With eleventh-hour transparency move, Biden shines light on the people raising big money for his campaign

A record amount of money is flowing into the 2020 presidential race, and on Saturday night, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden took a step that helped pull back the veil on how his campaign has raised its massive sums.

On Saturday night, the Biden campaign published a list of more than 800 individuals who have raised $100,000 or more in support of his candidacy. Such elite fundraisers are known as “bundlers” because they are credited for the money they raise for a campaign, which was once done by rounding up literal bundles of checks.

For months, Issue One, along with a diverse, crosspartisan coalition, has been calling on all presidential candidates to regularly disclose information about their bundlers — a practice that has long been commonplace among both Democratic and Republican presidential candidates, but hasn’t been widely embraced this year.

Biden was one of several Democratic presidential candidates who disclosed information about individuals bundling campaign cash for their primary campaigns, but, until this weekend, he had not updated that information since December 2019.

And to date, the only campaign bundlers that President Donald Trump has revealed are the registered lobbyists who are raising money to support his candidacy — something that all campaigns are required to regularly report to the Federal Election Commission. CNN, however, has reported that the Trump campaign counts more than 3,000 people as bundlers and that its bundling program has seven tiers that each earn special access and perks, such as conference calls with campaign surrogates.

In this new disclosure, the Biden campaign identifies all bundlers who have raised at least $100,000 for his campaign. That’s the good news. The bad news is that Biden’s disclosure only lists one tier of fundraising activity. This means there’s no way to differentiate among the 800-plus bundlers, so there’s no way to tell which people are his most elite fundraisers. 

According to the New York Times, the Biden campaign’s bundler program actually has six different tiers — at least $50,000; at least $100,000; at least $250,000; at least $500,000; at least $1 million; and at least $2.5 million. Each tier earns different perks and special access, such as exclusive staff briefings and the promise of a post-election event.

Bundlers frequently raise vast sums of money for candidates to curry favor with candidates.  While individuals cannot directly give more than $5,600 to a presidential candidate, they are allowed to solicit their friends and associates for funds — which they are then credited by the campaigns for bringing in. 

Moreover, both the Biden and Trump campaigns operate joint fundraising committees that can accept more than $800,000 per donor — money which is split between the candidate’s official campaign committee and dozens of other political party committees, like the Democratic National Committee, Republican National Committee, and state party committees in individual states.

Under both Democratic and Republican administrations, campaign bundlers have received plum postings, such as ambassadorships and positions on commissions.