Former Vice President Joe Biden made an appearance at the Poor People’s Campaign presidential forum before heading off to a Manhattan fundraiser with Republicans and at least one billionaire in attendance.
Biden was one of nine candidates to appear at the forum, along with Senators Michael Bennet (D-Colorado), Kamala Harris (D-California), Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), and Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts). Other attendees included motivational speaker Marianne Williamson; Miramar, Florida mayor Wayne Messam; Congressman Eric Swalwell (D-California), and universal basic income advocate Andrew Yang.
At the forum, the 2020 Democratic frontrunner read a four-minute statement and then answered questions from moderator Joy Ann Reid about how his campaign would address systemic poverty in the United States. The typically conservative Biden even raised eyebrows with a comment equating dignity with healthcare. The Poor People’s Campaign Twitter account applauded Biden for the statement, and reiterated that it was in favor of “universal single-payer healthcare for all.”
“There isn’t a single reason in the world every child in the world isn’t convered by health care.” @JoeBiden
— Poor People's Campaign (@UniteThePoor) June 17, 2019
However, Biden failed to capture the audience at the forum, which may have been due to the audience not fully believing his statements about addressing the root causes of poverty in the United States. Biden also reiterated to Reid that he would seek to work with Republicans, who famously stonewalled the bulk of former President Barack Obama’s entire agenda and proceeded to win Congressional majorities following their years of obstruction.
The former vice president will likely invite more skepticism about his policy agenda for poverty, given that he headed to a fundraiser with well-heeled donors almost immediately after addressing the Poor People’s Campaign forum.
Bloomberg News reporter Jennifer Epstein tweeted a list of some of attendees at Monday night’s Biden fundraiser, which includes a former Trump (and Obama) cabinet official, a former Republican U.S. Senator, and billionaire businessman John Catsimatidis, who donated to Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign when Romney ran against Obama and Biden. In 2015, Catsimatidis wrote a $70,000 check to a super PAC supporting former Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (R).
The fundraiser is being held at the East 75th Street home of Jim Chanos, who poked fun at a group of protesters calling on Biden to support the Green New Deal, according to Epstein. Homes in Chanos’ building sell for roughly $2 million, according to Zillow.
Attendees at tonight’s Biden fundraiser in New York included former Senator Al D’Amato, a Republican; former Trump Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin, who was previously an Obama undersecretary; billionaire John Catsimatidis, who ran for 2013 mayoral nomination.
— Jennifer Epstein (@jeneps) June 18, 2019
Commenting on the protest across the street from his home, investor Jim Chanos tells Biden fundraiser “it’s very. very rare that a short seller gets called the tool of big business.” https://t.co/mXdQvfFtLV
— Jennifer Epstein (@jeneps) June 18, 2019
In a fundraising email, Faiz Shakir, the campaign manager for Bernie Sanders’ 2020 effort, said Biden’s donors were trying to “buy this election.” Both Sanders and Warren swore to not hold any high-dollar fundraisers, pledging to fund their campaigns solely with small donations from grassroots supporters. According to Shakir, other attendees at the Biden fundraiser include “a lawyer for Citigroup who has protected the company against fraud charges for over a decade” and “a number of super rich investors, real estate developers, a former Republican presidential campaign donor, and a hedge fund manager.”
Bernie campaing manager @fshakir hits Biden in email blast over tonight’s high dollar fundraiser. “Their goal is simple: they want to buy this election. Our goal is simple, too: we can’t fall too far behind – especially before this FEC fundraising deadline.” pic.twitter.com/9tUKvhFrKF
— Alex Thompson (@AlxThomp) June 17, 2019
The grassroots funding strategy appears to be working for Sanders, who led the field in first quarter fundraising with a haul in excess of $18 million, with an average donation of $20. Biden and Sanders are typically ranked first and second, respectively, in early presidential polls. Both candidates will be on the same debate stage in less than two weeks.
Tom Cahill is a contributor for Grit Post who covers political and economic news. He lives in Bend, Oregon. Send him an email at tom DOT v DOT cahill AT gmail DOT com.