Hours after officially entering the 2020 Democratic presidential field Thursday morning, former Vice President Joe Biden is expected to head to the Philadelphia home of Comcast executive David Cohen for a big-dollar fundraiser that will reportedly be attended by Democratic lawmakers, the CEO of insurance giant Independence Blue Cross, and other high-powered party players.
Biden launched his presidential bid with a video condemning President Donald Trump's response to the 2017 neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville and calling the 2020 election "a battle for the soul of this nation."
"The core values of this nation, our standing in the world, our very democracy, everything that has made America America is at stake," Biden said. "That's why today I'm announcing my candidacy for president of the United States."
As Politico reported on the eve of Biden's 2020 announcement, the former vice president "raised the alarm about fundraising" in a conference call with top donors, expressing the need to have a big first-day haul.
"The money's important," Biden reportedly said during the call, according to a anonymous participant who recounted the remarks to Politico. "We're going to be judged by what we can do in the first 24 hours, the first week."
While Biden has vowed to join most other 2020 Democratic candidates in rejecting campaign contributions from lobbyists, HuffPost's Kevin Robillard pointed out that Biden's planned fundraiser with corporate executives Thursday evening "shows the limitations of such a pledge."
Though Cohen is technically not a registered lobbyist, he directs Comcast's lobbying operations—a distinction that critics said allows him to skirt federal lobbying regulations.
According to the Philadelphia Business Journal, "Cohen sent an email to potential contributors Wednesday soliciting donations of $2,800, the maximum federal primary contribution for the event."
Politico first published the invitation for the large-dollar fundraiser:
As Sludge's Donald Shaw reported, Comcast "has been a leading voice in the telecommunication industry's efforts to oppose net neutrality rules, spending millions on lobbying against laws at the federal and state levels that would prohibit internet service providers (ISPs) from giving priority treatment to certain types of traffic."
"In 2006, when he was a senator from Delaware serving on the Judiciary Committee, Biden said that he did not think net neutrality rules were needed," Shaw noted.
The list of executives and other wealthy donors expected to attend Biden's first fundraiser as a 2020 presidential candidate sparked concern:
Folks helping Biden launch his Presidential run:
David Cohen: Comcast executive.
Dan Hilferty: Medical Insurance Company CEO (Independence Blue Cross).
— BuxMont DSA (@BuxMontDSA) April 25, 2019
While Biden clearly joins the crowded race with top name recognition, the status as the last-serving Democratic vice president, and the frontrunner in most national polling, it has been widely noted that he also begins his third campaign for the presidency—he ran unsuccessfully in both 1988 and 2008—with an enormous amount of political baggage.
As columnist Jim Newell detailed at Slate on Thursday:
Biden's biggest challenge in the primary will be a compromised past spanning nearly 50 years. The vetting process he'll face in the Democratic Party of 2019 will not be even close to the vetting he faced during his last campaign in 2008—and, let's face it, as a middling-to-lower-tier candidate then, he didn't face much vetting at all. The crime bill that he authored in 1994 is considered by the modern iteration of the party to have been an embarrassment, as is his handling of the Clarence Thomas Supreme Court nomination. Some of his anti-busing rhetoric from the 1970s was, even by the standards of 1970s anti-busing rhetoric, astonishing. As a senator who for 36 years represented Delaware, a small fiefdom run by banks, his economic record has more than a few blemishes, such as his support for the 2005 bankruptcy reform bill, one of the slimiest pieces of legislation passed this century. In the first presidential primary since 2004 where past votes regarding the Iraq war shouldn't be an issue among major candidates, simply because it was so long ago, there's Joe Biden, with a vote for the Iraq War on his record.
The size of the field is a representation of the candidates' belief that all of this will sink Biden, unlocking the tentative support of roughly one-third of the party for the taking. The field’s bet on Biden's fallibility is now shared among the punditry too. Everything Biden does will be interpreted through the same knowing lens that he's out of his element and it's a pity no one was able to dissuade him from launching this last, egotistical crusade. That was the interpretation when, in his first public appearance after allegations of inappropriate touching, he cracked a couple of jokes about how he had gotten permission to give hugs. Even the delay in his launch this week prompted another round of head-shaking, when his initial plan to kick off the campaign on Wednesday in Charlottesville, Virginia, followed by a couple of rallies in Pennsylvania, was scrapped.
The former vice president addressed the allegations of inappropriate touching in a video earlier this month, vowing to "be more mindful and respectful of people's personal space" in the future.
"That's my responsibility and I will meet it," Biden said.