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Can’t Buy Me Love

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Mike Bloomberg can buy himself campaign workers, but he can’t buy them actually wanting to work for him.

The Bloomberg 2020 operation is hiring more than 500 people at a rate of $2,500 a month to text friends and post on social media in support of the former New York mayor and billionaire media mogul. These “deputy field organizers,” as the campaign calls them, are focusing their efforts on California and its 415 delegates up for grabs. It has not been picky in choosing messengers. 

A look inside the strategy — based on documents reviewed by The Times, interviews with five of these organizers and an examination of the operation’s social media output — shows that many have been using accounts created within the last month for their Twitter posts. At least two had openly posted in support of other candidates. And unlike the high-profile influencers the campaign recently hired to create viral memes, the vast majority of these organizers have modest personal audiences. On Twitter, many have fewer than 20 followers.

Rather than create their own content, organizers often use the exact text, images and links provided to them by the campaign. The result has been a stiff outpouring of tweets, Facebook and Instagram posts with little to no engagement and sometimes half-hearted text messages. Some organizers were so robotic in their tweeting, Twitter suspended their accounts Friday evening after The Times inquired about whether their behavior complied with the platform’s rules on spam and manipulation.

Four out of the five organizers interviewed said the promise of money was the primary factor in their decision to work for the Bloomberg campaign. 

One, a recent college graduate living in Sacramento, describes himself as an ardent supporter of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, the current front-runner for the Democratic nomination. But he hasn’t had a steady stream of income since October, and the Bloomberg gig seemed like easy money, he said. 

The ambivalence shows up in his outreach efforts.

“Sam Donaldson just nailed it: Mike Bloomberg is the president we need to unite our country!” he texted one of his friends Monday through Outvote — the app organizers use to reach out to their personal networks. He drew on language provided to him by the campaign and logged the text as part of his Bloomberg organizer responsibilities.

But he quickly followed up with a personal addendum: “Please disregard, vote Bernie or Warren.”

Organizers said securing the work was easy, and the vetting process thin: Some first had to send in their resume, while others simply fill out a Google form with their name, contact information, address and links to their Twitter and Facebook accounts as well as “any other social media handle(s).”

Applicants’ recent social media posts were reviewed by campaign staff for racist or offensive content, or conflicting material, such as support for a different presidential candidate, organizers said. (The Bernie Sanders supporter was asked to remove posts, retweets and likes in support of the Sanders campaign.) Once approved, organizers completed training for various apps including Outvote, Hustle and ThruTalk and were encouraged to post on social media every day in support of Bloomberg.

“When I text my friends — depending on the friend — a lot of people think it’s spam or my account was hacked,” an organizer living in Los Angeles said. “Once people realize it’s actually me who’s making these and it’s not spam, they kind of just figure I’m being paid for it.”

One organizer, a woman living on the Central Coast of California, said she always disclosed her position in her initial text. “It would be irresponsible of me to act otherwise. It just seems like the ethical thing to do.”

I believe the proper political terminology for this sort of thing is “lol”

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