Facebook posts
stated on February 19, 2020 in a Facebook post:
“Fact: Mike Bloomberg spent $12 million to re-elect a Senate Republican (Toomey) in 2016. Toomey beat the Dem (McGinty) by 1.5 points. If McGinty had won, Ds would have controlled the Senate after Doug Jones won and could have blocked Kavanaugh from the Supreme Court.”
true half-true
Democratic presidential candidate former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg speaks during a campaign event at The Rustic restaurant, Thursday, February 27, 2020, in Houston. (AP) Democratic presidential candidate former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg speaks during a campaign event at The Rustic restaurant, Thursday, February 27, 2020, in Houston. (AP)

Democratic presidential candidate former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg speaks during a campaign event at The Rustic restaurant, Thursday, February 27, 2020, in Houston. (AP)

Amy Sherman
By Amy Sherman February 28, 2020

Post wrongly links Bloomberg spending for Toomey to Kavanaugh confirmation

If Your Time is short

  • Bloomberg’s Independence USA PAC spent $5.9 million in favor of Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., in 2016.
     
  • Bloomberg agreed with Toomey’s position in favor of expanding background checks for gun sales.
     
  • A McGinty win would not have secured Senate control for the Democrats. How it would have affected Kavanaugh’s confirmation is hypothetical.

Mike Bloomberg’s past spending to help some Republican candidates has drawn the ire of Democrats, now that he’s seeking to be their presidential nominee. But a Facebook post goes too far in linking his spending to help re-elect U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., to the confirmation of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

In 2016, Toomey won a second term when he beat Democrat Katie McGinty, a former aide to Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf and former environmental adviser to President Bill Clinton, by about 1.5 percentage points

"Fact: Mike Bloomberg spent $12 million to re-elect a Senate Republican (Toomey) in 2016," stated the Facebook post. "Toomey beat the Dem (McGinty) by 1.5 points. If McGinty had won, Ds would have controlled the Senate after Doug Jones won and could have blocked Kavanaugh from the Supreme Court."

We found that Bloomberg did spend millions to help Toomey; whether that changed the outcome of the election is anybody’s guess. But the post exaggerates when it says the race had the power to change the Supreme Court.

The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.) 

Bloomberg’s spending on behalf of Toomey

Two ads by Bloomberg’s Independence USA PAC praised Toomey for crossing party lines to support background checks for gun buyers. 

Toomey backed legislation to expand checks to online sales and gun shows — a position shared by Bloomberg, who helped launch the gun control advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety

A New York Times analysis of Bloomberg’s donations stated that he spent $11.7 million to support Toomey in 2016. Since 2012, the New York Times found, Bloomberg has helped candidates from both major parties, but his political committees have given more to Democrats than Republicans. 

We used the database of donations posted by the Center for Responsive Politics and found that Bloomberg’s Independence USA PAC spent $5.9 million in support of Toomey in 2016. As an individual, Bloomberg gave $2,700 to Toomey’s campaign

The Pennsylvania U.S. Senate race was the most expensive general-election Senate contest in the nation in 2016, reaching a total of $170 million with candidate and outside spending combined.

Senate split if McGinty, a Democrat, had won

The Facebook post misleads when it states, "if McGinty had won, Ds would have controlled the Senate after Doug Jones won." 

At the beginning of 115th Congress in January 2017, there were 52 Republicans, 46 Democrats and 2 independents who caucused with the Democrats. When Alabama Democrat Doug Jones took office in January 2018, that gave Republicans a 51-49 lead.

If McGinty had won, the Senate would have ended up at 50-50.

So who would have been in control?

Washington University political scientist Steve Smith said that there are Senate precedents that allow the vice president’s party — in this case Mike Pence — to be treated as the majority party.

When the 2000 elections produced a 50-50 tie and a Republican vice president, the two parties worked out a "power-sharing agreement" that provided for committees to be equally divided between the parties but with Republican chairs, Smith said. However the majority leader was the Republican leader.

If the Senate found itself in another 50-50 split, that would lead to another round of negotiations.

"The Democrats would not control the Senate in the case of a 50-50 division," he said. "To the contrary, some power sharing arrangement would again be negotiated and the term ‘control,’ an informal term, really would not fit. If the vice president was Republican, the majority leader would be Republican."

Senate vote on Kavanaugh

Now that brings us to the part of the Facebook post that said after Jones won, if McGinty had also won, the Democrats "could have blocked Kavanaugh from the Supreme Court."

This statement does have a qualifier of "could," but if it assumes that a McGinty win alone could have changed the outcome. That’s misleading.

The Senate voted 50-48 to confirm Kavanaugh in October 2018. U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia was the lone Democrat to vote in favor.

If we take the hypothetical scenario of McGinty beating Toomey, and assume she would have followed Democratic Party lines, and all other senators would have voted in the same way as they actually did, the vote would have tied 49-49. That means that Pence could have cast a deciding vote. Other scenarios are equally hypothetical. 

Our ruling

A Facebook post said, "Fact: Mike Bloomberg spent $12 million to re-elect a Senate Republican (Toomey) in 2016. Toomey beat a Dem (McGinty) by 1.5 points. If McGinty had won, Ds would have controlled the Senate after Doug Jones won and could have blocked Kavanaugh from the Supreme Court."

Bloomberg did support Toomey and gave him significant funding. The rest of the claim is murky and relies on a hypothetical situation.

Kavanaugh was confirmed in a 50-48 vote. If McGinty had won and all other things were the same, it likely would have ended up in a tie vote to be broken by Pence.

We rate this statement Half True.

Our Sources

Center for Responsive Politics, Independence USA PAC, 2016

Federal Election Commission, Independence USA PAC Schedule E Form 3X, Nov. 22, 2016

New York Times, Michael Bloomberg Has Used His Fortune to Help Republicans, Too, Nov. 26, 2019

New York Times, Bloomberg Endorses Republican in Heated Massachusetts Senate Race, July 26, 2012

New York Times, A Senator’s Search for an Ally Keeps a Gun Bill Alive, April 10, 2013

New York Times, How Every Senator Voted on Kavanaugh’s Confirmation, Oct. 6, 2018

U.S. Sen. Scott Brown, Letter, Nov. 3, 2011

Center for Responsive Politics, West Main Street Values PAC, 2014

Independence USA PAC, Ad, 2016

Independence USA PAC, Ad, 2016

Post and Courier, Former New York mayor Bloomberg gives to pro-Lindsey Graham PAC, July 14, 2014

Planned Parenthood, FACT CHECK: Pat Toomey Wants to Ban Safe, Legal Abortion in Pennsylvania, Oct. 14, 2016

Email interview, Stu Loeser, Michael Bloomberg campaign spokesman, Feb. 25, 2020

Email interview, Andrew Mayersohn, Center for Responsive Politics committees researcher, Feb. 26, 2020

Email interview, Gregory Koger, University of Miami political science professor, Feb. 25, 2020

Email interview, Steven Smith, Washington University in St. Louis political science professor, Feb. 24, 2020

Browse the Truth-O-Meter

More by Amy Sherman

Post wrongly links Bloomberg spending for Toomey to Kavanaugh confirmation

Support independent fact-checking.
Become a member!

In a world of wild talk and fake news, help us stand up for the facts.

Sign me up