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:

Go deeper

Transcripts show George Floyd told police "I can't breathe" over 20 times

Photo: Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Newly released transcripts of bodycam footage from the Minneapolis Police Department show that George Floyd told officers he could not breathe more than 20 times in the moments leading up to his death.

Why it matters: Floyd's killing sparked a national wave of Black Lives Matter protests and an ongoing reckoning over systemic racism in the United States. The transcripts "offer one the most thorough and dramatic accounts" before Floyd's death, The New York Times writes.

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 6 p.m. ET: 11,921,616 — Total deaths: 546,318 — Total recoveries — 6,506,408Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 6 p.m. ET: 3,035,231 — Total deaths: 132,042 — Total recoveries: 936,476 — Total tested: 36,878,106Map.
  3. Public health: Deaths are rising in hotspots — Déjà vu sets in as testing issues rise and PPE dwindles.
  4. Travel: United warns employees it may furlough 45% of U.S. workforce How the pandemic changed mobility habits, by state.
  5. Education: New York City schools will not fully reopen in fallHarvard and MIT sue Trump administration over rule barring foreign students from online classes.
  6. 🎧 Podcast: A misinformation "infodemic" is here.
1 hour ago - Health

Fighting the coronavirus infodemic

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

An "infodemic" of misinformation and disinformation has helped cripple the response to the novel coronavirus.

Why it matters: High-powered social media accelerates the spread of lies and political polarization that motivates people to believe them. Unless the public health sphere can effectively counter misinformation, not even an effective vaccine may be enough to end the pandemic.