Not Illegal, “Just” Cynical And Unethical: The Bloomberg Florida Vote-Buying Scheme

As part of the Democratic Party’s commitment to “go high” in its pursuit of power, Michael Bloomberg is buying the votes of convicted Florida felons for Joe Biden.

Not technically, of course, but that’s exactly what he’s doing. After all, the ends justifies the means. Isn’t that what Mitch McConnell essentially said when he refused to let the Senate vote on…wait, that’s the Republicans. I’m getting my cynical, unethical parties mixed up.

Mike Bloomberg has pledged to pay off the debts of  felons in Florida who have recently been ruled ineligible to vote unless they pay the fines that are part of their punishment.  This is a generous action by Bloomberg, who is devoted to expanding the right to vote of all Americans…no, wait, I’m confused again. The Washington Post reported that only Black and Hispanic ex-felons in Florida will get the gifts, because they they are more likely to vote for Biden than whites.

Nice.

The revelation comes from a memo originally obtained by the Post which read in part, “We know to win Florida we will need to persuade, motivate and add new votes to the Biden column. This means we need to explore all avenues for finding the needed votes when so many votes are already determined.”  Apparently the former New York Mayor with the personal vendetta against the President only cares about the right to vote when it is exercised the way he wants. Of course, Joe Biden and the rest of the party are thrilled to have Bloomberg’s money purchasing votes to defeat that unethical Donald Trump, who will do anything to win.

Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz (R., Fla.), himself possessed of somewhat dubious ethics alarms, told Fox News that that Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody  might launch a criminal investigation of Bloomberg (actually the non-profit organization that he is funding) for vote purchasing. That looks like a stretch. The relevant law, Section 104.061, Corruptly influencing voting, states,

(1) Whoever by bribery, menace, threat, or other corruption whatsoever, either directly or indirectly, attempts to influence, deceive, or deter any elector in voting or interferes with him or her in the free exercise of the elector’s right to vote at any election commits a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084 for the first conviction, and a felony of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084, for any subsequent conviction.

(2) No person shall directly or indirectly give or promise anything of value to another intending thereby to buy that person’s or another’s vote or to corruptly influence that person or another in casting his or her vote. Any person who violates this subsection is guilty of a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084. However, this subsection shall not apply to the serving of food to be consumed at a political rally or meeting or to any item of nominal value which is used as a political advertisement, including a campaign message designed to be worn by a person.

As good old reliable Prof. Turley explains,

Section 1 refers to “bribery, menace, threat, or other corruption whatsoever, either directly or indirectly” as the means for influencing the votes. Paying the debt of former felons is a lawful action and would not satisfy any of those criteria…  Bloomberg is not securing a commitment of how these individuals would vote. It is true that [he is] assuming that Black and Hispanic ex-felons will vote for Biden but, unless Bloomberg or the Florida Rights and Restoration Coalition have expressly made such a quid pro quo [deal ]with the beneficiaries, there is no purchase of a vote…  It is not a “corrupt” purpose to clear the way for voting. 
In other words, the tactic gets around the law. Clever! It’s racially discriminatory and frustrates the justice system by allowing convicted felons to avoid paying their debts to society as long as they seem likely to vote for the “right” Presidential candidate, but as Marion Barry explained in lending his name to Rationalization #4, Marion Barry’s Misdirection, “If it isn’t illegal, it’s ethical,” or words to that effect. (Barry’s most famous quote, uttered as he was serving a mayor of Washington, D.C. after he was arrested for smoking crack with a former girlfriend, is “Bitch set me up!”) The late Washington D.C. icon’s (D.C. has a statue honoring him after all) reasoning is so high on the list—the Top Ten!— because it’s a classic, and one of the most popular, especially among unethical and Machiavellian former mayors.

35 thoughts on “Not Illegal, “Just” Cynical And Unethical: The Bloomberg Florida Vote-Buying Scheme

  1. When you use an army of lawyers, anarchists and oligarchs to get you elected to office instead of campaigning what do you expect? This is what the American political scene has devolved to. Bloomberg hates Trump because Trump is a charismatic leader while Bloomberg has to pay people extra to get them to follow him. People like Bloomberg have a Napoleon complex and I don’t say that because of his stature. I say it because he must always be the emperor. Anything that stands in his way must be conquered. That is why he hates Trump. Trump beat him at the presidency game.

