Cha Ching! Biden embraces his election-year fundraising role

WASHINGTON (AP) — Every time a donor’s unsilent cellphone rings during a fundraiser while President Joe Biden speaks, he has the same joke ready to go: It’s Donald Trump on the phone. other line.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Every time a donor’s unsilent cellphone rings during a fundraiser while President Joe Biden speaks, he has the same joke ready to go: It’s Donald Trump on the phone. other line.

“If it’s Trump calling me again, tell him I’m busy,” Biden said at an event last week for the Democratic Governors Association, repeating a variation of the quip he also said. relayed at receptions in Illinois and New York earlier this year. The crowd of a few dozen, as they always do, laughed as the president continued with the rest of his remarks.

It’s a glimpse of Biden as chief fundraiser – a man who schmoozes with aplomb while raking in millions at receptions that will be part of his political agenda during the home stretch before Election Day, 8 november. At these events, celebrities are spotted and booze is consumed, while Biden gets the one-on-one interactions he’s been missing for much of his campaign and presidency due to COVID-19.

The fundraisers — held in plush Manhattan apartments, dingy conference centers and chandelier-decorated backyard tents — have been one of the most visible ways Biden has been deployed this election year at a at a time when his approval ratings remain underwater and many Democrats are unwilling to support him on the campaign trail.

“Joe Biden is Joe Biden. He’s real, he’s down to earth, if he knows the people in the room…he’s even more relaxed,” said Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., a close ally “He gets all kinds of questions, he answers them honestly, he probably gives his staff heart attacks.”

So far this year, Biden has headlined 11 receptions to raise money directly for the Democratic National Committee, and they’ve raised more than $19.6 million, according to the committee. Events have ranged from a $300,000 haul to a yacht club in Portland, Oregon, to a cozy affair of 18 (with four more on video screens) at the Washington Hotel near the White House which reported over $3 million. A pair of fundraisers at Southern California mansions during the Summit of the Americas in June raised $5 million within hours.

Regardless of DNC events, Biden spoke at a fundraiser in September to benefit Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, which raised more than $450,000 for the Democratic Party in the state.

The Governors Association event raised $1 million, and Biden was set to appear at a fundraiser on Tuesday on behalf of Charlie Crist, the no-holds-barred Florida gubernatorial candidate. to want the president to campaign with him. This political trip has been postponed due to Hurricane Ian.

The DNC also taps Biden for solicitations sent to its local donor list, with emails signed by the president consistently raising the most money for the committee, according to party officials. Last week, the DNC raised more than $107 million, the most at this point in the year and an amount that Democratic officials attributed largely to Biden’s direct involvement.

Biden seems to particularly enjoy the in-person interactions that a private fundraiser offers.

A politician known for his boyfriend, Biden makes sure at any important event that his hosts feel special and recognized. For example, at a fundraiser in late August in suburban Washington, Biden first spent some time paying a little attention to a child near the front of the rally, then the president delivered his remarks for several dozen big-budget DNC ​​supporters.

“Honey, what is your name? Biden asked a little girl, sitting through what he joked had to be the most “boring” event. “Well, let me tell you something. Is this your daddy? He owes you a lot for having to sit here.

At a June fundraiser in Beverly Hills, Calif., at the home of billionaire media mogul Haim Saban, the president told Saban’s wife, Cheryl, that the two men “got married way over above our station”. And standing in Henry and Marsha Laufer’s 65th-floor apartment overlooking New York’s Central Park, Biden gushed about the “magnificent” view, noting, “I don’t know if there’s a better view in New York. than here.”

Indeed, the residence is a “corner of paradise” for the Laufers, who seemed anxious to keep their house spotless. Attendees checked their shoes – among them expensive Jimmy Choo mules and Saint Laurent pumps – at the door and listened to Biden as they wore socks or slippers provided by the couple. A small group of reporters in attendance were asked to place “shoes” over their shoes to protect their hardwood floors and light-colored carpets. (None of the shoe rules applied to Biden, who kept his own and didn’t wear the disposable liners.)

At Biden fundraisers, celebrities such as actor Robert De Niro (in New York) or filmmaker Ken Burns (in Boston) make the occasional appearance, though none have stuck around long enough to hear the president speak. .

For donors, Biden’s comments, which can last anywhere from a few minutes to half an hour, are a much more laid-back, off-the-cuff version of the campaign speech he delivers to the cameras. Journalists have access to Biden fundraisers, but only with a notepad and pen, which means cameras are prohibited.

Especially lately, Biden has been careful to highlight his administration’s accomplishments — a $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package, bipartisan infrastructure legislation, a climate and health care bill. health which came after months of internal Democratic wrangling. He then points out to donors that the upcoming midterm reviews in November are a choice, not just between holding on to his achievements and Republicans unraveling them, but on other issues such as abortion and guns.

While aides dispute that his message varies in more private settings, Biden frequently speaks extemporaneously and can be far less cautious than during his formal remarks at a lectern or on stage.

It was at fundraisers that Biden invoked variants of fascism — whether “semi-fascism” or “tint of fascism” — to refer to Trump-fueled forces within the Republican Party that, according to Biden, are a threat to the democratic foundations of the country. . While his spokeswoman declined to assess the implications of recent elections in Italy, where a political party with neo-fascist roots won the most votes, Biden at the DGA fundraiser highlighted the results as that he was warning about the fate of democracy in the United States and abroad.

At the Laufer home, Biden — who tends to avoid talking about his faith when discussing politics — notably referenced the position of the Catholic Church while lambasting Republicans who had pushed for broad bans on the ‘abortion.

“I happen to be a practicing Roman Catholic. My church doesn’t even make that argument,” he said, referring to abortion bans that leave “no exceptions.”

Biden’s essential qualities — his candor and his warmth with the crowd — become more pronounced once the press is expelled and members of the public have a chance to ask Biden questions, say people who have attended such gatherings.

The questions Biden receives vary from event to event and range from political strategy to news of the day. At a Manhattan fundraiser at the home of businessman and social justice activist Henry Munoz, Biden was pressed about his immigration plans and how he would describe his closing message to voters, as well as the impact of the overturning of Roe v. Wade, according to a person who spoke on condition of anonymity to relay details of a private event.

The bulk of Biden’s fundraising activity has been for the DNC, and Biden greenlighted earlier this year a transfer of $15 million from it to House campaign committees and of the party’s Senate, a sign of his personal investment in trying to guarantee that the Democrats retain their majority this fall. A White House official said Biden receives “a number” of requests from Democratic candidates to appear at fundraisers, and aides work to accommodate as many as possible given his schedule. and other factors.

Whitmer was given priority because she was a co-chair of Biden’s presidential campaign and his inauguration.


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Seung Min Kim and Aamer Madhani, Associated Press