Did Politico Just Admit Biden Is Selling Access and Influence?

AP Photo/Susan Walsh

You know, after years of defending Biden for virtually everything, his terrible debate performance truly seems to have broken the dam, and given the media cover to report on what they never would have before, as it appears that they are actively trying to push him to drop out of the race.

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Imagine my surprise Saturday morning when I came across an article from Politico that declared "White House visits are a cash cow for Biden."

The report goes into extraordinary detail about how Joe Biden hosted donors at the White House and got huge donations afterward.

For example, shortly before Christmas last year, four billionaire Democratic donors visited the White House to meet with Biden privately. During this private session, Biden discussed his second-term agenda and answered questions about his campaign and policies.

The day after the meeting, tech entrepreneur Mark Pincus donated the maximum allowed amount of $929,600 to Biden's fundraising committee, the Biden Victory Fund. Within three weeks, venture capitalist Reid Hoffman contributed $923,000. Former Twilio CEO Jeff Lawson donated nearly half a million dollars two days before the meeting.

According to the report, this gathering was one of about a dozen similar sessions held at the White House from last summer through March, involving small groups of longtime Democratic donors. Many of these meetings included President Biden. Following these meetings, attendees frequently made significant contributions to the Biden Victory Fund. Politico's analysis found that over half of the 50 largest donations to the fund by the end of March came from individuals who had attended these White House gatherings.

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I'm old enough to remember when this was called selling access and influence.

The meetings came at a time when the Biden reelection campaign was ramping up and when it became more readily apparent that the president would need to rely more fully on megadonors rather than the grassroots fundraising spigot that had propelled his 2020 campaign. They began last summer and continued through the fall and winter and often included four to eight donors and Biden campaign co-chair Jeffrey Katzenberg, who has been a powerhouse fundraiser for Democrats prior to taking a role in Biden’s campaign.

They were arranged on behalf of the White House Office of Political Strategy and Outreach, led by Emmy Ruiz, according to a White House official. Many of the attendees were in the entertainment or tech industries or donated previously to Democrats.

Katzenberg’s “been advertising to donors that he’s spending time at White House, he can bring people in for lunch there, Biden stops by, and then those people max out,” said one Democratic strategist with direct knowledge of the meetings, granted anonymity to discuss private events.

The Biden campaign naturally disputes the idea that there's anything problematic about these meetings, and Politico even noted, "It is not illegal for Biden to invite donors into the White House, and prior presidents have similarly used the grandeur and convenience of the building to connect with political supporters and donors."

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However, some experts say something else.

But ethics watchdogs question the practice of providing access to people with the financial means of writing nearly million-dollar checks. They argue that the meetings send a message at odds with Biden’s promise to crack down on big-moneyed interests.

“Certainly the optics on these things are very bad,” said Brendan Glavin, deputy research director at OpenSecrets, a nonprofit that tracks money in politics. “We’re talking about people giving nearly a million dollars and getting access to the White House. That’s the type of thing that really feeds and fuels citizens’ loss of faith in the system when they hear about things like this.”

And the timing of the report couldn't be more suspect.

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