During Tuesday night’s debate in South Carolina, former New York City Mayor and billionaire philanthropist Michael Bloomberg almost said what he was probably thinking: That he “bought” the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives when he spent $100 million through his super PAC on Democrats during the 2018 midterms.
Let’s just go on the record. They talk about 40 Democrats. Twenty one of those are people that I spent a hundred million dollars to help elect. All of the new Democrats that came in and put Nancy Pelosi in charge and gave the Congress the ability to control this president, I bough — I, I got them.
Bloomberg caught himself, but the National Republican Congressional Committee ran with the slip of the tongue in a surreal way by sending “For Sale” signs to 40 Democrats who received support from Bloomberg during the 2018 midterms.
@LaurenUnderwood #IL14 pic.twitter.com/OINGPY5TGs
— NRCC (@NRCC) February 26, 2020
They thought it would be a clever jab at Democrats beholden to billionaires. And for the most part, sure, fair point. But it’s galling and offensive that the NRCC essentially told two Black congresswomen—Lucy McBath of Georgia and Lauren Underwood of Illinois—that they were “for sale.” The optics aren’t great when, on the same day as the clever packaging, the House overwhelmingly voted to make lynching a federal hate crime. Not to mention the fact that, as my colleague Jamilah King noted, McBath went to civil rights marches as a child with her father, the Illinois chapter president for the NAACP. She has a grainy photo of him with Lyndon Johnson at the signing of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
Neither McBath nor Underwood is enslaved to the financial whims of a white billionaire, obviously. If they or any other politician want to get money from wealthy, powerful interests, they can, just as Republicans have.
The NRCC sent Underwood’s package to her office, but addressed it to “Fake Nurse Lauren Underwood,” a tiresome attack on Underwood’s credentials—she studied nursing and is a registered nurse, though the New York Times has pointed out she never worked directly with patients.
The envelopes represent a sad, petty continuation of attacks by the NRCC against Underwood and McBath, whose son was shot and killed by a white man and who recently endorsed Bloomberg for president.
The Times reported on the NRCC’s attacks on McBath last July:
Ms. McBath, who represents Georgia’s Sixth District, has become a particular target for the committee. During the campaign, she said she briefly moved to Tennessee to help her husband work through family issues, then switched her residency back to Georgia. Claiming that she is not a resident of Georgia, the committee sent a gift basket to the Tennessee home of her husband. Fox News, obtaining a copy of the signature, wrote an article featuring a comment from the House Republican campaign arm that reiterated that Ms. McBath is a resident of Tennessee. But a close look at the signature showed that her mother-in-law — “M McBath” — signed for the package — a fact mocked by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
A spokesperson for the NRCC told the Atlantic‘s Adam Harris: “If you have an issue with Mike Bloomberg saying he bought 40 members of Congress, including Lucy McBath, take it up with him.” McBath took the “attacks” and turned it into a fundraising pitch.
These attacks began on day one.
They harassed my elderly mother-in-law. The NRA said I only won bc I’m a “minority woman.”
Each time, I did what I learned all too well after the death of my son – fight back.
Let’s show them we can’t be bullied ⬇️https://t.co/e9Lipg16WG https://t.co/KQ530305M4
— Lucy McBath (@lucymcbath) February 26, 2020
The NRCC sent a sign to a black Congresswoman saying that she is "For Sale" https://t.co/fwJqD0LbKd
— adam harris (@AdamHSays) February 26, 2020