2020 Presidential Profiles

Published — April 25, 2019

9 things to know about Joe Biden

(White House)

Former vice president is an instant front-runner with universal name recognition, extensive financial network

Introduction

    >> Read the Center for Public Integrity’s latest Election 2020 reporting.

Joe Biden has cultivated his “Middle-Class Joe” brand throughout nearly five decades in federal politics, including two unsuccessful runs for the White House.

Now he hopes to leverage that image for what could be his final, and biggest, political battle: taking on President Donald Trump in 2020.

“We are in a battle for the soul of this nation,” Biden said in a video released this morning announcing his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for president.

But Biden first faces what’s sure to be an expensive race against other Democratic heavyweights, including sitting Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris, who have already announced their intentions to run. He also enters the race bowed by accusations he’s inappropriately touched women.

Biden enjoys almost universal name recognition and is well-positioned to raise significant money and run a competitive race for the White House after six terms as a U.S. senator and two terms as vice president.

Here’s more on Biden’s political and financial history:

  • Biden’s net worth was possibly in the hole in 2016, according to the former vice president’s final personal financial disclosure statement, filed in January 2017. At the time, he reported assets valued between $303,000 and just over $1 million (not including the value of his home) and liabilities between $545,000 and $1.15 million. An exact amount isn’t known because federal office holders are only required to report the value of their assets and liabilities in ranges. Biden has since earned “substantial wealth” for the first time through a book deal and speeches, according to The New York Times.
  • Biden’s U.S. Senate campaign committee raised $29.2 million from 1989 to 2009, when he resigned as U.S. senator from Delaware to serve as President Barack Obama’s vice president. He spent everything in his account by the time he filed a termination report with the Federal Election Commission in September 2009.
  • In the past couple of years, Biden has created a network of organizations across the country that employ his former political aides — a savvy move, some said, for a politician preparing for a potential presidential run, according to The New York Times. They include American Possibilities (a political action committee), the Beau Biden Foundation for the Protection of Children, the Biden Cancer Initiative, Biden Foundation, Biden Institute, and the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement.
  • American Possibilities formed in May 2017 and raised $2.6 million through December, according to Federal Election Commission filings. It spent all but $97,000 of the money it raised. (We won’t know how much money the PAC raised in 2019 until July.) According to the Center for Responsive Politics, about 18 percent of the money American Possibilities spent went to Democrats seeking federal office, including a competitor for the Democratic presidential nomination, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.
  • Notable donors to American Possibilities PAC, according to Federal Election Commission filings, include Timothy Gill, a Colorado software entrepreneur and gay-rights activist; Hollywood producers Steven Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg; Joe Kiani, CEO of healthcare technology company Masimo Corp. and chairman of Masimo Foundation; and Larry Rasky, chairman and CEO of public relations firm Rasky Partners, who also served as Biden’s press secretary for his presidential bid in 1988 and communications director for “Biden for President” during the 2008 presidential race. Biden dropped out of the 2008 race after winning less than 1 percent of the vote during the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucus.
  • The Biden Foundation raked in $3.2 million in 2017, according to the nonprofit’s latest tax return. Over a longer period, the foundation received at least $1 million each from its top three donors, which are disclosed on the organization’s website: Gill and his husband, Scott Miller; the Masimo Foundation; and the Bohemian Foundation, a community oriented nonprofit based in Fort Collins, Colorado.
Former Vice President Joe Biden mimics shooting a gun as he speaks at the Chuck Hagel Forum in Global Leadership, on the campus of the University of Nebraska-Omaha, in Omaha, Nebraska, on Feb. 28, 2019. (AP/Nati Harnik)
  • Biden was a clear front-runner in polls back in December, according to a Quinnipiac University poll and a CNN/Des Moines Register/Mediacom poll. And in an Emerson College poll of registered Iowa voters released in early February, Biden was the only Democratic contender who was beating Trump in a head-to-head matchup. Biden maintained his lead in a national poll by Monmouth University conducted in late April.
  • In an attempt to rally small-dollar donors ahead of the midterm elections, Biden’s American Possibilities PAC sponsored a contest last fall asking for donations of at least $5 in return for the chance to win a $3,500 trip for two to meet Biden, according to CNBC. And the PAC ran ads on Facebook late last year selling mugs, shirts and tote bags emblazoned with Biden’s image.
  • Biden recently co-wrote a letter in Politico Magazine railing against the influence of foreign and “dark money” in American political campaigns. “Campaign finance reform,” he wrote, “is certainly a necessary part of the solution, but so too is disclosure of beneficial ownership and greater transparency in real estate transactions. As matters of national security, these are issues that should be of interest to both Democrats and Republicans who want to reduce our vulnerability to foreign corrupt influence.” In a twist, the Obama-Biden ticket likely benefited from ”dark money” spending in 2012 by the nonprofit Priorities USA.

Center for Public Integrity deputy politics editor Carrie Levine contributed to this report.

Sources: Federal Election Commission, OpenSecrets.org, The New York Times, Politico Magazine, Biden Foundation, Quinnipiac University, Monmouth University, Emerson University, CNN, CNBC, Mother Jones, The Hill.

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brandi wingate

“Publicintegrity” should concern itself with 1 more piece of Biden history: the large sums of money payed to Biden’s son, Hunter by the Ukranian oill and gas company Burisma, while Biden was vice president and the point man on Ukraine.