March 5, 2020 / 10:44 PM / a month ago

Michael Bloomberg to fund independent group to boost Democrats this year

FILE PHOTO: Then-Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg speaks at his Super Tuesday night rally in West Palm Beach, Florida, U.S., March 3, 2020. REUTERS/Marco Bello/File Photo

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Michael Bloomberg will form an independent group to help elect the Democratic presidential nominee in November, fulfilling a vow to put his $60 billion personal fortune to work even after abandoning his own White House bid on Wednesday.

The independent expenditure organization will employ some of the enormous staff he built during his months-long presidential campaign, when he spent more than $500 million on an unprecedented advertising blitz only to register disappointing results in 14 state contests on Tuesday.

The group will include offices in six battleground states - Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin - and will support down-ballot Democrats as well as whoever wins the party’s presidential nomination, according to a source familiar with Bloomberg’s plans who spoke on Thursday on condition of anonymity.

The independent group, whose name and budget are still being determined, will be able to spend unlimited sums as long as it does not coordinate directly with any campaign.

The 78-year-old former New York mayor, among the country’s richest citizens, suspended his presidential campaign on Wednesday and said he would back fellow moderate Joe Biden in his bid to win the Democratic nomination to challenge Republican President Donald Trump in November’s election.

Biden, a former vice president, is in a two-way battle with liberal Senator Bernie Sanders after Senator Elizabeth Warren, a distant third in delegates after Super Tuesday nominating contests, dropped out on Thursday.

Sanders told reporters in Burlington, Vermont, that Wall Street and Bloomberg were opening their checkbooks to support Biden.

“That is what a corrupt political system is,” added Sanders, who has said he would not accept help from Bloomberg in the general election if he is nominated. Biden has said he would welcome the aid.

Bloomberg’s virtually bottomless pockets could provide a massive boost for Democrats. The Republican Party and Trump’s re-election campaign have significantly outraised their Democratic counterparts.

Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Scott Malone and Peter Cooney

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