‘Mayors for Mike’: How Bloomberg’s Money Built a 2020 Political Network

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Mayor Svante Myrick of Ithaca, N.Y., a city of about 31,000 that won a $100,000 Bloomberg grant for a supervised injection facility, said Mr. Bloomberg’s campaign had swiftly reached out after he entered the race to seek support. Mr. Myrick, who has not endorsed a candidate, said it had not occurred to him to weigh Mr. Bloomberg’s foundation in his thinking.

“Maybe I should be thinking about: If I endorse Bloomberg, Bloomberg Philanthropies will give us more money,” he mused.

Mr. Bloomberg is one of the richest people in the world, with a net worth estimated at more than $50 billion. While other politicians often donate small sums to their allies, the breadth and depth of his giving thus far — and the possibility of it in the future — is unmatched in scale.

“When you’re that wealthy you can spread your munificence anywhere that matters,” said Rob Reich, a co-director of the Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society at Stanford. “You acquire at a minimum a reserve of good will and more realistically a background capacity for influence.”

Stu Loeser, a Bloomberg spokesman, said that the former mayor was “damn proud” of the work supporting mayors and cities. “Unlike Donald Trump, Mike Bloomberg has a real foundation that does real work addressing people’s serious needs with no expectations of anything in return,” Mr. Loeser said.

Mr. Bloomberg and his allies acknowledge that they hope his connections to city leaders will be helpful in the presidential race. This month, at a meeting of the Texas Democratic Party’s executive committee, Mr. Bloomberg noted that he had “worked with, and my foundation has supported, a variety of mayors across the state,” including Julián Castro, the former mayor of San Antonio and presidential candidate.

Many mayors need no reminding of Mr. Bloomberg’s presence in their areas.

As the mayor of Huntington, W.Va., Steve Williams was not sure initially what to make of Mr. Bloomberg. “I thought he was going to tell me what kind of sugary drinks I could drink and not drink, would shut down the coal mines and tell us whether or not we could own guns and go hunting,” he said, referring to some of Mr. Bloomberg’s priorities and past initiatives.

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