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Billionaires Buying Or Bribing Their Way To Democrat Nomination?

Bloomberg and Steyer
The Democratic Party stopped being the workingman’s friend a longtime ago, but for branding purposes Democrat candidates have always stressed their (sometimes imaginary) working class roots.

That is until this year. Even faltering candidate “Lunch Bucket Joe” Biden has a net worth of about $9 million and Socialist Bernie Sanders is a multi-millionaire who owns three very handsome houses.

But those millions pale in comparison to the billions of Michael Bloomberg and Tom Steyer, who are proving that having a lot of money to spread around is very handy when you are seeking endorsements from Democrat elected officials, especially in South Carolina.

S.C. Rep. Jerry Govan, Chairman of the state’s Legislative Black Caucus, has received over $40,000 from the Steyer campaign since he came aboard and also endorsed the hedge fund billionaire.

S.C. Sen. Dick Harpootlian, a Richland Democrat, in a social media post reported by thestate.com, tweeted that Govan received more than $40,000 from the Steyer campaign.

“Mr. Money Bags a.k.a @TomSteyer has paid S.C. State Rep. Jerry Govan almost $50,000 for a month worth of work? Is he pocketing the dough or redistributing the wealth? cc: Steyer FEC report,” Harpootlian tweeted.

The Associated Press reports Steyer has also hired another one of South Carolina's most influential black lawmakers as an adviser to his campaign as the billionaire businessman tries to make inroads in a state where black voters, long assumed to be solidly for former Vice President Joe Biden, will play a dominant role in the Feb. 29 primary.

Steyer's campaign told The Associated Press on Wednesday that state Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter has signed on as a senior national adviser. Cobb-Hunter, who first took office in 1992, is the longest serving member of the South Carolina House and is the current president of the National Black Caucus of State Legislators.

The Intercept reports that Tom Steyer isn’t the only one trying to buy or bribe his way into the Oval Office; during an interview this week on The Hill TV’s show “The Rising,” a senior adviser to Bernie Sanders, Chuck Rocha, said the campaign recently lost a staffer in South Carolina to former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

“I’ve heard it in every state that we’ve been in,” said Rocha of the Bloomberg effect, adding that one staffer recently came to him and said, “‘Hey Chuck, I’m with Bernie, I’m gonna vote for Bernie, but I’m gonna go get this money, cuz he’s gonna double my salary and pay me till November and I’ve gotta pay my bills when this thing is over.’ And I was like, ‘Look brother, go do what you’ve gotta do. Out of respect, we’d still like your vote, and ask your mommy and daddy if they’ll vote for Bernie as well,’ and he goes, ‘Oh, no problem.’ That’s a real thing.”

Ryan Grim of The Intercept, reported progressive groups, local campaigns, and presidential operations are either losing staff to the Bloomberg campaign, or are struggling to hire people because the former mayor has picked so many political operatives and canvassers up, according to interviews, emails, and messages from dozens of people involved in hiring. Several of them spoke to The Intercept on condition of anonymity, either not to offend the biggest spender in political history, or not to expose publicly that they are having a hard time finding staff, which the public could perceive as suggestive of weakness.

Dylan Brogan of The Isthmus reports the billionaire, who isn’t accepting donations and has pledged to self-finance his campaign with his vast fortune totaling over $50 billion, is recruiting staff with unheard of compensation for campaign staffers, especially for entry- and mid-level positions.

Isthmus spoke to one recently hired Bloomberg campaign staffer who asked to remain anonymous so as not to “lose the best job I’ve ever had.”

“I didn’t come into this as the biggest Bloomberg fan, he is growing on me. I’m not saying I’m not bought and paid for,” says the anonymous staffer. “He’s a billionaire. What he spends on this race he’s not going to miss. I’m a big supporter of his jobs plan for me.”

The UK’s Guardian reports that in the latest round of “What will Mike Bloomberg buy next?” (he has already been accused of buying his way into the presidential race) Bloomberg is offering $150 a pop to Instagram influencers willing to shill for his campaign, according to the Daily Beast.

Trump pumped roughly $66m of his own money into his 2016 campaign – which is significantly less than what Bloomberg spent to win a third term as mayor of New York reported Ross Barkan in an article for the Guardian. Trump rode a tsunami of free advertising to the presidency – even CNN couldn’t look away – and proved, in his own way, to be a durable fundraiser. Bloomberg has already tripled Trump’s 2016 spending, with no end in sight.

The New York Times reported on Feb. 4 that Bloomberg is building an army of organizers nationwide that now totals more than 2,000. And Bloomberg has said he’s open to spending $1 billion dollars of his own money in his bid to become president, but whether he and Steyer can use their money to buy or use legal forms of bribery to build a loyal and effective campaign organization remains to be seen.

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