an existential threat to our country. I’m going to make my case and let the voters, who are plenty smart, make their choice.”

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