    Soon we will be like Columbia and other Central American nations where judges, mayors, and prosecutors are assassinated because they follow the law and not the orders of the oligarchs. It appears to me that the only people unwilling to relinquish power are progressive democrats and their spineless partners in the Republican party who value power over America.

  2. Jack said:

    In other words, the tactic gets around the law. Clever! It’s racially discriminatory and frustrates the justice system by allowing convicted felons to avoid paying their debts to society as long as they seem likely to vote for the “right” Presidential candidate, but as Marion Barry explained in lending his name to Rationalization #4, Marion Barry’s Misdirection, “If it isn’t illegal, it’s ethical,” or words to that effect.

    What should happen is that the police should set up a sting operation, and have a “convicted felon” who meets Bloomberg’s criteria confess when offered the money that he intends to vote for Trump.

    If Bloomberg fails to follow through, that would demonstrate a corrupt intent. That should be enough for an indictment and injunction. I doubt it would be enough for conviction, though.

  3. There’s certainly an ick factor involved here. Is there any doubt at all what the reaction would be if Trump offered to pay the fines for only white convicted felons, believing that they were more likely to vote for him?

  4. “If it’ s racially discriminatory, isn’t that grounds enough to obtain a court order against it?”

    This was my immediate thought as well. But my gut tells me that they’re probably OK, America isn’t exactly brimming with legislation that prevents private individuals from discriminating on a racial basis outside of an employee-employer relationship. Such a law would invariably have been written to protect black people and minorities, but would have had to be written in a racially neutral way that could therefore be used to correct racial discrimination against white people. And to be frank: We don’t want those laws. As much as racism is loathsome, not every social ill needs to be addressed by legislating against it and reinforcing it with fines or jail time.

    All that said, these actions seem, facially, to go against what the progressives ostensibly stand for: If the races were reversed, this would be a great example of “systemic racism” because not only does the system provide disparate outcomes (with white people being 0% of the beneficiaries) but it was designed, explicitly, to generate those disparate outcomes. But progressives aren’t interested in creating fair systems, or bringing up everyone, they’re not even interested in bringing the bottom up, because I promise you that white felons are just as disenfranchised by the rules stating that you have to pay off your debts before voting as black felons, they’re not even interested in fixing discrimination, they’re interested in power, and they’re running the numbers and thinking that this is a way to grab power.

    But that lust for power is, I believe, subliminal. I think that the average rank-and-file progressive believes, at least on a surface level, in what they spout, so it will be interesting if any progressives are self-reflective or aware enough to view the horrible optics of paying the fees off of certain racial groups with the explicitly stated goal of getting more Biden votes, because there is an assumption that people of a certain race will vote a certain way.

    • “As much as racism is loathsome, not every social ill needs to be addressed by legislating against it and reinforcing it with fines or jail time”

      An early entry on this site pointed out that there are things the courts cannot be expected to correct. (I believe it was a story about a man who couldn’t have children tricking a woman who wanted kids into marrying him). Certainly, civility and fairness are part of the social contract, not something that can or should be litigated.

    • Thanks HT – I always appreciate your thorough consideration of questions. I asked mainly because it seems there have been so many court orders on so many issues over the years – resulting in hold-ups of otherwise legal actions and effectively making them un-doable. It’s just me, but it seems like the courts ALWAYS manage to make orders that favor requests by Democrats, leftists, and favoring what I might consider an “undue burden” on parties who are less likely to be Democrats or leftist.

      • To be fair, I could be wrong, I coached my reply with qualified statements because American discrimination laws confuse me. For instance, everything I said in my first comment, I believe to be true, I don’t think there are many laws outside of employment that require private individuals to be non-discriminatory.

        That said, there are obviously some, otherwise the whole “gay wedding cake” thing wouldn’t be a thing. I don’t know exactly which laws were being used to enforce specific performance on Christian bakeries, but I would be interested in hearing which limiting principle would keep those laws from applying in this case.

        “You’re a bakery right? Please bake me a cake”
        “Sorry, we don’t serve the gays here, ahyuck”
        “I see. This is a nice business, it’d be a shame if something happened to it.”

