Nov 26, 2019

Axios AM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

🦃 Good Tuesday morning. Today's Smart Brevity™ count: 1,176 words ... 4½ minutes.

1 big thing: Billionaires dominate 2020 spending
Expand chart
Data: Advertising Analytics. Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The 2020 campaigns of the three billionaires running for president have collectively spent about two-thirds of all ad dollars so far, Axios media trends expert Sara Fischer reports.

  • Why it matters: The billionaires — President Trump, Mike Bloomberg and former hedge fund manager Tom Steyer — are trouncing competitors Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, who are getting most of their money from small-dollar fundraising. Bloomberg and Steyer are self-funding.

Bloomberg has only officially been in the presidential race for a few days, but already he's invested more in television ads this year than many of his competitors.

  • "In one week alone, Bloomberg’s spending on TV nearly eclipsed the entire field (excluding Tom Steyer) combined — $35M to $40M," says Paul Winn, COO of Advertising Analytics.

Bloomberg's campaign is running a familiar strategy — spending most of his dollars at the national level, then in states with the biggest populations.

  • So far, he's spent nearly $7 million nationally, followed by ads running in California ($4.2 million), Florida ($3.6 million), Texas ($3.2 million), New York ($2.3 million), Pennsylvania ($1.4 million), Illinois ($1.1 million), and North Carolina ($1 million).
  • Bloomberg has bought TV ads in roughly 100 different local media markets, including some smaller markets in states like Idaho and Mississippi, per media firm Advertising Analytics.
  • So far, the spend is split among two video ads, "Promise" and
  • "Rebuild the Country."

Between the lines: Bloomberg's war chest has already become a talking point for Democrats on the campaign trail.

  • "We do not believe that billionaires have the right to buy elections, and that is why we are going to overturn Citizens United, that is why multibillionaires like Mr. Bloomberg are not going to get very far in this election," Sanders said at a campaign event Sunday.
  • "His view is that he doesn’t need people who knock on doors. He doesn’t need to go out and campaign, people," Warren said at a campaign event Monday.

Share this story.

2. Major ruling on stonewalling: "Presidents are not kings"
President Trump walks along the Rose Garden colonnade yesterday. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Former White House counsel Don McGahn must testify for House impeachment investigators about President Trump's efforts to obstruct Mueller, U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson ruled.

  • Why it matters, per N.Y. Times: "The 120-page decision ... handed another lower-court victory to House Democrats in their fight to overcome Mr. Trump’s stonewalling."

From the ruling:

Stated simply, the primary takeaway from the past 250 years of recorded American history is that Presidents are not kings. See The Federalist No. 51 (James Madison); The Federalist No. 69 (Alexander Hamilton); 1 Alexis de Tocqueville, "Democracy in America" ...
This means that they do not have subjects, bound by loyalty or blood, whose destiny they are entitled to control. Rather, in this land of liberty, it is indisputable that current and former employees of the White House work for the People of the United States ...

Read the opinion.

3. Climate change rains insurance misery on homeowners

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Climate change is making home insurance unavailable or unaffordable in the riskiest areas for hurricanes, wildfires and flooding, Courtenay Brown writes.

  • Why it matters: As insurance companies pay record amounts to homeowners who have suffered partial or total losses, they retreat from or raise premiums in places where claims are owed.

Company payouts for natural catastrophes in 2017 and 2018 stood at $219 billion, the highest ever for a consecutive two-year period, according to Swiss Re, a company — known as a reinsurer — that underwrites risks for home insurance and other policies.

  • Every state saw annual premiums rise between 2007 and 2016 (the latest year which data is available from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners).

Fearing bigger losses, insurers are pulling back from high-risk areas in California, leaving homeowners scrambling.

4. Pic du jour
Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Bread and Butter, the National Thanksgiving Turkey and alternate, meet the media in their Willard Hotel room, ahead of today's pardoning.

5. Free press gets squeezed around world

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The corruption indictments of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week include charges that he sought to manipulate the media to secure more favorable coverage, media trends expert Sara Fischer writes.

  • Why it matters: Such intervention is more prevalent around the world, including in democracies. As we've seen in Russia and Turkey, one of the surest signs democracy is being eroded is a crackdown on independent media.

Netanyahu was indicted for an arrangement he allegedly brokered with a telecom magnate, in which the prime minister offered favorable business regulations in return for positive coverage of him and his wife, Sara.

  • Natanyahu was also indicted on charges that he struck another deal with a Tel-Aviv-based daily newspaper called Yedioth Ahronoth to limit the circulation of its competitor in exchange for less critical coverage.
  • Share this story.

📬Sign up for Sara Fischer's weekly Media Trends newsletter, out later this morning.

6. ⚖️ Impeachment: What matters today
A television in a New York restaurant shows Gordon Sondland testifying last week. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff said in a letter to members of Congress that his committee will transmit its investigation to the House Judiciary Committee shortly after Thanksgiving — as soon as next week.

  • Schiff wrote that the report will "catalog the instances of non-compliance with lawful subpoenas," for the Judiciary Committee to consider for a potential article of impeachment.

What's next: The Judiciary Committee is ready to start its own round of hearings in December.

7. Finger-pointing over misjudging Hong Kong
Anti-government protesters shine phone lights at police as they chant slogans in Hong Kong yesterday. Photo: Chris McGrath/Getty Images

"As violent protests roil Hong Kong, top Chinese leaders in recent months have been managing their response from a villa on the outskirts of Shenzhen, bypassing the formal bureaucracy through which Beijing has supervised the financial hub for two decades," Reuters scoops.

  • "Ordinarily, communications between Beijing and Hong Kong are conducted through a Chinese government body ... housed in a Hong Kong skyscraper stacked with surveillance cameras, ringed by steel barricades."
  • "The office has come in for criticism in Hong Kong and China for misjudging the situation in the city. 'The Liaison Office has been mingling with the rich people and mainland elites in the city and isolated itself from the people,' a Chinese official said. 'This needs to be changed.'"
8. Today's tale: An Audi, an ax and an arson
Jewelry Room of the Green Vault, showing the part of the stolen collection. Photo: Staatliche Kunstsammlungen (State Art Collection) Dresden/David Brandt via AP

In Germany, thieves broke into Dresden's Green Vault, one of the world's oldest museums, and made off with three priceless sets of 18th century Baroque jewelry that officials said would be impossible to sell on the open market, AP reports.

  • The treasury of Augustus the Strong of Saxony was established in 1723, and today contains around 4,000 objects of gold, precious stones and other materials on display in Dresden's Royal Palace.
  • Museum officials said the sets that were stolen included intricate and dazzling brooches, buttons, buckles and other items.

How the heist happened! Police said they were alerted shortly before 5 a.m. by unarmed museum security guards who had spotted two burglars inside the downtown museum on video surveillance cameras.

  • Police said that an Audi A6 matching the description of the getaway car was found burned in an underground parking lot in Dresden.

Novelistic detail! Investigators suspect that a fire at an electrical junction box near the museum, which took out the streetlights at the time of the robbery, was linked to the crime.

  • The outage affected lights in front of a window through which the thieves gained entrance, getting through bars and safety glass to the Jewel Room.
  • Security footage shows two hooded figures entering the room, then smashing open the glass case with an ax.

The entire crime took only minutes.

Mike Allen

📬 Thanks for reading! Please tell a friend about AM/PM.