It looks like people with no real interest in Bloomberg are signing up to be grassroots campaigners because he pays $2,500 a month

mjankowicz@businessinsider.com (Mia Jankowicz)
Mike Bloomberg.

Reuters

  • Mike Bloomberg's efforts to take social media by storm by paying people to post about him may not be working out, according to the Los Angeles Times.
  • Several California-based operatives told the paper anonymously that they mainly signed up to campaign because of the $2,500-a-month offer.
  • One was a Sen. Bernie Sanders supporter who followed up a campaign text to a friend with, "Please disregard, vote Bernie or Warren."
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

More than 500 social-media campaigners in California are being offered $2,500 a month to spread Mike Bloomberg's message as "deputy field operatives."

However, according to a report by the Los Angeles Times, the small slice of the candidate's vast personal fortune has not ensured the operatives' dedication or loyalty.

The newly formed social-media army has been tasked with spending 20 to 30 hours a week on text messages, phone calls, and social-media posts geared toward leveraging their personal networks to secure Bloomberg's victory in California's Democratic primary.

But four out of the five Bloomberg operatives who spoke anonymously with the LA Times said their primary motivation for joining Bloomberg's campaign was the money.

Bloomberg and Sen. Bernie Sanders at a Democratic debate.

Mike Blake/Reuters

One was a Sen. Bernie Sanders supporter, the newspaper reported, who followed up one pro-Bloomberg text message to a friend with, "Please disregard, vote Bernie or Warren."

Though the job advertisement asks for "an unflappable commitment" to getting Bloomberg elected, a campaign aide told the LA Times: "The only thing that was taken into account was whether applicants had social media accounts and knew how to use them."

This may account for the lukewarm efforts the operatives reported. One told the paper that when she began, most of her friends assumed her account had been hacked. Another hire's Instagram post received at the time of publication two likes and the comment, "I hope you're at least getting paid for this lol."

Bloomberg's push to hire hundreds of social-media campaigners was first reported by The Wall Street Journal. The outlet said he was delving into a gray area on Facebook by paying the operatives to post campaign messages to their personal social networks.

A digital billboard on the Las Vegas Strip from Bloomberg's campaign.

Mark Ralston/AFP via Getty Images

While campaigns have long paid people to make phone calls and knock on doors, academics told The Journal that Bloomberg's leveraging of personal social-media networks at scale blurred the lines between political advertising and grassroots support.

"It's classic AstroTurf tactics," James Thurber, a professor of government at American University, told the paper. AstroTurf is a play on words to describe a fake "grassroots" campaign.

Sabrina Singh, a spokesperson for the Bloomberg campaign, told the LA Times the campaign's goal was to meet voters on all platforms.

Though the job description asks the campaign operatives to clearly disclose they are paid for their posts, not all did, according to the LA Times.

Singh told the LA Times on Friday that campaign operatives have now been told to make their role clear in their social-media profiles. 

Bloomberg at the Democratic National Convention in July 2016.

Reuters

After The Wall Street Journal report, Twitter, which has stricter rules on political posts on its platform, suspended 70 accounts connected to Bloomberg's campaign for "platform manipulation and spam." 

Several Twitter users posted an identical tweet, which according to the LA Times was copied and pasted from campaign material. It said: "A President Is Born: Barbra Streisand sings Mike's praises. Check out her tweet."

As well as earning a Twitter ban, the phrase cropped up again in tweets apparently mocking the effort. 

An account temporarily renamed "Turd Ferguson – memeing for Mike Money" posted the phrase with a picture marked "Bloomberg 2020" that depicted dollar bills with the candidate's face on them being thrown out of a helicopter. 

Bloomberg has spent more than $409 million of his own cash on the campaign, according to The Associated Press.

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