Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters defended Mike Bloomberg‘s right to self-finance his presidential campaign Thursday on CNBC, suggesting the billionaire’s own money was not much different from money raised by other candidates.
“We live in a democracy, unless it’s undermined by this president who doesn’t know what he’s doing,” Waters said on “The Exchange.” “The democracy, and the way it gives everybody an opportunity, is what we basically believe in.”
Waters, chairwoman of the House Financial Services Committee, said she did believe democratic processes can be “distorted when people have extraordinary amounts of money.”
“It does give them an advantage, and it causes us some concern,” she said.
But even if Bloomberg’s campaign spending is far ahead of his rivals, the former New York mayor has not “violated any laws, any rules,” Waters said.
“And whether you have your own money or whether you’re collecting it from thousands or millions of people in small amounts, that’s the way the democracy works,” she said.
Bloomberg, who is worth about $60 billion, has spent more than $250 million on TV and radio ads and $45 million to $50 million on digital, according to Advertising Analytics and Acronym.
Bloomberg’s advertising spending totals are more than twice the amount spent so far by President Donald Trump and all the other Democratic candidates combined.
Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have led the charge in criticizing Bloomberg’s spending, arguing he is using his personal fortune to unfairly win the nomination. “Look, I don’t think anyone ought to be able to buy their way into a nomination or to be president of the United States,” Warren said in Friday’s primary debate. Sanders, during his victory speech following the New Hampshire primary, said, “We’re taking on billionaires and we’re taking on candidates funded by billionaires.”
Sanders leads in an average of national polls, gathering about 24% of the vote. Former Vice President Joe Biden is second at 19% Bloomberg is third at 14%, just ahead of Warren at 12%.
Waters, who was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1990, has not publicly endorsed a candidate ahead of California’s March 3 primary.
The most populous state is holding its primary on Super Tuesday, March 3, along with 13 others. Bloomberg is not competing in the four states heading to the polls this month and is instead focusing on Super Tuesday.
Waters said it was part of a recognition that early states such as Iowa and New Hampshire are not representative of the Democratic Party’s voters.
“We want to make sure that we have a significant role,” she said.
Waters’ office did not immediately respond to a CNBC request for comment about whether the long-time congresswoman planned to make an endorsement.