Analyzing the final campaign finance disclosures pre-Iowa

A short newsletter on campaign finance and what recent filings could possibly foretell about the makeup of the next president's team.

Amidst a Senate trial of an impeached president that, well, has hardly been a meaningful “trial,” and analysis of Iowa polls that tends to exaggerate how much we can know right now (“For a candidate polling at >=10, the empirical margin of error on the polling average as it stands right now is +/- 16 percentage points! Polling Iowa is really hard, last minute swings are common, and this doesn't seem to be reflected in news coverage of the state,” per Nate Silver)... 

Revolving Door Project wants to offer a quick extra newsletter focusing on some things that are what they purport to be and are actually knowable: Rich people spending a lot of money trying to win the Democratic primary for either themselves (Bloomberg, Steyer) or for their favored candidates (Biden, Buttigieg, and to a lesser extent, Klobuchar).

As always, we do not approach these issues as purists. Can big money spending be gauche? Sure. But that’s not RDP’s concern. We focus on how political spending can impact how a winning candidate might or might not build out their Cabinet and the whole swathe of 4,000+ appointments they will make if they are in office as president in less than a year’s time.

Toward that end… check out our thread on Biden’s SuperPAC, which unveiled its first accounting for its funding yesterday, accounting for roughly 50% of what it has raised thus far. Biden’s campaign has been running on financial fumes due to a marked inability to raise grassroots funds. That’s why Biden’s SuperPAC has been critical to stabilizing his status in Iowa in order to avert what could have been -- and still might end up being -- an embarrassment. (Biden led Iowa for almost all of the first 9 months of 2019) And it’s clear that Biden’s SuperPAC relies on a dangerous combination of private equity (e.g., $200,000 from four senior members of the Blackstone team responsible for, among other travesties, “surprise” medical billing outrages), real estate titans, investment bankers, a former defense contractor who sold American military secrets to China, and even a sizable dollop of union-busting lawyers.

We have no cause to suspect the next tranche of donor information revealed by Biden’s SuperPAC will look much more appetizing.

But our analysis extends much further than SuperPACs. Our research on conventional funders through the end of September figured heavily in this piece last night onThe Intercept about the surprising role of America’s leading anti-worker law firms in supporting the candidacies of Biden and, to a lesser extent, Pete Buttigieg. It’s hard to see how one runs an executive branch with a coalition that juggles America’s leading union busting law firm, Jackson Lewis, and working people. We wonder if Biden will renounce the financial support from Jackson Lewis and some other similar firms as many unions contemplate endorsement decisions…. 

Similarly, our newest team member at Revolving Door Project, Andrea Beaty, highlighted Buttigieg’s close relationship with a leading Midwestern union busting firm. As Andrea noted, Barnes & Thornburg “has an enthusiastic Labor and Employment practice that boasts “favorable results in more than 96% of the campaigns” in which they represent employers facing union organization. Buttigieg has over 20 donors from the firm in total.”

Revolving Door Project’s Eleanor Eagan and Max Moran also have offered up a vast swathe of analysis of the bundlers that Biden and Buttigieg belatedly released under pressure (from us and others) in December. We urge everyone to read the extensive research here

This research only represents the tip of the iceberg of what RDP is working on with respect to 2020 and the possible transition to a new president, and we’re always happy to answer questions about the work we have not yet made public. Given how we are constantly learning anew from Donald Trump the perils and corruption of in person fundraising and how it can connect to executive branch favors… we hope the media will look to us and others for insight into the right questions to be asking about how fundraising and running the executive branch might interconnect.

So in awaiting for Iowa or digesting Iowa en route to New Hampshire… please feel free to email our founder at hauser at cepr.net