Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden finally announced his biggest fundraiser list on Saturday, revealing the names of the 820 people who helped him build a large juggernaut.
The list includes Biden deputies such as former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA); Hollywood filmmakers like Lee Daniels and Jeffrey Katzenberg; Silicon Valley billionaires like Reid Hoffman and Ron Conway. The campaign did not specify how much these people raised for Biden efforts, and beyond that, more than $ 100,000.
It was released on a Saturday evening at the last possible time: Election day is Tuesday and more than 90 million people have already voted, with no clarity as to who his biggest fundraisers are or what influence they might have had on his candidacy. Biden's last-minute disclosure was a sharp departure from the precedent set in the Democratic Party, whose presidential candidates have regularly exposed their so-called "coordinators" with allusions to transparency.
Because of this, campaign finance reformers became increasingly concerned that Biden had not yet followed his predecessors Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in releasing his co-ordinators for the general election.
Biden's campaign had refused to answer inquiries about their coordinators until last week it told the New York Times that it would publish their names by the end of October (which ended on Saturday). Both Obama and Clinton posted updates on the list of helpers. Biden's only previous update came on a Friday evening shortly after Christmas 2019 during the Democratic primary with around 230 names before his bundling operation was seriously tightened.
"Congratulations on clearing an artificially low bar that you have set yourself that defeats the whole purpose of transparency. That way voters can know who is funding the campaigns asking for their support before they cast their ballots "said Tyson Brody, a Democratic agent who worked for Bernie Sanders and supports Biden, but criticizes the influence of large campaigners.
It makes strategic sense that the Biden campaign doesn't draw attention to the coordinators who helped it turn a sluggish fundraiser into a surprising powerhouse. Biden has worked to position himself as a working-class and middle-class interest candidate, nicknamed "Middle-Class Joe" and running the general election "as a campaign between Scranton and Park Avenue."
Hence, the Biden campaign has sought to focus on their online small dollar fundraiser rather than the celebrities, Silicon Valley billionaires, and Wall Street executives whose support undermines some of the campaign's news. This is a particularly important task for Biden, as many of these characters tend to arouse the left's disdain, which Biden is already skeptical of and wants large campaign contributors to play less of a role in politics.
And the Trump campaign wasn't exactly a place to stand up for transparency. Trump has not released any information about his own coordinators at all.
So only a limited test was carried out. The result is that the 90 million people who have already cast ballots have voted with incomplete information about the people who helped the campaigns raise the money that may have influenced those very votes.
The debate over the disclosure of coordinators reflects a central campaign question of the Trump era: Should Trump's own tactics set the standard for his democratic rivals? Or should Democrats – who claim to prioritize reducing the role of money in politics – aim for a higher, or at least pre-Trump, standard?
Campaigns are only required by law to reveal coordinators who are registered lobbyists – everything else is voluntary. Trump and his most immediate GOP predecessor at the top of the ticket, Mitt Romney, declined to share any additional information. Before their election campaigns, however, there was a bipartisan tradition of offering at least some information to help voters understand who had unofficial influence over their campaign. This was done by both John McCain and George W. Bush, who pioneered the modern bundling system and made it a boastful right to be a bundler.
Bundlers do the often tedious job of promoting their networks for high-priced campaign contributions: They invite their business partners to campaign events, introduce campaign staff and recruit more bundlers to stand by their side. Bundling can often be very competitive. Campaigns keep track of how much individuals have raised, and coordinators sometimes compete for positions on leaderboards.
Although Biden only posted a single level of information about the amounts raised by its coordinators, the campaign privately has six different levels of membership for its finance committee: from a "protector" helping the campaign raise $ 50,000 to one "Biden Victory Partner" who brings home $ 2.5 million, according to a campaign document from Recode. One of the mementos that Biden sent to this top tier of the bundler is a gold and blue pin.
The Biden campaign sends these buttons to the coordinators who raised over $ 2.5 million for their bid.
A reminder of how Joe Biden's big money machine works. pic.twitter.com/GRIYE0Otsl
– Teddy Schleifer (@teddyschleifer) October 26, 2020
Despite his fondness for talking about his low dollar fundraiser, Biden has built a formidable money machine.