The Committee to Defeat the President, the nation’s leading anti-Biden super PAC, has filed an official complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) alleging that President Joe Biden broke the law by illegally raising and spending millions in post-election campaign funds. On Monday, the FEC officially opened an investigation into the complaint.
According to the complaint, Biden meets the legal definition of a candidate. In March, he told reporters in his first press conference, “My plan is to run for reelection. That’s my expectation.” According to the current complaint, Biden also meets the definition of a candidate. The United States Code defines a candidate as an individual who has either received or designated someone to receive more than $5,000 in contributions or made more than $5,000 in expenditures on his behalf.
The law requires campaigns to calculate contributions and expenditures on an election-cycle basis. The current cycle ends on Election Day for the office the candidate is seeking. The new cycle begins the day after. The exception is if the campaign designates contributions and expenditures for another cycle. This situation occurs when a candidate raises funds to pay off campaign debt or needs to pay the remaining expenses.
The United States Code also requires each candidate for federal office to designate in writing a political committee to serve as the principal campaign committee for his candidacy within 15 days of becoming a candidate. The candidate meets this requirement by filling out a “Statement of Candidacy” with the FEC. On or about November 6, 2020, Biden filed an amended Statement of Candidacy stating that he is a candidate for president in the 2020 election, not the 2024 election. It identified the Biden Victory Fund as an authorized committee to raise funds on his behalf.
The Committee to Defeat the President’s complaint alleges that Biden or his authorized committees received contributions above the $5,000 threshold by November 2020 and after he was sworn in as president in January 2021. Therefore, he is a candidate for the 2024 cycle and must file a Statement of Candidacy reflecting that fact. It also asserts that if Biden says he is not a candidate for 2024, he impermissibly raised approximately $2 million in contributions through his authorized committee, the Biden Victory Fund.
The filing also asserts that the primary campaign organization, Biden for President, has not met its obligations under the Federal Code of regulations by not updating its Statement Organization filing once Biden met the definition of a candidate. The complaint reads, “The change from being the principal campaign committee for the 2020 presidential election to becoming principal campaign committee for the 2024 presidential election is a significant change that mandates amendment to the Campaign’s Statement of Organization.” The complainant is making the same demand for an update from the Biden Victory Fund, the joint fundraising representative for Biden.
Making it official would undoubtedly be significant. According to Dan Backer, counsel for the Committee to Defeat the President, making the appropriate filings is not a commitment written in stone. Candidates file and then drop out of a race all the time. He noted that over 1,500 people filed to run for president in 2020. The vast majority of those campaigns ended well before Election Day.
Backer is hopeful the Commission will take prompt action, explaining, “There needs to be clarity about President Biden’s intentions so the political process can resume.” Candidates for the cycle are beginning to fundraise, and donors need to make decisions. By failing to provide clarity, the process is impeded. When I asked Backer if Biden running again is likely, he said it is inevitable. In his estimation, people who can run will run if they are in power. The notable exception he offered was George Washington.
Further, he pointed to the entire organization behind the president. Other members of the administration have a vested interest in Biden staying in power and will work to make that a reality. Despite the speculation about Biden’s current approval ratings and speculation about his apparent decline, the FEC may force him to declare his intent formally due to the complaint.