Michael Bloomberg makes no secret of his ambition. "I want to do things that nobody else is doing," he told TIME on a two-day swing through Europe in late September, where he met with the mayors of London and Paris and chatted with British Prime Minister David Cameron between visits to art galleries and an antique-furniture dealer. Officially Bloomberg was still acting as a political office-holder, but in practice the outgoing three-term mayor of New York City had already begun his next life, a jet-setting blur of wealth, power and international recognition.
In 2013, Bloomberg plans to spend about $400 million on pet causes, which at 1.3% of his fortune is barely a rounding error. His money flows out through a complex web of nonprofit foundation work and private entities, often in chunks so small or anonymous that they are difficult to track. He has spent more than $100 million to genetically engineer a better mosquito, in the hopes of eliminating malaria, while closer to home, he's involved in setting fracking policy, supporting Planned Parenthood and passing gay-marriage referendums. In local, state and federal elections around the country, he is spending millions more to back candidates who would further gun control and education reform and defeat those who oppose them.
"A lot of elected officials are afraid to back controversial things. I'm not afraid of that," he said. "You're not going to hurt my business, and if you are, I don't care. I take great pride in being willing to stand up."