This Congress has a record number of women and people of color. But when it comes to the staff working behind the scenes, diversity remains a huge issue.
“This has large-scale implications on the eligibility of unemployed people, on their eligibility for [Affordable Care Act] grants, for their eligibility for student loan cancellation, ”said a former Bloomberg staff member, who requested anonymity so that they could speak frankly. “I looked at the number of zeros and I couldn’t believe it. I thought it was a mistake, ”the person added. “They just make my blood boil.”
Two other former collaborators also worried about their new income levels added that it was not clear to them at the time that their salaries included the tax hike, which would fall due a year later. Beyond personal headaches, others saw the tax issue as the last indignity in a campaign experience filled with them.
Disputes over anticipated wages and staggering health care benefits at the height of the pandemic have left many assistants feeling burnt by their time with Bloomberg. They believe the candidate’s tax accounting decisions also went against the personal values he stood for, such as granting generous compensation and benefits to his employees and taking care of the little guy.
“If you create an organization that runs for president and you think our tax laws should be different, and our policies should be different, in order to better help people, then the way you treat people during the campaign and the way you pay them should reflect that, ”added the same former staff member.
Bloomberg’s operation paid relatively high salaries for political campaigns, in part to attract talent at the end of the 2020 season. Many of its hires have come from companies in Bloomberg or its larger orbit, others failed primary campaigns or private companies and organizations. Aides described the accommodation he provided as modest, which added to their surprise when they saw the items for the cost of the campaign.
Tax experts have said the IRS rules on taxable employee benefits are extremely complex. In cases where an employee works on an oil rig and needs to be housed, for example, it doesn’t count as income for the worker, said Robert W. Wood, lawyer and tax law expert in San Francisco.
There are many tax regulations on food, housing and other benefits, he added. Another tax lawyer said there are ways to structure benefits so as not to overburden employees.
But Bloomberg tax accountants determined that there was no way for them to provide benefits – namely free housing – without it being labeled as income for the employee. They pointed to an IRS publication stating that employer-provided accommodation was tax-free only if the accommodation met all three conditions: that it was on the employer’s premises, furnished for convenience. of the employee and a condition of employment – meaning they had to accept it in order to do their job properly.
“We were proud to pay our campaign staff a good salary, commensurate with the skill level of our team and above what is generally – but shouldn’t be – a low-wage industry. And, if the employee chose to participate, we offered additional benefits like housing or moving payments, ”the Bloomberg campaign spokesperson said. “We don’t write the tax code, but we certainly follow it. Going beyond salary to pay employee benefit taxes isn’t common, but we were proud to do so.
Bloomberg spent over a billion dollars of his own money on a 104-day campaign in which he ignored the early states and put his weight in saturating the TV markets with advertisements before the Super Tuesday. It did not work. He gave up after a disastrous demonstration on March 3 and ultimately decided to transfer $ 18 million to the Democratic National Committee.
The problems for the aides intensified from there. The Bloomberg outfit cut coverage for employee health care that was due to end after a string of layoffs when the campaign ended, only to reverse the move under pressure. Instead, outgoing staff members were offered COBRA plans.
Separately, Bloomberg is pursuing several lawsuits by his associates, including a class action lawsuit in which former field staff claim they were fraudulently tricked into accepting jobs with guaranteed pay promises until November 2020. Bloomberg lawyers are fighting in court to get the cases dismissed. , writing in short that helpers signed letters of offer and received employee manuals stating that they were “at will” workers and could be fired at any time.
The organizers admitted to having signed contracts at will. But they said they could make such claims based on the evidence they were persuaded to take their jobs because of the long promises Bloomberg’s top lieutenants made to them.
Last year, POLITICO reported that hiring material aids described as coming from Bloomberg’s New York headquarters guaranteed work with “Team Bloomberg” until the end of the general election, whether he became or not the Democratic presidential candidate, provided the assistants are willing to move. to other states.
Bloomberg also pledged to turn the campaign and tech infrastructure over to the Biden campaign and spend untold amounts of money on their behalf, though the arrangements never materialized and states like Florida – where Bloomberg dedicated major expenses – were won by Donald Trump.
Peter Romer-Friedman, a lawyer in one of the lawsuits, called the surprise tax documents “unfortunate and particularly painful for employees who have been unemployed since last March.” But he said it doesn’t compare to the collective tens of millions of dollars that “Bloomberg and his campaign falsely promised to pay field staff during the general election.”
“We of course hope that Mike Bloomberg will eventually see the light and keep his promises,” he added.