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Bloomberg's 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 invested in local government, funding teams of consultants to work for the mayors' offices in New Orleans and Chicago on issues as vital as murder and as mundane as small-business permitting. He has spent more than $100 million to genetically engineer a better mosquito, in the hopes of eliminating malaria, and given $100 million to stamp out polio in Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan. In Africa, he has built maternal-health centers. In Vietnam, he pushed for stiff helmet laws. On the Pitcairn Islands in the South Pacific, he is funding ocean conservation.
Closer to home, he helped shutter coal-fired plants and lobbied Congress with Rupert Murdoch on immigration reform. 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. And then there is the money he has spent to get himself elected three times in New York City, north of $250 million, more than any single person has ever spent on U.S. elections.
That investment in U.S. politics is likely to grow in the coming year. "I'm not going to play golf like I threatened to do full time," he says of his plans after leaving city hall on Jan. 1. He also has pledged not to return to managing his old company. On Oct. 6, he announced a $1 million advertising effort to support the New Jersey Senate campaign of Newark Mayor Cory Booker, a friend and ally he can no longer speak to without risking a violation of campaign-finance rules. "I would be interested whether Cory really was surprised," he jokes. He is looking to sink more money into the Virginia governor's race this year to support the candidate more in favor of gun control. And he plans to spend heavily in Arkansas to defeat Senator Mark Pryor, who recently voted against federal background checks. How heavily? One plan would involve calling every Democrat in the state to discuss Pryor's record. "If you support reasonable background checks, I will support you, even though we have probably nothing in common on any other issue," Bloomberg says he told Senator Pat Toomey before the conservative Pennsylvania Republican decided to back more gun control this spring.
Later this year in Colorado, Bloomberg will be backing a tax-hiking school-reform initiative, and he plans to continue the spending on state and local school-board elections around the country. "We need to elect reformists to city councils," Bloomberg says. He has also looked at finding a way to bring nonpartisan redistricting and elections to more states, in the model of recent election-law reforms in California. He blames the current shutdown in Washington and the prospect of a debt default on a refusal to attend to these issues. "It all comes from gerrymandering," he said of the brinkmanship. "That pulls people away from the center."