Former Vice President Joe Biden finally enters 2020 presidential race

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Former Vice President Joe Biden made his long-awaited presidential announcement Thursday via an online video. He plans to make his first public appearance as a candidate at a Pittsburgh union hall Monday.

As the 21st major Democratic candidate to enter the race, Biden likely will rely on the established Obama donor network, having staffed his early team with veterans of the Obama administration.

Biden was a U.S. senator from Delaware from 1973 to 2009 before serving two terms as the 47th vice president under President Barack Obama. A powerhouse player in the Senate, Biden chaired the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and earlier served as chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee where he controversially oversaw the Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas Supreme Court confirmation hearings. He also faced recent scrutiny over his historically physical style towards women and furthered the controversy with his apology video.

As a senator he focused on drug and crime issues, working on the controversial 1994 Crime Bill and the well-respected Violence Against Women Act. He’s long been seen as a bipartisan politician, who as vice president played key roles in passing legislation alleviating the 2008 financial collapse and avoiding the debt ceiling in 2011. After passing on a chance in run for president in 2016, Biden worked on efforts to improve cancer research and care.

This marks Biden’s third run for president, after unsuccessful tries in the 1988 and 2008 Democratic primaries. In 2008, Biden trailed early and didn’t surpass 1 percent in the Iowa caucuses before dropping out. He raised more than $13.2 million in his brief campaign, well short of his $20 million goal.

Biden received $215,745 worth of PAC contributions in 2008. Much like the rest of his career, the top donor industry was lawyers/law firms which gave Biden more than $2.4 million during the 2008 primary cycle. Individuals affiliated with the Young, Conway law firm in Delaware donated $54,720.

During the 2008 campaign, Biden received most of his money from men, a potential problem for him as the current Democratic Party’s energy and activism has increasingly been led by women. In 2008, only 30 percent of his donations came from female donors.

While Biden has often been presented by allies as an advocate for women, his behavior around women recently came into question. Critics cited his public jokes about women’s discomfort toward his self-described “tactile” behavior. A lack of support from women in 2008 could hurt him in a redefined Democratic Party increasingly funded by women donors.     

As he began to seriously pursue his third attempt at the presidency, Biden launched a leadership PAC, American Possibilities, in the 2018 election cycle. The committee raised a substantial $2.6 million in just one cycle. Of that, $447,446 was doled out from the PAC to a variety of Democratic congressional candidates. In all, 68 different House candidates and 15 Senate candidates received some contribution from American Possibilities.

A substantial amount of the PAC money went to administrative costs, more than $578,000, including data, technology, and travel and lodging. It also spent $353,700 on “campaign strategy & communications consulting.”  

Biden previously had a leadership PAC called Unite Our States which was active during the 2006 and 2008 election cycles. In 2006, it raised more than $1.9 million and contributed just $161,100 to federal candidates. The next cycle, 2008, it raised $480,000 and gave $119,386 to federal candidates.

As a member of the Senate, Biden raised about $29.2 million from 1989 to 2009, when he left Congress for the White House. Biden received almost no money from PACs over the course of his career, less than 1 percent of his total. The vast majority of money he raised came from individual donors.

Lawyers/law firms were Biden’s top donor industry throughout his career, contributing $6.6 million. Other industries donating more than $1 million over Biden’s career include real estate (around $1.4 million), securities and investment (around $1.1 million) and retirees ($1 million). Unsurprisingly, the top industry for PAC donations was labor with $356,749. Biden is a long time advocate for unions and union workers, and made several speeches to unions in the run-up to his announcement.

Biden’s biggest donor in the course of his Senate career was the Delaware law firm Pachulski, Stang, Ziehl & Jones where individuals gave more than $208,000 from 1989 through the 2010 cycle. Nine of his top 10 all-time donors were from individuals associated with law firms. MBNA Corp, a Maryland-based credit card company taken over by Bank of America, ranked second.

Like essentially all major Democratic candidates, Biden has spoke out against super PACs. In a January interview with PBS Newshour, he said that he was responsible for advising Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in 2016 not to accept support from super PACs.

“How will a middle-class guy accept you if you accept [super PAC] money,” he asked.

Super PACs cannot contribute directly to candidates, so Biden likely meant he advised against accepting super PAC support — a platform several 2020 candidates are campaigning on, despite not having control over a super PAC spending.

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