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The money surrounding the Democratic debate this week is obscene. It's time to hold Steyer and Bloomberg to account

This is little more than a vanity project for billionaires, and we need to ask why they continue after advertizing costs ran this much out of control

Mike Bloomberg 2020 campaign reveals every school shooting in the US since Donald Trump took office

As the 2020 US presidential election edges closer, the number of Democratic party candidates seems to speciously increase. Michael Bloomberg, former New York City mayor, threw his hat into the mix only last month. Also increasing are the vast sums of money spent on advertising fees, especially from billionaire candidates.

Bloomberg, who in 2008 shuttled over $300 million into various offshore tax havens, is only a few weeks into announcing his run for presidency and has already spent nearly $100 million in advertising fees. In contrast, President Donald Trump sank only $94 million in his final (and successful) campaign. In just a single week, Bloomberg spent over $31 million on broadcast expenditure, amounting to the all-time single biggest weekly advertizing spend for a political campaign and eclipsing former President Barack Obama’s record of $24 million.

Despite such absurd advertising figures, Bloomberg’s policies are still relatively unknown to many would-be voters. In one poll Bloomberg only reached 2 per cent, a meagre figure when compared with many of his rivals — Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are all polling in double digits.

Such low polling figures exclude Bloomberg from partaking in the network television Democratic debates, which, as mandated by the Democratic National Committee (DNC), requires a 4 per cent national polling. Bloomberg also fails to qualify as he continues to self-fund his campaign, with the DNC requiring 200,000 donors, with 800 donors in 20 different states.

Towering over other presidential candidates in terms of fortune, Bloomberg is worth over $54 billion, and can continue to bankroll his way through Democratic primaries.

The nationally broadcast TV debates serve as an opportunity for candidates to connect with the electorate and defend their policies. Each debate is effectively a three-hour marathon advertising opportunity where candidates compete for potentially viral soundbites.

Impeachment advert funded by Democrat Tom Steyer

Candidates such as Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren often walk away from debates with a spike in polling as their flagship policies resonate with the general public. Sanders’ Medicare-for-All and Warren’s wealth tax, for example, have become well-worn phrases and the subjects of many a media discussion. In terms of marketing budgets, Sanders and Warren planned during their campaigns to spend $30 million and $10 million respectively, with their actual expenditure far lower.

Much like Bloomberg’s expenses, Tom Steyer has self-funded $83.6 million so far on advertising for his campaign. Such spending has allowed Steyer to squeak his way into Thursday’s debate by achieving the national polling threshold mandated by the DNC.

Steyer’s policies, however, have clearly not resonated with Americans enough, as he’s also found himself stuck at 4 per cent. Both Bloomberg and Steyer must ask themselves if their money is being wasted, considering the vast sums thrown at advertising agencies and their campaign policies failing to connect with the general public.

So far, where the money leads is a complicated story among the Democratic presidential candidates. Kamala Harris’s campaign blew through nearly $3 million only for her to drop out of the race after a few short months. Comparably, Kirsten Gillibrand spent nearly $1.6 million on advertising prior to dropping out in August.

Eventually, all but one candidate will have wasted money on advertising for a failed campaign. However, the record-breaking advertising spend by the self-funded multibillionaires Steyer and Bloomberg amount to little more than vanity projects for the rich. One wonders how much good could have been done if they had committed that money instead to direct philanthropy.

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