Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has quietly reserved more than $30 million in television advertising for Democratic candidates in swing districts in the two weeks before next month’s midterm elections.
The advertising spending, described by several sources watching the television marketplace, comes through Bloomberg’s Independence USA PAC.
Bloomberg pledged to spend at least $80 million helping Democrats reclaim control of the House — a sign, some believed, that the billionaire businessman might try to run for the party’s presidential nomination.
But Democratic strategists privately complained that they had not seen the money actually flow into campaigns, even as conservative billionaire Sheldon Adelson cut his own eight-figure checks to the most prominent Republican super PAC battling for control of the House.
Now, Bloomberg’s cash is beginning to flow.
About a third of the total spending is coming against two California Republicans who find themselves facing tough Democratic challengers for the first time in years. Bloomberg’s PAC has reserved more than $4.1 million in airtime against both Reps. Steve Knight (R) and Dana Rohrabacher (R), who hold districts covered by the Los Angeles media market.
Independence USA Pac will spend nearly $3 million on behalf of pediatrician Kim Schrier (D), who faces former state Sen. Dino Rossi (R) in a fiercely contested battle for a Republican-held seat whose residents voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016, just outside of Seattle.
The group also reserved $2.5 million in airtime in the Las Vegas media market, where former Reps. Steven Horsford (D) and Cresent Hardy (R) are fighting to reclaim their old job. And it will spend $1.9 million on behalf of state Sen. Jennifer Wexton (D), who appears likely to oust Rep. Barbara Comstock (R) in the Washington, D.C., suburbs.
Many of Bloomberg’s other targets are familiar denizens of the toss-up category, including Reps. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.), Peter Roskam (R-Ill.), Kevin Yoder (R-Kan.), Mike Bishop (R-Mich.), Erik Paulsen (R-Minn.), Jason Lewis (R-Minn.) and John Culberson (R-Texas).
Bloomberg is aiming to help Democratic candidates in open seats currently held by Reps. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), Lynn Jenkins (R-Kan.) and David Trott (R-Mich.).
But Bloomberg’s PAC is also looking a little farther afield, apparently in hopes of expanding the battlefield into some unlikely territory.
The PAC has reserved airtime in Washington’s 3rd District, where Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R) is seeking her fourth term. She faces Carolyn Long, a college professor, in a district President Trump won by 7 points in 2016. A Siena College poll conducted for The New York Times last week showed Herrera Beutler leading Long 48 percent to 41 percent.
Bloomberg will also spend nearly half a million dollars in Georgia’s 6th District, a suburban Atlanta area that was the epicenter of a hotly contested special election last year in which Democrat Jon Ossoff raised tens of millions of dollars in an ultimately unsuccessful bid against Rep. Karen Handel (R).
Handel now faces Lucy McBath, a businesswoman and gun control activist — an issue near to Bloomberg’s heart. The only public poll in the race, conducted last week, shows Handel leading by just 4 percentage points.
And Bloomberg even hopes to fill the conservative district once held by former Rep. Ron DeSantis (R), who quit his seat to focus on his run for governor of Florida. The Independence USA PAC has reserved nearly $1.3 million on behalf of Nancy Soderberg, a high-ranking official on Bill Clinton’s National Security Council.
Soderberg faces an uphill bid against Mike Waltz, a former top aide to Vice President Dick Cheney, in a district that went for President Trump by nearly 20 points. So far, the vast majority of the outside spending in the race has come on Waltz’s behalf, from Bloomberg’s old foe, the National Rifle Association.
The PAC’s spending is being reported to the Federal Election Commission by its treasurer, Howard Wolfson. Wolfson did not respond to a request for comment Friday morning.
Independence USA PAC has already spent more than $19 million on advertising backing Democratic candidates in the last month, reports that include some of the current buys.
The remaining buys that have yet to be reported will vault that total north of $35 million, making Bloomberg a more prominent player in the 2018 midterm elections than all but eight other outside groups, according to a running tally maintained by Political MoneyLine.