Biden, DNC ink fundraising deal as he widens party influence

Joe Biden

FILE – In this Feb. 22, 2020, file photo, Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a caucus night event in Las Vegas. Biden’s tenure as Barack Obama’s vice president is complicating his efforts to deepen ties with Latinos who could be critical to winning the White House. For many Latinos, Biden’s embrace of the Obama years is a frightening reminder of when the former president ejected about 3 million people living in the U.S. illegally, earning him the moniker of “deporter in chief.” (AP Photo/John Locher, File)

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Joe Biden is expanding his influence over the Democratic Party with a new fundraising deal and a leadership shuffle at the Democratic National Committee.

Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, and the DNC on Friday began a joint fundraising pact that will allow wealthy donors to contribute up to $360,600 to the party’s fall campaign, a total far exceeding the $5,600 maximum that donors can give directly to Biden’s campaign.

Additionally, longtime Democratic power player Mary Beth Cahill will take over management of the DNC, replacing Seema Nanda as chief executive officer under party chairman Tom Perez. Cahill, who managed John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign, already has been a quiet force during Perez’s tenure, leading Democrats’ primary debate process and helping plan the summer convention, among other tasks.

DNC officials and Biden campaign aides confirmed the arrangements Friday.

“Our goal is to ensure that we put Joe Biden in the best position possible to beat Donald Trump, and this joint fundraising agreement allows us to do just that,” Cahill said in a statement Friday. “The DNC has built an organization that has proven it can win up and down the ballot, and that is exactly what we will do in November.”

Democrats have lagged Republicans in fundraising throughout the 2020 presidential cycle, with President Donald Trump having spent months raising huge sums for his reelection campaign and the party. The Republican National Committee ended the first quarter of 2020 with almost $250 million stockpiled, between four and five times as much as Biden and the national Democrats.

That gap could put increasing pressure on the kinds of donors who can max out to the party and the nominee under the new agreement.

The fundraising partnership is a routine pact between a nominee and the national party, but it’s gotten Democrats in trouble before. Ahead of the 2016 election, the party entered into a deal with candidate Hillary Clinton well before she secured the nomination. When details emerged, it became a touchstone for Bernie Sanders’ supporters, who alleged that party leaders stacked the deck for the former secretary of state against the insurgent Sanders campaign.

Perez deliberately held off on such a deal this year to help bolster his claims of an impartial process as Sanders again found himself as the last rival standing against the eventual presumptive nominee. In fact, former candidate Kamala Harris, a California senator and potential vice presidential pick, launched a joint DNC agreement earlier this month, while the party was still in talks with the Biden campaign after Sanders ended his bid.

Biden’s deal does not yet include state parties, but DNC officials said those negotiations are ongoing. The idea is that the money from top donors can be distributed among Biden’s campaign, national party operations such as boosting the voter file that candidates use to contact potential supporters, and state parties’ coordinated campaigns that are designed to turn out Democratic voters for the entire ticket.

Nominees typically take over operations of the national party, even if indirectly. Biden’s campaign manager, Jen O’Malley Dillon, is a former top DNC staffer. And Cahill, given her experience with Kerry in 2004, is familiar with the dynamics between a nominee and the party.

O’Malley Dillon called Cahill’s experience “invaluable” and said she’s “thrilled to have her as a partner.”

Biden’s campaign has been mostly circumspect about his involvement in the party, especially when it comes to planning the nominating convention.

Perez said Thursday he expects an in-person convention, but Biden and party officials have left open the possibility that some or all of the proceedings will be virtual.

Biden’s campaign and Sanders’ representatives also continue to negotiate over various policy ideas and the distribution of 4,700 or so convention delegates. Those private talks are intended to stave off the kind of public disputes that marred the run-up to the 2016 convention and hampered Clinton’s fall campaign because of bitterness among some Sanders supporters.

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