Joe Biden is redefining presidential campaign frugality

There were four people on Biden’s payroll at the time: campaign manager Julie Chavez Rodriguez, principal deputy campaign manager Quentin Fulks, spokesman Kevin Munoz and general counsel Maury Riggan. His campaign spent less than $1,500 on travel, lodging and airfare. For rent, he spent nothing. He has yet to open a campaign headquarters and most of his staff is working out of the Democratic National Committee building.

It’s a stark contrast to his old boss, former President Barack Obama, who spent more than $11 million in the second quarter of that year when he was running for re-election in 2011. And that has fueled concern among Democrats about the slow pace of the campaign.

In particular, some Democrats were concerned about what they saw as Biden’s modest small-dollar donor activity — a sign, they argued, of the president’s lack of enthusiasm. Across the campaign and a joint fund-raising team, Biden brought in more than $10 million from donors of less than $200. But Obama received less than half of what he received from small donors during the same period in 2011.

The total was slightly more than the $8.3 million Biden raised in combined donations in the second quarter of 2019. But he was the primary candidate then. Now, he’s a president with an email list that his campaign says “includes nearly 25 million email subscribers.”

Biden’s team has expressed optimism that they have rejected the idea of ​​spending more now. Aides said 30 percent of new donors from 2020 are in the “donor universe” this quarter. They note that this is the beginning of the cycle. Other Democratic candidates saw similarly exceptionally small dollar numbers in the second quarter, as did Republicans.

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Unlike Obama, Biden is enjoying a flush DNC — and his campaign has leaned heavily on the national party this early in the election. According to Biden Consultants, the goal is to run an efficient operation that spreads costs across the board. The DNC has more than 300 employees, an aide said, and the company’s communications, fundraising and research teams are particularly involved in Biden’s re-election bid. The DNC’s technical infrastructure and organizing assistants also play an important role.

Biden’s campaign, the DNC and their joint-fundraising teams announced Friday, raised more than $72 million in the second quarter of this year. Biden’s campaign co-chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg said the numbers prove the team’s austerity approach is sound.

“This fundraising blockbuster confirms that the program and strategy are working very effectively,” he said. “Because I think there’s no better measure of your supporters than how they support you in their checkbook.”

Fundraising expenses accounted for only 16 percent of the money raised by the Biden Victory Fund, the largest of the president’s joint fundraising groups, a campaign official said. The joint venture is due to file its own financial report later this month.

During a private call with donors Friday about this quarter’s fundraising, Chavez Rodriguez, Biden’s campaign manager, reiterated the team’s view that their opponents are wasting money while hoarding theirs. “MAGA Republicans” trying to oust Biden are “burning their resources on a very divisive primary,” he said.

One of Biden’s biggest expenses last quarter was about $332,000 in service fees for Democratic small-dollar fundraising platform ActBlue. Texting ($226,000), payroll and payroll taxes ($153,000) and legal services ($98,000) are some of his biggest expenses.

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Biden’s campaign reported few fundraising expenses overall, but transfers were accepted from joint-fundraising groups, and often joint-fundraising groups can pick up a lot of fundraising expenses.

The Biden campaign also said at least half a dozen staffers, including communications director Michael Tyler, started after the second quarter ended June 30.

In a statement, a Biden spokeswoman suggested he would continue his approach of working closely with the DNC throughout the campaign.

“Part of our winning strategy is to run a team operation. Staff, resources and funding across the DNC and Biden-Harris 2024 will be dedicated to the reelection effort, from finance to communications and more,” Munoz said. It may look and feel different, but by all measures of our success it’s a proven and winning model — already helping Democrats deliver electoral victories in places from Wisconsin to Jacksonville.”

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