Biden campaign touts record-setting fundraising haul for single event

The Radio City Music Hall event has raised $25m, underscoring deep-pocketed support for Biden despite lagging in polls.

Then President Barack Obama, then-Vice President Joe Biden, and former President Bill Clinton are seen at a memorial service [File: Charles Dharapak/The Associated Press]Published On 28 Mar 202428 Mar 2024

Hours before United States President Joe Biden and former Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton were scheduled to take the stage at the iconic Radio City Music Hall, Biden’s campaign had already hailed an “historic” fundraising haul.

The $25m raised by the event scheduled for Thursday evening set a record for the most funds raised for a single political event in the US. The record haul is an indication that Biden maintains strong ties to supporters with deep pockets even as polls show his popularity flagging.

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“This historic raise is a show of strong enthusiasm for President Biden and Vice President Harris and a testament to the unprecedented fundraising machine we’ve built,” said campaign co-chair Jeffrey Katzenberg.

“Unlike our opponent, every dollar we’re raising is going to reach the voters who will decide this election – communicating the president’s historic record, his vision for the future and laying plain the stakes of this election.”

The event on Thursday promises to be the crown jewel in a series of high-profile fundraisers over the last two weeks since Biden nabbed enough delegates during the primary season to make him the Democrat’s nominee in waiting. Party delegates are expected to officially nominate Biden at the Democratic National Convention in August.

The latest haul was announced as the Biden campaign has widened its financial lead over Trump’s. Biden’s team reported $71m in cash on hand at the end of February while Trump’s team reported less than half, or $33.5m.

A prolific fundraiser in his two previous presidential campaigns, Trump has kept a low profile in recent weeks, in part because of court appearances for various legal cases; he is paying for his legal defence with donors’ funds. His next political rally is scheduled for Tuesday in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

Like most fundraising events, Tuesday night’s offers different tiers of access depending on donors’ generosity. More money gets donors more intimate time with the president.

A photo with Biden, Clinton and Obama costs $100,000. A donation of $250,000 earns donors access to a reception, and $500,000 buys access to an even more exclusive gathering.

The centrepiece of the fundraiser is an onstage conversation between Biden, Obama and Clinton, moderated by late-night talk show host Stephen Colbert. There will also be a lineup of musical performers, including Queen Latifah, Lizzo, Ben Platt, Cynthia Erivo and Lea Michele.

Thousands are expected to attend the event, with the cheapest tickets going for $225. First Lady Jill Biden and DJ D-Nice are then set to host an after-party at Radio City Music Hall with 500 guests.

Leon Panetta, who served in top positions under Clinton and Obama, described the fundraiser as an important moment for Biden’s campaign.

“What it does, first and foremost, is to broaden and reinforce the support of all Democrats,” he told The Associated Press news agency.

Panetta said Clinton and Obama, both known as more effective speakers than Biden, could strengthen the president’s re-election campaign.

“I can’t think of two people who would be better at putting together that kind of message,” he said.

Still, while big money has come to define US presidential campaigns, it is not everything.

In 2016, then-Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton vastly outraised and outspent Trump. But the former reality television star was able to overcome the deficit by using the social media platform formerly known as Twitter to stay on the media’s radar on a daily basis for relatively little money.

During that campaign cycle, Trump’s headline-grabbing statements and actions generated heaps of so-called “free media” attention, which industry experts valued at about $5bn, far outpacing the free media earned by Clinton in the months before the general election.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies