Are Billionaires Buying Votes in Battleground Florida?

AP Photo/Rick Bowmer

FOLLOW THE MONEY

On September 23, 2020, thehill.com reported that “Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody (R) is asking the FBI and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate billionaire Mike Bloomberg’s effort to help felons in Florida register to vote for “potential violations of election laws.”

 

Billionaires including Michael Bloomberg, Steven Ballmer and others look to be part of the outside money parachuting in the State of Florida seeking to close the gap on Donald Trump in the upcoming Presidential election.

They are taking advantage of the Voting Rights Restoration for Felons Initiative, a 2018 law also known as Amendment 4, that amended the Florida constitution via a ballot initiative passed on November 6, 2018. The amendment restores the voting rights of Floridians with felony convictions after they complete all terms of their sentence including parole, probation and restitution.  The amendment does not apply to any felon convicted of murder or sexual offense.

Since that time, a group known as the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition has worked to raise money to assist eligible felons with legal and financial assistance.  As of September 24th, their Fees and Fines fundraising website shows the group has raised $6,123,002 dollars from 45,232 contributors.

Status of organic fundraising by Florida Rights Restoration Coalition Fees and Fines Fund as of 23-September-2020(Source: FRRC)

 

Enter the Carpet Bagger Money

On September 22, Axios reporter Ursula Perano first reported that former presidential candidate and mayor of New York Michael Bloomberg may have turned his war chest of around $16.1 million to the Florida cause in a questioning article, “Bloomberg raises $16.1M to help Florida felons regain voting rights”.

A little later in the day, thehill.com’s Dominick Mastrangelo raised the specter that Bloomberg and his billionaire cronies motives might be more political than altruistic with the ending sentence, “Bloomberg, who ran in the Democratic primary for president, has endorsed the party’s nominee, Joe Biden, and has donated at least $100 million to the former vice president’s campaign to defeat President Trump.”“Bloomberg pays fines for 32,000 felons in Florida so they can vote”

The article went viral, and as noted at the beginning of this article, the Florida’s Attorney General’s office has taken note of the suspicion.

Who are these people?

Michael Bloomberg is not alone in his quest to unseat Donald Trump in November. Following his poor showing in the Democratic Primary, Bloomberg’s political action committee and associated victory and action funds that pay for soft dollar activities has continued to raise money.

Bloomberg’s Everytown for Gun Safety Victory Fund looks to have been repurposed into a resist Donald Trump fund now reporting millions in independent spending to support the Biden campaign and attack the Trump effort.

According to opensecrets.org, the super PAC had around $12 million in reserves as of the end of August. Independent expenditures are now clearly focused on the presidential race.

Reserves available to Bloomberg’s super PAC. (Source: opensecrets.org)

 

Independent “soft money” spending by Bloomberg since abandoning presidential hopes have turned to partisan electioneering. (Source: opensecrets.org)

 

If you look at the major donors to this effort, you will find other billionaires practicing the fine art of elitist money politics alongside Bloomberg who have pitched into the behind the scenes fight for power.  While Bloomberg’s personal largess is still the largest source of money in his war chest, he does have other liberal allies in the influence buying that goes on in America.

Billionaires have continued to donate to Bloomberg’s Everytown super PAC. (Source: opensecrets.org)

 

Ravaging Florida Like a Money Hurricane

The stakes are high in the State of Florida for the Democrats. In 2016, gneither major party candidate got over 50 percent of the popular vote and it boiled down to a mere 112,911 votes for Trump edging Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

Results of the 2016 election in Florida show narrow margins of victory in the battleground state. (Source: Wikipedia)

 

There are an estimated one million felons in the State of Florida potentially eligible to have their voting rights restored. A super PAC swopping in and selectively enabling voters friendly to one candidate is a political temptation of the highest order in this superheated election cycle.

I tend to agree with Dominick Mastrangelo’s worry bead that this does sound a little too close to hiring mercenaries to go to the polls for comfort.

The involvement of super PAC money, or even super PAC donor cronies, pumping money into what is supposed to be an impartial prison reform law implementation strikes me as blatant electioneering at the least, and a corruption of the intent of the law. It should be investigated by authorities to ensure that Bloomberg et al are not subverting the process.