Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

To learn what most presidential candidates care about, you have to ask them.

  • But with Michael Bloomberg we can simply look to his philanthropies —which have given away some $8 billion — to get a good idea of his priorities.

Bloomberg has pledged to give 'nearly all" of his fortune to good causes. Most billionaires, including fellow media mogul Rupert Murdoch, tend to keep their money and leave it to their descendants.

  • Bloomberg explicitly uses his philanthropy to to spur actions that he thinks governments should be doing, but aren't. In his 2019 annual letter, he wrote that "proposing ideas for 2021 isn’t good enough. We need to get things done in the here and now, and I’m lucky enough to be in a position to help do that."
  • The urgency of getting things done before 2021 was also, he wrote, why he had decided not to spend the next year running for president. (As we now know, he ended up changing his mind on that one.)

Between the lines: Bloomberg does spend billions on traditional rich-people things. He likes to fund art organizations like The Shed in New York and the Tate in the U.K., and has made enormous gifts to the university he attended (Johns Hopkins).

He also channels money toward major global issues that fall squarely within the traditional government domain, but mainly in much poorer countries than his own:

  • Tobacco: Bloomberg has put more than $1 billion toward trying to reduce tobacco use. As mayor of New York City, he famously banned smoking in public areas, though most of his charitable funds have been directed at the developing world.
  • Climate change: Bloomberg has pledged $500 million to Beyond Carbon, a campaign he initiated that's part of a broader attempt to tackle climate change globally.
  • Road safety: Traffic deaths are a major global problem with scientifically-tractable solutions, and Bloomberg Philanthropies has donated $259 million over 12 years. Clearly-definable acts can save millions of lives if implemented in conjunction with governments around the world, but the issue generates very little in the way of headlines or mass activism. (See also: drowning prevention and maternal mortality, areas where Bloomberg has also spent hundreds of millions.)
  • Cities: The cities we live in can be viewed as complex machines. Bloomberg spends millions to try to help those machines run more smoothly.

What they’re not saying: Bloomberg spends very little time talking about the values that underlie his philanthropy, and he's also very quiet on the perils of inequality. He's a data-driven technocrat, not an ideologue.

  • The hand-picked board of directors for Bloomberg's charities includes CEOs, academics, mayors and arts celebrities, as well as his daughters. Among the boldfacest of names are Ken Chenault, Robert Iger, Sam Nunn, Samuel Palmisano, and Hank Paulson.

The big picture: Most of Bloomberg's philanthropy is focused outside the United States. In that respect he is an outlier; Americans overwhelmingly prefer to give money to domestic causes.

Go deeper:

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The apocalypse scenario

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Democratic lawyers are preparing to challenge any effort by President Trump to swap electors chosen by voters with electors selected by Republican-controlled legislatures. One state of particular concern: Pennsylvania, where the GOP controls the state house.

Why it matters: Trump's refusal to commit to a peaceful transfer of power, together with a widely circulated article in The Atlantic about how bad the worst-case scenarios could get, is drawing new attention to the brutal fights that could jeopardize a final outcome.

Federal judge rules Trump administration can't end census early

Census workers outside Lincoln Center in New York. Photo: Noam Galai/Getty Images

A federal judge ruled late Thursday that the Trump administration could not end the 2020 census a month early.

Why it matters: The decision states that an early end — on Sept. 30, instead of Oct. 31 — would likely produce inaccuracies and thus impact political representation and government funding around the country.

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
1 hour ago - Health

Where bringing students back to school is most risky

Data: Coders Against COVID; Note: Rhode Island and Puerto Rico did not meet minimum testing thresholds for analysis. Values may not add to 100% due to rounding; Cartogram: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Schools in Southern and Midwestern states are most at risk of coronavirus transmission, according to an analysis by Coders Against COVID that uses risk indicators developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The big picture: Thankfully, schools have not yet become coronavirus hotspots, the Washington Post reported this week, and rates of infection are lower than in the surrounding communities. But that doesn't mean schools are in the clear, especially heading into winter.

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