'It's a hard no': Sanders' campaign rejects Bloomberg's help in general election

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Mike Bloomberg at the Democratic primary debate in Charleston, S.C., on Feb. 25, 2020. Copyright Logan Cyrus AFP - Getty Images
By Alex Seitz-Wald with NBC News Politics
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The billionaire former New York City mayor says he'll spend generously to help whichever Democrat goes up against Trump. But Sanders isn't interested.

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CHARLESTON, S.C. — A top adviser to Bernie Sanders said the candidate would reject an offer from Mike Bloomberg to spend heavily on his behalf in the general election if the Vermont senator wins the Democratic Party's nomination.

Bloomberg, the billionaire former New York City mayor currently running against Sanders in the 2020 Democratic primary, has said he would keep his money flowing to help oust President Donald Trump, regardless of whom Democrats nominate.

But Jeff Weaver, Sanders' closest aide, said the Democratic front-runner would not want Bloomberg's help.

"It's a hard no," Weaver told NBC News after Tuesday night's debate. "Bernie has said he's going to fund his presidential campaign with small-dollar contributions and I think we can do that. I think we can raise over a billion dollars in small-dollar contributions."

Sanders cannot control or dictate what independent groups do on his behalf since campaign finance law prohibits candidates from coordinating strategy with outside groups. But Bloomberg's team has said the mogul would not spend on behalf of a candidate who rejected his help.

"Bernie said he didn't want (Bloomberg's) money, so we're not going to. I don't think it would be prudent to spend on behalf of somebody who didn't want it," Bloomberg senior adviser Howard Wolfson told NBC News after the debate.

"I think everyone else has said they want the help, including Elizabeth Warren," Wolfson added. "If Elizabeth Warren is the nominee, we will do everything we can to help her. Sanders is the one candidate who said he didn't want the help."

Bloomberg has spent more than $500 million on his presidential campaign so far and said he would keep part of his massive campaign team up and running and the TV ads running through November to help Democrats in the general election, whether or not he's at the top of the ticket.

Experts say the unprecedented amount of money Bloomberg seems prepared to spend has the potential to tip the election against Trump, though no one really knows because no one has tried to spend the kind of money Bloomberg could.

Sanders, though, rails against billionaires influencing politics and has repeatedly accused Bloomberg of trying to buy the Whtie House.

At a rally in North Carolina earlier this month, Sanders said,"We believe in old-fashioned democracy: one person, one vote, not billionaires buying elections."

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