New York: Can Michael Bloomberg, one of the world’s richest men, become America’s president because of his wealth? It certainly raises the stakes and is set to fuel the debate about money in United States elections.

The ex-New York mayor boasts a personal fortune of more than $50 billion (Dh183.9 billion). A key adviser said last Saturday Bloomberg would spend “whatever it takes” to beat Donald Trump next year.

Unlike in many European countries, there is no limit in the US to the amount of money candidates can spend, notes Jacob Neiheisel, associate professor of political science at the University at Buffalo.

US law forbids an individual from giving a candidate more than $2,800 but nothing prevents a candidate spending his own fortune on the campaign. That benefits Bloomberg and fellow billionaire Tom Steyer, another Democratic candidate.

Those who are not rich can still spend hundreds of millions of dollars through so-called “super PACs” — political action committees allowed to raise unlimited sums for election campaigns, provided they don’t coordinate directly with the candidates.

The main candidates prefer to opt out of a public funding programme, which entitles them to federal funds for their campaign but limits their spending. That means they have to “raise a lot of money” to pay their teams and buy commercials, says Ester Fuchs, political science professor at Columbia University and former adviser to Bloomberg.

Political advertising

Bloomberg has already been using his wealth to break records. Last week, he bought $33.5 million worth of advertising spots on television in 20 states, breaking the previous high of $25 million spent by Barack Obama in 2012, according to Advertising Analytics, which tracks spending on political ads. Bloomberg also previously announced he would spend $100 million on online ads targeting Trump. Although he spent $66 million out of his own pocket, he ended up accepting numerous contributions, including from large donors.

The Democratic Party wants to encourage grass-roots funding. To be eligible for the December 20 debate, candidates will have to prove that they have received contributions from at least 200,000 individual donors.


How Bloomberg will cover Bloomberg:

Bloomberg News has outlined several editorial changes it will make as it adjusts to a novel situation: Covering its owner as he runs for president. Former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg confirmed he is joining the crowded field of Democrats seeking to take on his fellow New York billionaire, President Donald Trump, just three months before the first primary. Here is a quick look at the situation:

“There is no point in trying to claim that covering this presidential campaign will be easy,” said John Micklethwait, editor-in-chief of Bloomberg’s namesake news agency, in a staff email. He cited the company’s policy of not writing about itself or direct competitors. Micklethwait outlined a few editorial changes the agency will make but stressed they would make campaign coverage decisions on a case-by-base basis, rather than following an “exhaustive rulebook”.

“The place where Mike has had the most contact with Editorial is Bloomberg Opinion: our editorials have reflected his views,” Micklethwait wrote. As a result, the company will end its policy of unsigned editorials. They will also suspend the editorial Board, in part because several Board members will take leave to join Bloomberg’s campaign.

Micklethwait said he intends for the company to cover the campaign’s news “in much the same way as we have done before,” with the exception that articles will explicitly state that Bloomberg News’ owner is a candidate.

In the email, Micklethwait added that they will not investigate Bloomberg’s family or foundations — the same would go for his Democratic rivals - but would publish or summarize investigative pieces on all Democratic candidates. “Bloomberg News has handled these conflicts before,” Micklethwait wrote, pointing to Bloomberg’s mayoral campaign when the media agency adopted similar coverage policies.