Jeff Bezos and Mike Bloomberg are the two largest donors listed for a new political action committee (PAC) called With Honor. This new PAC has the purpose of supporting veterans as congressional candidates and ending gridlock by promoting what they call a “cross-partisan” agenda. A closer look reveals this agenda as more progressive than they let on and, once again, Mike Bloomberg is throwing large sums of dark money into local politics around the country to buy seats and advance his vision.
With Honor has jumped into the Republican primary in Kansas this summer. Voters will chose candidates for each of the four congressional districts. In the open seat in District 1, With Honor has donated the maximum $2,500 to Bill Clifford, an Air Force veteran and eye surgeon. On top of that, their SuperPAC, With Honor Fund, has made upwards of $500,000 in independent expenditures in advertising for Clifford in the week leading up to the primary.
This expenditure has raised some eyebrows, given Bloomberg’s penchant for inserting himself in local politics to advance an agenda that includes banning sugary drinks and pushing gun control. Of course, he also switched parties and tried to buy his way into the Democratic nomination for president this year, wasting almost a billion of his own money on his failed campaign.
Clifford’s main opponent in the primary is Tracey Mann, the former lieutenant governor of Kansas. In this rural and conservative district, the winning strategy is to demonstrate how conservative and pro-Trump you are. Each campaign has accused the opposition of favoring tax increases.
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After he dropped out of the presidential race, Bloomberg vowed to spend whatever it took to defeat Trump in November:
Bloomberg has already spent well over $350 million for Democrats this cycle, according to his team, including the following investments:
- $275 million in anti-Trump ads during his primary campaign
- $35 million for a digital and data platform he gives to Democratic campaigns at cost.
- $18 million transferred from his campaign to the Democratic Party.
- $10 million to House Majority PAC, the lead outside group backing House Democrats.
- $5 million to Fair Fight, the voting rights group led by Stacey Abrams.
- $2 million to Collective Future, focused on registering Black voters in key states.
- $2 million to Swing Left, which supports Democratic volunteer efforts.
- $500,000 to Voto Latino, focused on registering young Latino and Hispanic voters.
Altogether, it makes Bloomberg the single biggest donor to the Democrats this year, and it’s having an impact on the ground, according to party strategists in battleground states.
Mike Bloomberg isn’t the only billionaire funding With Honor PAC and With Honor Fund. Along with Jeff Bezos, With Honor also lists Les Wexner among its biggest donors. Wexner, formerly Ohio’s largest donor to Republican candidates, announced in 2018 that he would no longer support the GOP and registered as an Independent.
The website for With Honor lists a pledge that they ask each supported candidate to support:
Veterans have pledged an oath to support and defend the Constitution. A new generation of men and women are answering the call to serve again and are taking the pledge to put principles before politics.
I will be honest
I will use the power of my office only for the service of my constituents and my country
I will work to bring civility to Congress
I will participate in a cross-partisan veterans caucus
I will meet with a Member from an opposing party one-on-one at least once a month
I will join with colleagues on both sides of the aisle on at least one piece of substantial legislation each year, and co-sponsor additional pieces
Nice sounding enough, and nothing to raise the concerns of most candidates. One has to wonder, though, what kind of candidates With Honor would choose to support–and which they would avoid.
The primary in Kansas makes for a perfect example. This district should support the most conservative candidate perhaps anywhere in America. Are Bloomberg, Bezos, Wexner, et al. trying to moderate this district by supporting the more centrist candidate? The With Honor Pledge suggests this could be the case.
With Honor PAC has made max donations to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). They’ve also donated to Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas). Then again, they have donated to MJ Hegar, the Democratic challenger to longtime Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas). With Honor made matching max donations to the NRCC and the DCCC in 2019. Texas Scorecard reports that while With Honor supports Democrats in races against incumbent Republicans like Cornyn, they have not endorsed any Republican challenger to a Democrat incumbent, despite several veteran candidates who qualify.
Looking at the finance records in the race for KS-01 between Clifford and Mann, something else pops out. As of the July 15 report, Clifford has raised $932,332, while Mann has raised $759,705. Clifford’s total raised includes a $590,000 personal loan he made to his campaign. Clifford has received only $302,490 in individual contributions, compared to $722,905 for Mann.
Along those lines, in a primary in which neither candidate has raised a million for his campaign, a half-million in independent expenditures for advertising the week before the primary could have a significant effect.
Does this mean Clifford is the RINO and Mann is the principled conservative? Not necessarily. One has to wonder, however, if Bloomberg, Bezos, and Wexner are trying to buy this district (along with several others around the U.S.) as a way to push the House further to the left, and further away from Donald Trump.
Jeff Reynolds is the author of the book, “Behind the Curtain: Inside the Network of Progressive Billionaires and Their Campaign to Undermine Democracy,” available at www.WhoOwnsTheDems.com. Jeff hosts a podcast at anchor.fm/BehindTheCurtain. You can follow him on Twitter @ChargerJeff, and on Parler at @RealJeffReynolds.