A Super PAC supporting Joe Biden is going all in on Iowa, pouring millions of dollars into the state ahead of the first in the nation caucus next week.
Unite the Country, which is run by a registered foreign lobbyist and former Biden aide, is plastering Iowa’s airwaves in hopes of creating a last minute surge for the former vice president. Since launching at the end of October, the group has raised and spent more than $4.3 million, as noted by Federal Election Commission (FEC) disclosures. In the past 24-hours alone, the Super PAC spent more than $139,000 on direct mail targeted at Iowa voters and more than $962,000 on ads.
Even though the group has only been in operation for the past three months, it already tops the list of outside spending groups, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The designation likely results from its ability to raise and spend unlimited amounts of money in support of Biden’s candidacy. That ability is on display in Iowa, where Unite the Country’s spending has surpassed the sum Biden’s official campaign is on course to put into the state.
Although the group is not allowed to collaborate with Biden’s campaign, there is still significant overlap in messaging between the two. For instance, when Biden announced his opposition to President Donald Trump’s killing of Qasem Soleimani earlier this month, Unite the Country launched a $705,000 media buy highlighting his stance.
Similarly, as Biden has shifted his message in the days ahead of Iowa to focus on restoring the “soul of the nation,” Unite the Country has followed suit. In an ad released last week on Iowa’s airwaves, the Super PAC touts Biden’s ability to “lead through the storm” that is the Trump era.
Despite the similarities, Biden has denied there is any “cooperation” with his campaign and Unite the Country. Such denials, though, have done little to tamper criticism from progressives. Many on the left have made reliance on Super PACs, which can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money, a litmus test for their support. As such, Biden initially swore off help from big money groups, but was forced to reverse his stance in the face of anemic fundraising and falling poll numbers. The reversal came despite the former vice president claiming as recently as January 2018 that people can not “possibly trust you” if you have a Super PAC. Given the history, the response from liberal groups was fierce and predictable.
“The path forward for his campaign depends on Democratic primary voters trusting that they’d have more say in a Biden administration than big money donors,” End Citizens United said upon news of the decision.
Adding to the concerns of progressive activists is the steps that Unite the Country’s donors will not be fully disclosed until after Iowa voters head to the polls. When the Super PAC first filed its FEC statement of organization in November 2019 it was supposed to submit semi-annual disclosure reports as required for a non-election year.
The group’s first report, covering the period between October 28 and December 31, 2019, will be made available around January 31, 2020, provided they file on time. All those donating to the Super PAC between January 1 and January 31, 2020 will not be made public until February 20—more than three weeks after the Iowa Caucuses.
All the more troubling for some on the left is that the outside spending seems to be having its intended effect. When Biden first jettisoned his opposition to Super PACs in October, paving the way for Unite the Country’s formation, the former vice president was badly trailing his competitors in Iowa.
A poll released around the same time from the University of Iowa had Biden squarely in fourth place. In that survey, the former vice president not only trailed Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT), but also the political newcomer, former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
Now, nearly three months and millions in outside spending later, Biden’s standing has rebounded among Iowa Democrats. According to the RealClearPolitics polling average, the former vice president is now behind Sanders in second place, although within striking distance. Apart from showing Biden retaking first place, a recent Monmouth University poll found the former vice president’s net favorability has inched upwards in Iowa since November 2019—when Unite the Country first came on the scene.