        “You’re offering relief on legal fines to increase votership rates right? Please review my file.”
        “Naw sorry, whitey, you got too much of that white privilege, and your race doesn’t vote the right way.”
        “I see. This is a nice racket you got here, it’d be a shame if something happened to it.”

        To be clear: I don’t think anything should be done here. Again… Not everything I find loathsome needs to be legislated against. But this is loathsome. And I think for every felon vote Bloomberg buys, an independent will fall over the other way.

  5. Off-topic: you’ve previously mentioned you have a paid plan to remove ads from WordPress, but they’re showing up for me. You may want to check if that setting got “accidentally” reset by your host.

  6. The amusing part is that many, perhaps the majority, of these felons will not bother to vote regardless.

    Felons aren’t especially known for their civic-mindedness.

  7. “Bitch set me up!” still popular with the dems. Nancy just used it after her haircut.

    Could either of these statements affect the legality of Bloomie’s actions?

    Bloomberg written statement: ‘We know to win Florida we will need to persuade, motivate and add new votes to the Biden column. This means we need to explore all avenues for finding the needed votes when so many votes are already determined’ .

    Bloomberg adviser to the Washington Post: ‘Mike wanted to get this done for two reasons. One, because it’s the right thing to do for the democracy. And two, because it immediately activates tens of thousands of voters who are predisposed to vote for Joe Biden.’

    • What did Turley say about section two of the statute? It looks applicable to me? If the perp were a Republican, I suspect Cy Vance Jr. or Andrew Weissman would indict and arraign in a New York minute.

      • “Sure is a shame more people aren’t eligible to vote for Biden, Anyway, here’s some money we’re giving out to people just like you, to get you out from under all of those pesky fines hanging over your head. By the way, and unrelated to anything else at all, did you know that that will allow YOU to vote in this election?”

        No person shall directly or indirectly give or promise anything of value to another intending thereby to buy that person’s or another’s vote or to corruptly influence that person or another in casting his or her vote.

        • “And remember, the DEMOCRATS are your friends!……
          That’s the one that starts with a ‘D’.

          No, that’s a ‘P’.

          No, that’s a lower case ‘b’.

          No, nothing to do with YOUR ‘case’. Listen, I’ll help you fill out this request for an absentee ballot; I’ll mail it in for you….yeah, ‘absent’, like not showing up at school… Give me a call when the ballot comes, & I’ll help you with that, too. I’ll even drop it by elections for you so you don’t have to go to any effort yourself.

          No thanks necessary.; we’re always glad to help the slaves on our plan…, uh, our oppressed brothers!

          See you in a few weeks!”

  8. Are the Koch brothers still around? Maybe they could pick up the slack for Bloomberg and pay off the fines of the felons he wasn’t able to get to.

    But of course, that would be systemic racism.
    ——————————————–
    “” because it’s the right thing to do for the democracy””

    But that is wrong on a number of different fronts. It is de facto if not de jure vote buying. But equally important, Florida decided these people should have to pay off these sums to finish paying their debt to society. It’s a civics lesson mandated by the election law. Subverting this law is unethical and just wrong.

  9. I agree there’s an ick factor here, and I strongly endorse the statement that both parties are cynical and unethical.

    Setting aside the ick factor, though, I’m wondering how this is different in principal from spending money hiring a bus to bring in people without transportation from certain neighborhoods to vote?

    What if, for example, rather than saying he was going to pay fines for black and hispanic felons only, he had said he was going to pay fines for felons that lived in certain neighborhoods, and those neighborhoods just happened to be predominately black and hispanic? Would that be different?

      • That’s quantity, not quality. I don’t see how it’s really relevant to the ethics.

        Would it be ethical then if he just did it in one neighborhood? Or just one felon?

        • Sometimes quantity and how it’s directed makes a difference, and some regulations acknowledge that difference between the the trivial and the substantive, and recognize the “debt” they might or might not create. We often have laws prohibiting pols and other government employees from accepting gifts of a certain type, or over a certain value.

          It’s the difference between passing out ice cream sandwiches and company brochures on the state capitol grounds vs. taking a legislator and his family on a three week tour of France. We can differentiate the utility and obligation created between giving cheap “Biden 2020” pens to random passers by outside a local Walmart, and directing thousands of dollars apiece to specific individuals likely inclined to use their newly purchased votes as directed by their benefactors.

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