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March 2020

“Know the enemy, know yourself, and victory is never in doubt.” Sun Tzu (Master Sun), The Art of War Sixth century general/military strategist

The standing family joke in recent weeks has been the surprise pre-dawn discovery one day of a delivery to our front door of a Mike Bloomberg campaign lawn sign (with lapel buttons attached) days after he opened in early February a campaign office on Woodward in Bloomfield Hills. Not sure how the sign arrived on our doorstep, although I had hoped to attend the local office opening, so maybe someone at the event who knows me thought they would do me a favor. (Thank you.) Yes, as one of my sons aptly described it, I am a “Bloomberger.” I preface this admission with my view that there is no such thing as a perfect candidate in any election. There are just practical, logistical realities when it comes to winning electoral races or wars, which is the best way to describe election campaigns. That said, I have previously admitted in this space that I am seeking change from Donald Trump. No secret there. Time to stop the name calling, lies, offensive tweets, restore the integrity of the office of President, our role in the international community, the now politicized departments and the rollbacked programs (think environment, for starters) under Donald Trump that threaten the fabric of the democracy and the quality of life now and for future generations. For me, the overriding question is who can defeat Trump while still providing a solid campaign platform that is progressive yet pragmatic. For a variety of reasons, I am placing my bet on Mike Bloomberg, despite a sketchy performance in the recent Nevada debate. My short analysis: Joe Biden seems to be suffering in fundraising and in the polls, including in the black community (Bloomberg has nearly matched him there); recent polling shows lukewarm support for a gay president (sorry, Mayor Pete); Klobuchar's recent success in New Hampshire has no staying power and she has her own skeletons in the closet which we will hear more about if the moderate field starts to coalesce around her; Elizabeth Warren has lost her momentum and shares less of the far left contingent of the party; and Bernie Sanders, with his socialist name tag, is eliciting fear from a large portion of the party concerned he will not only lose to Trump but could cost the party the House and destroy any hope of flipping the Senate. The result is a less-than-thrilling standard carrier for the Democratic party in November. Most important, Bloomberg is already taking the fight directly to Trump and is rising in the polls – number two nationally in some polls at this writing. That's how I arrived at Mike Bloomberg, who got in this race because he saw a problem developing early on in this primary that would leave the Democratic party with no path to victory in November. Yes, I had to wrestle with the issue of “stop and frisk,” which seems to haunt Bloomberg from his NYC mayoral days, although an increasing number of non-white voters seem to be accepting his recent apology. Most recently we have the allegations of how he treated women at his firm in the past, although I can only assume he has turned over a new leaf on this front based on his long-standing financial support of women's groups and causes, let alone the women candidates he backed in 2018 to help flip the U.S. House. Then there's the claim that as a billionaire he is attempting to buy the election.

The issue of money in electoral politics has been a concern of mine for decades. And it’s been on the radar of Congress for over a century. Back in 1907, Congress prohibited corporations from giving to candidate campaigns and in 1943 extended that restriction to unions. That same year the first Political Action Committee (PAC) was formed by a union to skirt the federal restrictions. Campaign money from PACs increased dramatically in the 1970s when Congress passed a number of campaign reform laws which also ushered in freer spending by PACs for labor unions, trade groups and corporations. Jump next to 2010, when two U.S. Supreme Court decisions, among them the often-cited Citizens United case, opened up even further the flow of campaign money from PACs. We now have what are known as connected PACs; non-connected PACs; leadership PACs for elected officials and parties; and Super PACs which can make expenditures independent of candidates, taking money from corporations, unions and individuals. The result of all this? Campaign donations – the currency for gaining access and influence with those in power – have exploded, thereby indirectly increasing the cost of elections. Now comes the internet as a source of campaign donations, first employed in any impactfull way by Howard Dean when he ran for the office of president in 2004 and honed to perfection by the Barack Obama campaign in 2008. Online contributions from individuals have been hailed as the way to restore citizen involvement in elections to offset PAC influence on campaigns, but don't kid yourself. Big money, and often times what is called “dark money” for lack of donor transparency, is still a major influence in elections and on public policy once candidates get into office. Enter Democrat candidate Michael Bloomberg, who is self-funding his own presidential run. Curriculum vitae: Former mayor (12 years) of New York City, population nearly 8.5 million. Successful, self-made billionaire in the field of media. Leading philanthropist ($8 billion so far in lifetime donations to non-profits), underwriting for years the efforts to address climate change, environment issues, women's reproductive rights, health care, income disparity, gun control. Pragmatic, calm, collected. Understands government. Knows the value of international allies. Proven skills at building coalitions. Strong enough to respond to the bullying of Trump on the campaign trail. Best of all, Bloomberg won't be influenced by special interests because he is beholden to no one. While he may be running a slightly unorthodox campaign, if you listen to the chin-stroking experts, by skipping the primaries in some early states that don't offer many delegates, the normally data-driven Bloomberg would not have entered this race without a strong sense that the goal of winning is within reach. David Hohendorf Publisher

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