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CBS Criticized for Running Bloomberg Ads During Democratic Debate: ‘How?’

Bloomberg’s focus on ad spending has been the bedrock of his campaign

CBS ran ads for Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg during Tuesday night’s Democratic debate, prompting questions from media insiders and political observers. CBS News was one of the media partners for the debate and CBS News anchors served as moderators.

The ads ran during the first and second commercial breaks.

“How was @mikebloomberg allowed to buy a commercial during the #demdebate,” NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell asked of the former New York City mayor, whose extreme ad spending is the bedrock of his campaign. So far this year, he has spent $500 million of his $65 billion fortune on ads.

“Am I the only one offended by the Mike Bloomberg ad that just aired during the break? Big money is destroying American democracy,” tweeted former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich.

“Ok why the hell is there a Bloomberg ad on during the debate? How is this not a campaign finance law violation?” tweeted a popular account belonging to a volunteer for Sen. Bernie Sanders’ campaign for the presidency.

“What kind of rule allows the candidates to advertise *during* the debate? Or did Bloomberg just buy CBS?” echoed New Yorker writer Tad Friend.

Political host and former congressional candidate Krystal Ball tweeted, “Bloomberg ad playing right now in this dem debate commercial break. Sh-t should be illegal. Oh good a pharma ad is next.”

Turns out that running ads during debates is allowed, and Bloomberg has taken full advantage. The Federal Communications Commission does require broadcast political ads to post their contracts online, detailing where they aired and how much they cost. A source familiar with debate programming plans at NBC told TheWrap that network “refused” to air a Bloomberg ad during its debate earlier this month.

Bloomberg’s campaign strategy has been to outspend the competition. His unprecedented ad spending spree included dropping $10 million on a Super Bowl spot and pouring more money into Facebook ads than President Donald Trump — who typically dominates the space — and the rest of his Democratic competitors combined.

Representatives for his campaign didn’t immediately return a request for comment, nor did representatives for CBS News.