Democratic presidential candidate, and former Vice President Joe Biden speaks about the unrest across the country from Philadelphia City Hall on June 2, 2020 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, contrasting his leadership style with that of US President Donald Trump, and calling George Floyds death a wake-up call for our nation.
Jim Watson | AFP | Getty Images
Joe Biden's campaign for president is seeing a surge in fundraising in the wake of George Floyd's death, particularly as President Donald Trump comes under scrutiny for his response to protests across the country.
Biden supporters and bundlers have seen a massive uptick in new contributions and donor commitments since the protests began last week, according to people with knowledge of the matter who declined to be named due to the private nature of their conversations.
Fundraisers said that they have each helped to raise between $200,000 and more than $1 million over the past week. In some cases, bundlers say they are raising money at a much faster clip than they had in similar lengths of time. Some are seeing individual fundraising highs compared with the same points in time in previous election cycles.
Former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell told CNBC that he recently organized a virtual fundraiser, scheduled for next week, which was expected to raise close to $500,000. Instead, he said, it is likely to bring in over $1 million.
"A lot of the data is coming back, because Biden has performed well and we'll probably end up doing $1.1 million or $1.2 million," Rendell said Tuesday.
Part of these fundraising efforts could show up in Biden's next Federal Election Commission filing, which will show how much the campaign brought in last month. The filing deadline for all campaigns' May fundraising totals is June 20. Biden and the Democratic National Committee combined to raise just over $60 million in April. Trump and the Republican National Committee brought in a touch more than $61 million over that same period of time.
Biden is ahead of Trump in most national polls; a RealClearPolitics polling average shows him with a nearly 6-point lead.
Although the GOP groups had more than $225 million on hand going into May, Biden has an ace in the hole. His ties to former President Barack Obama, who created a fundraising juggernaut of his own during the 2008 and 2012 campaigns for president, is likely going to be another difference maker for him in the final stretch of the election.
Biden's and Obama's teams, according to a source, are working on a potential big money fundraiser that may feature Obama himself. It could help bring in millions of dollars to the former vice president's run for president. This person declined to be named as the discussions are fluid and nothing has been officially scheduled.
The recent boost to Biden's campaign war chest over the past week came ahead of a speech in Philadelphia on Tuesday, when the apparent Democratic nominee blasted Trump's handling of the protests that have ensued since Floyd's death. Floyd, a black man who was unarmed, died as a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes. Biden's speech laid out his strategy for reforming the police system if he became president.
Trump's response to the protests includes threatening to deploy the U.S. military if states can't handle quelling the vast demonstrations on their own. As Trump made that threat, riot and military police advanced outside the White House to clear Lafayette Square of what appeared to be peaceful protesters. After they were moved, Trump and members of his administration walked to St. John's Church, where the president posed with a Bible.
Charles Myers, a former vice chairman at Evercore and one of Biden's fundraisers in the finance industry, told CNBC that he has seen a massive increase in fundraising, more than he has at a similar point in time in other election years.
"I'm seeing a 30% to 35% increase in what I would normally see at this point five months out from the election in money," Myers said, while noting that jump includes what he is raising for Senate races.
Joe Donnelly, a former Democratic senator from Indiana who is now a partner at the law firm Akin Gump, said he's noticed donors have been going beyond just raising a ton of money. According to Donnelly, they have also been trying to spread the word about how Biden, in their opinion, is the solution to a now-sluggish economy in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and has been more of an empathetic voice when it comes the civil unrest across the country. Since states were forced to lock down due to the pandemic, more than 40 million Americans have lost their jobs.
"What I can tell you is there is an increased commitment to say 'I will do anything I have to. I will crawl on my knees to Wisconsin to talk to a group of veterans about how there needs to be real change,'" Donnelly told CNBC in an interview on Tuesday. Donnelly hosted a virtual fundraiser for Biden on Monday that brought in $500,000.
Robert Wolf, a longtime ally in the business community of both Biden and Obama, explained to CNBC that he has been hearing that fundraising over the course of at least the past week has been strong.
"I am hearing fundraising is going very well," Wolf said. Biden's "thoughtful approach to Covid-19 and empathetic response to racism and civil unrest is clear to all especially to the current administration," he said.
Meanwhile, outside groups that are both backing Biden and vehemently opposed to Trump are seeing big fundraising hauls as well. That big money could be a boost to these groups' future TV ad buys that mainly have been attacking the president.
American Bridge 21st Century, a super PAC that's backing Biden, has seen $6.9 million come into its coffers since May 14, a PAC official told CNBC. It's been their best two-week fundraising haul of the 2020 election cycle, this person added.
The Lincoln Project, an anti-Trump super PAC that's run by a group of never-Trump Republicans said May, which included the start of the Floyd protests, was its best month of fundraising since it was created in the early stages of the 2020 election, according to Reed Galen, one of the group's founders.
The group's monthlong success also included their best single day of fundraising after launching an attack on Trump titled "Mourning in America," which triggered a scathing response from the president. The super PAC was co-founded by the likes of conservative strategists and lawyers Steve Schmidt, John Weaver, Rick Wilson and George Conway, the husband of Trump's senior advisor Kellyanne Conway.
Benjamin Wittes, an associate of former FBI Director James Comey and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, gave his first-ever political donation to Biden's campaign after the incident involving apparent peaceful protesters being forced out Lafayette Square with tear gas during Trump's walk to the church. The $2,800 donation is the legal maximum one can give directly to a campaign.
Wittes' research often focuses on national security. In an interview with CNBC he said that historically he has tried to be apolitical but, he contends, the president's politicization of the military and intelligence services led him to contributing to Biden's campaign. Wittes co-authored a book about Trump's presidency titled "Unmaking the Presidency: Donald Trump's War on the World's Most Powerful Office."
"We have a president who is energetically attacking and trying to destroy the professional national security apparatus of the country and under those circumstances I don't feel a stance of political neutrality is appropriate," Wittes told CNBC.
Wittes said he has seen support from some of colleagues in the national security sector after giving to Biden. The nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, meanwhile, showed that employees of the U.S. Department of Defense have combined to give just more than $160,000 to Biden's campaign.
Representatives for the Biden campaign did not return a request for comment.