Democrats are fuming about a $200,000 speaking fee that former Vice President Joe Biden collected last October that helped re-elect Republican congressman Fred Upton of Michigan in a closely-fought midterm election race.
Upton, whose niece is supermodel Kate Upton, survived a tough challenge from Democrat Matt Longjohn by a mere 4.5%, in what a local newspaper called “his toughest fight yet.”
Biden’s speech may have been the key to Upton’s victory.
The New York Times reported Wednesday that Biden came to Benton Marbor, Michigan, in Upton’s 6th congressional district, “collecting $200,000 from the Economic Club of Southwestern Michigan to address a Republican-leaning audience.” The Economic Club, the Times noted, is “supported in part by an Upton family foundation.”
Biden praised Rep. Upton in remarks that were quickly cut into campaign commercials. The Times reported:
Mr. Biden stunned Democrats and elated Republicans by praising Mr. Upton while the lawmaker looked on from the audience. Alluding to Mr. Upton’s support for a landmark medical-research law, Mr. Biden called him a champion in the fight against cancer — and “one of the finest guys I’ve ever worked with.”
Mr. Biden’s remarks, coming amid a wide-ranging discourse on American politics, quickly appeared in Republican advertising. The local Democratic Party pleaded with Mr. Biden to repair what it saw as a damaging error, to no avail. On Nov. 6, Mr. Upton defeated his Democratic challenger by four and a half percentage points.
The contract for Mr. Biden’s visit shows he was paid $200,000 for his appearance, including a $150,000 speaking fee and a $50,000 travel allowance. It also specifies that the audience would be “primarily older, conservative Republicans and local community members.”
Democrats saw Biden’s speech as a “betrayal,” especially as Biden declined to endorse the Democrat in the race. (Upton claims not to have known in advance that Biden would praise him.)
The accusations against Biden are surfacing at a time when potential rivals for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination are beginning to declare their intentions.
Though Biden is not yet a candidate himself, he is the frontrunner and the favorite. A Morning Consult/Politico poll released Wednesday showed Biden far out ahead of any other candidate, with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) a distant second and other candidates barely registering.
The Times notes that if Biden’s fees for the Michigan event were standard, he could have “collected between $4 million and $5 million through speeches over the last two years.”
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.