Biden jumped up without much money – but now he’s pouring in
The Wednesday night view from the immaculately landscaped backyard of Sherry Lansing’s estate in Bel-Air, with its enormous swimming pool and towering birds of paradise, suggested that the old order of fundraising was quickly reappearing in the race for the future. Democratic presidential nomination.
Dozens of well-off Angelenos shelled out $ 2,800 each for the privilege of
take a photo with Joe Biden. They spotted Leonardo DiCaprio and megamillionaire financier Richard C. Blum, and clung to every word as Senator Dianne Feinstein, Blum’s wife, moved from Washington to celebrates the former vice-president.
Soon after, Biden would boast that his campaign had raised $ 22 million in less than a week.
The scene at the former head of Paramount Studios’ home, however, hardly captured the reality on the pitch in this race. This primary campaign has practically reversed all the old axioms about how money
– and its proximity – influences races.
Biden dominated Super Tuesday even though he didn’t spend a dollar – or even show up – in some of the great states he won hands down.
New York billionaire Michael R. Bloomberg spent an unprecedented $ 552 million on an advertising blitz and walked away with victories nowhere other than American Samoa. Bloomberg spent more than $ 130 on advertising for every vote he won on Super Tuesday. The cost per vote for Biden? About 40 cents.
And Elizabeth Warren, the Massachusetts senator who started her campaign by announcing that only local donors were welcome, ended it with staunch support from the biggest and most obscure super PAC to emerge in the contest – but still lost everywhere.
“Not long ago the press and pundits declared our campaign dead,” Biden, who rebounded from the frontrunner Super Tuesday, told the overflowing 350-donor crowd at Lansing.
One reason: the campaign was halted until this week.
The former vice president was spent and organized in almost every state on Tuesday. Bloomberg pumped money into the race faster than any candidate, giving it supremacy on the airwaves almost everywhere.
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders also eclipsed Biden in resources across the electoral map, having raised $ 167 million in small donations through February, roughly double what Biden raised.
So few donors were interested in Biden that even the flagship event at Lansing did not attract many takers when it began sending out invitations in the dark days before Biden won the South Carolina primary on February 29.
The organizers had opted for an intimate gathering of 80 people in his living room. “Then South Carolina came along,” Lansing said Wednesday, introducing Biden to his guests. “The calls kept coming over and over again. It was like a flood.
On Wednesday morning, after Biden won nine states from Maine to Texas, more people called. Even after moving the event outside, “we literally had to cut it off and tell everyone who called that we had actually hit full capacity” of around 350, she said. Money is also flowing into Biden’s supporting super PAC, Unite the Country.
“We will do whatever is necessary to support the vice president’s candidacy,” said supporter Andy Spahn, a powerful Hollywood broker who has long advised the political activity of industry figures such as Jeffrey Katzenberg. “We spoke with the campaign this week to find out where we can make the biggest contribution or how we can make the biggest difference.”
It was that kind of enthusiasm that helped the Biden campaign raise $ 22 million in five days, a result he reported when he called for a fundraiser in Bethesda, Md., Where some 130 donors gathered on Friday evening.
Donors in Spahn’s orbit had previously covered, spreading money over several viable candidates and refraining from writing big checks to super PACs. The change in donors with deep pockets once Biden starts winning is a boon to him.
“The last seven days have been by far our best seven days of the entire cycle,” said Steve Schale, Unite the Country advisor. He declined to say exactly how much the PAC raised during the week, but said it was millions of dollars.
Even though the money is now pouring in quickly, some reformers are happy with the moderate impact that big portfolios have had so far this year. They are particularly encouraged by The extinction of Bloomberg.
“The point to remember is that if you don’t cultivate local donors and you don’t have local support, your money alone won’t buy you a viable campaign,” said Tiffany Muller, chair of the campaign. End Citizens United advocacy group. “We don’t think billionaires should be able to spend money without limits. We think this is a huge problem in our democracy.
Of course, the Bloomberg billions may not disappear from this race. The former New York mayor is now considering putting his expensive campaign machine to work to help elect Biden.
Such movements involve risks that did not exist in the recent past. More voters disapprove of cash injections than ever before.
This is a trend due in large part to Sanders’ success in funding a formidable national campaign entirely out of 1.9 million individual donors making contributions averaging $ 21. Sanders’ proof that it could be done prompted other candidates to swear by using super PACs and corporate money – and also to commit to supporting a comprehensive reform of campaign finance if elected.
By this point in 2016, with the field of candidates competing in the GOP presidential primary almost as crowded as this year on the Democratic side, the super PACs and other independent groups had invested more than $ 200 million in the race. That’s more than triple this cycle’s external spending, according to End Citizens United.
“Are we disappointed that the super PACs have infiltrated this primary? Obviously, ”said Muller. “But even how long we were able to hold back the super PACs in this race made a substantial difference.”
Others are less impressed. Paul Ryan, vice president of policy and litigation at Common Cause, said he viewed the candidates’ wishes at the start of the race to disown the big bucks as more a matter of message than substance.
“This is where we are in every cycle since the birth of the super PACs,” he said. “I was skeptical of the promises at the start. I thought the Democratic candidate would be backed by huge outside money. “
Even Sanders gets help from outside groups. The super PAC affiliated with National Nurses United spent a lot on their behalf in 2016 and may do so again. And Common Cause has filed a federal lawsuit against the nonprofit Sanders helped found, Our Revolution, accusing it of violating existing laws – weak as they are – requiring disclosure of identity. donors and expenses related to assisting a candidate. Allegations languish at the Federal Election Commission, where vacant board positions left the agency for months without the quorum to act.
Perhaps the biggest disappointment for good government groups came when the pro-Warren Persist PAC emerged. The fight against corruption was a centerpiece of Warren’s race, which ended when she pulled out of the race on Thursday. Yet when she badly needed help, the super PAC poured $ 14 million into the race to help her and refused to simultaneously reveal the identity of its donors. He is not legally required to disclose these names until March 20.
Warren did not disavow the group or its tactics. Instead, she argued that other candidates were helped by outside money, so she had no choice.
The money ultimately didn’t help Warren. Still, analysts generally agree that the about-face of its super PAC stance did not hurt its offer.
Despite all the promises of reform, this is not an election where voters seek absolute purity. Not when the prospective candidate faces an incumbent who is expected to push all the limits of fundraising and spending.
Getting a lot of money out of politics is “an issue that is important and that people care about,” said Sarah Bryner, research director at the Center for Responsive Politics, “but I don’t think it’s a motivator. , especially not in this particular area. election. Defeating Trump is the main motivation.
Halper reported from Washington and Mehta from Los Angeles. Times editor Janet Hook in Washington contributed to this report.