Mega-Donors Cut Off Biden, Prepare PACs To Fund ‘Mini-Primary’ And New Candidate

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On Saturday, a fifth Democratic member of Congress called for embattled, enfeebled President Biden to quit the 2024 presidential race. Minnesota Rep. Angie Craig also became the first incumbent in a tight race to do so, saying, “I do not believe that the President can effectively campaign and win against Donald Trump.”

Coupled with reports that Senate intelligence committee chair Mark Warner is point man in a drive to organize Senate Democrats into a united front urging Biden to quit, the political pressure is clearly mounting. However, Biden is also under rapidly-rising pressure along a second front, as major Democratic donors are not only telling him to quit, but are closing their checkbooks — or creatively using them to pave the way for a new candidate. 

One of those deeply-disenchanted donors is Netflix co-founder Reed Hastings, who gave more than $20 million to boost Democratic candidates in recent years, including upwards of $1.5 million for Biden’s 2020 campaign. Last week, Hastings publicly called for Biden to quit. He reiterated that stance after watching Biden’s terrible Friday interview with George Stephanopoulos, telling ABC News. “Biden is unfortunately in denial about his mental state. He needs to step aside to let a vigorous Democratic leader beat Trump.”

Then there’s Kase Capital Management portfolio manager Whitney Tilson, who told ABC, “[Biden]’s not in [a] condition to handle the rigors of the presidency for another four years…All of us are standing by to see what happens here. Even the wealthiest people have limitations to money.” More bluntly, he took to Twitter to say, “Biden’s campaign is a ghost. It’s over.”

Rather than simply moving to the sidelines, some mega-donors are engaging in creative political-financial engineering — such as former Inuit and Paypal CEO Bill Harris, who donated $620,000 to the Biden Victory Fund in 2020 and told ABC that, given his performance in the debate and the Stephanopoulos interview, most observers would see Biden’s departure as “inevitable.”

On Friday, Harris announced that his Democrats for the Next Generation PAC was committing to spend $2 million “to fund a series of debates among prominent candidates to become the Democratic nominee for president if Biden steps aside.” Some are referring to the concept as a “mini-primary” — and it’s seen by many as a mechanism for ensuring that Kamala Harris isn’t tapped merely by virtue of her title.

Bill Harris waved off Democrats’ unease about a potentially messy and divisive process for picking a new candidate. “It’s not that we have to protect ourselves from chaos and drama,” Harris told the Washington Post. “We need drama and a little chaos. I think it can be refreshing and energizing.”

In addition to drama and chaos, there’s some major branding confusion in the mix, as another group of deep-pocketed Democrats — led by crypto billionaire Mike Novogratz and Hollywood moviemaker Andrew Jarecki — is launching a nearly-identically-named “Next Generation PAC”.

That group has even grander plans: raising up to $100 million for what might be characterized as a political escrow and incentive fund, designated to promote a successor 2024 Democratic standard-bearer. If Biden is on the November ballot, the fund would be redirected to promote down-ballot candidates — and not Biden.

Hollywood donors are fuming at movie mogul and Biden campaign co-chair Jeffrey Katzenberg — who’s accused of concealing Biden’s poor mental health (Rachel Mummey/Bloomberg via Getty Images and Intelligencer)

In the wake of Biden’s debate disaster, the first notes of alarm among major Democratic benefactors came via anonymous quotes. Now, they’re pouring out of the woodwork to publicly declare their convictions that Biden needs to step aside. A sampling:

  • Filmaker and heiress Abigail Disney said she’s withholding planned donations to a Biden-backing constellation of groups that included the Biden campaign, the Democratic National Committee, super PACs and nonprofits. “[They] will not receive another dime from me until they bite the bullet and replace Biden at the top of the ticket,” she told the Times.
  • Damon Lindelof, who created the “Lost” TV series, posted an opinion piece in Deadline calling for a donor “DEMbargo” targeting not only Biden but also other candidates — to be called off only if Biden quits.
  • Los Angeles real estate billionaire Rick Caruso tweeted, “In this vital election, stepping aside is the right and honorable thing for President Biden to do.”
  • Gideon Stein, chairman of AI advertising firm WriteLabel, is withholding $3.5 million in contributions pending Biden’s ouster. He told the Times that he and almost every other big donor he’s in contact with think “a new ticket is in the best interest of defeating Donald Trump.”

Amid all the angst, some wealthy donors are turning on each other. Many are angry with Hollywood tycoon and top Biden fundraiser Jeffrey Katzenberg, who’s seen as having perpetrated a sort of fraud by concealing Biden’s mental decline as he persuaded reluctant donors to give him their money. As one unnamed Hollywood figure and Democratic booster told the Financial Times:

[Katzenberg] would say, ‘He’s fine, I was just with him. He had this famous quote for everybody, which was ‘I’m happy to put you in a room with him and you’ll see for yourself.’ But nobody did it.”

Ironically, the Katzenberg angle and the entire “Biden-is-sharp-as-a-tack” scam have the makings of a great Hollywood moviethat is, if Hollywood would allow some frank introspection. 

 

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