Joe Biden Campaign Reverses Course on Super PACs amid Cash Crunch

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - AUGUST 03: Democratic presidential candidate and former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden speaks during the 2020 Public Service Forum hosted by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) at UNLV on August 3, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Nineteen of the 24 candidates …
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Former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign is reversing its position on accepting help from super PACs amid anemic fundraising.

Kate Bedingfield, the former vice president’s deputy campaign manager, announced the decision on Thursday, framing it as a result of the President Donald Trump’s willingness to “intervene directly” in the Democrat’s primary process. Claiming that the president and his allies were already “spending massive amount[s] of money” to prevent Biden from becoming the nominee, Bedingfield said the campaign had no choice to abandon its earlier pledge to discourage the aid of super Pacs.

“In this time of crisis in our politics, it is not surprising that those who are dedicated to defeating Donald Trump are organizing in every way permitted by current law to bring an end to this disastrous presidency,” Bedingfield said. “Nothing changes unless we defeat Donald Trump.”

The move comes as Biden’s campaign struggles to keep up in fundraising in comparison to candidates like South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Bernie Sanders (D-VT).

Although the former vice president started his campaign with a strong funding advantage, thanks in part to high-dollar donors, he ended the most recent fundraising period well behind his competitors. In particular, Biden only raised $15.2 million in the third quarter of this year, far below the sums brought in by Sanders ($25.3 million), Buttigieg ($19.1 million), and Warren ($24.6 million).

Posing more of a problem for the former vice president, however, is that his campaign has spent heavily since announcing in late-April, depleting his total cash on hand to just $9 million at the end of the third quarter. His rivals, on the other hand, still have campaign coffers brimming with cash, especially Sanders who finished the reporting period with more than $33 million on hand.

Biden’s cash crunch results from his inability to make in-roads with small-dollar donors. Unlike Warren or Sanders, more than 2,800 donors have already maxed out to Biden’s campaign since his announcement in late April, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. In fact, top-dollar donors make up a far higher percentage of Biden’s campaign’s coffers than those of his competitors.

In comparison, only 38 percent of the campaign’s funds to date have come from individuals donating less than $200. Such a ratio poses an issue for the former vice president, especially now that his top contributors are prohibited by law from donating again until after he’s secured the nomination. David Kochel, the former chief strategist for Jeb Bush’s failed 2016 presidential bid, explained the problem to Politico this month.

“If you don’t have that perpetual, low-dollar fundraising machine, you can’t compete,” Kochel said. “Biden looks like he can’t compete with Warren, Bernie and Buttigieg. How’s he going to compete with Trump?”

As evidenced by its decision on Thursday, the campaign appears to have decided his best way forward is to rely on super PACs, which are allowed to raise and spend unlimited funds. Such groups are increasingly being scorned on the left — including Biden just a few short months ago.

When first announcing his campaign, the former vice president pledged not to accept any campaign donations from corporate PACs or federal lobbyists. Part of that pledge was also his assurance not accept money from super PACs, even going as far to discourage one that had already formed on his behalf.

“Vice President Biden does not welcome assistance from super PACs,” a campaign aide told the Huffington Post in April when asked about the PAC.

As part of its reasoning for rejecting the help, the Biden campaign pointed to the former vice president’s long record of championing campaign finance reform. The candidate, himself, elaborated on his position during an interview with PBS News Hour last year while discussing campaign finance advice he purportedly gave to Sanders in 2016.

“I’m the guy that told him, you shouldn’t accept any money from a super PAC, because people can’t possibly trust you,” Biden said at the time. “How will a middle-class guy accept you if you accept money?”

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