Who won the Biden dark money lottery
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The White House-blessed dark money group “Building Back Together” brought in about $41 million last year and spent about $28 million of it on advertising.
That’s according to a new 2021 tax filing obtained by West Wing Playbook, which also shows which political consulting firms benefited from BBT’s haul during the first two years of JOE BIDEN’s presidency.
The big winner was GMMB, the Democratic firm that helped lead Biden’s digital advertising during the 2020 general election. It received $14.8 million from BBT in 2021, according to the filing. The other main beneficiaries of BBT were Sage Media ($4.18 million), Precision Strategies ($3.7 million), 50+1 Strategies ($2.4 million), and Solidarity Strategies ($989k). About $291,000 went to fundraising firms.
The tax filing underscores the degree to which anonymous money (BBT did not publicly disclose its donors) is fueling Biden’s political ecosystem, even as the president himself calls for greater transparency in campaign financing. But it also reveals the extent to which the 501(c)(4) advocacy largely focused on paid advertising rather than grassroots organizing. While BBT hired DANIELLE MELFI, a Democrat with extensive grassroots field experience, to lead the organization, less than 2 percent of their 2021 expenditures were grants to grassroots groups that year.
With the 2022 election over, the future of Building Back Together is unclear. Biden officials and allies are still mulling what role the group will play — if any — in the next election cycle. Unlike the Obama-era outside group Organizing for America, BBT was not set up as a re-election campaign in waiting.
In fact, this very week, Building Back Together canceled the surrogates call it regularly hosts. RACHEL IRWIN, a BBT spokesperson, said the group deferred to the Democratic National Committee, which held a call of its own in light of Donald Trump’s campaign announcement on Tuesday night.
Another hint that BBT may be winding down came from a GMMB spokesperson, who said the firm had not done any ad buys for the nonprofit in the last few months. Irwin said the group had placed ad buys within the last few months, just not with GMMB. Still, BBT said it spent more on advertising in 2021 than it did in 2022.
In 2021, BBT provided grants to other progressive groups but its biggest transfer went to Future Forward USA Action, another nonprofit left-leaning dark money group. That grant — $1.25 million — was more than double all the 2021 grants for grassroots groups combined.
Irwin maintained that the tax filing did not represent a complete picture of the group’s work and that the payments to consulting firms included the costs of the ad buys those firms made. Indeed, the GMMB spokesperson said that the vast majority of the $14.8 million in 2021 went to ad buys.
BBT’s mission is to communicate the president’s agenda to the public and is one of the top paid media spenders, Irwin said. BBT has worked closely with partners on the ground, she maintained.
“As far as the future of BBT, we’re incredibly proud of the work we’ve done since our inception in 2021 to help pass the Biden-Harris agenda and communicate about the President’s historic legislative accomplishments, and we will continue to support the President's policy agenda and uplift the positive impacts of these policies with the American people,” Irwin said in an emailed statement.
Officials at Sage Media, 50+1 Strategies, and Precision did not return requests for comment. White House deputy chief of staff JEN O’MALLEY DILLON co-founded Precision Strategies, which also produced the 2020 Democratic National Convention, but she has since divested her stake and left the firm during the 2020 campaign.
Solidarity Strategies is a D.C. consulting firm founded by CHUCK ROCHA, a former adviser to BERNIE SANDERS’ presidential campaign. In a statement, Rocha said the firm produced and placed English and Spanish digital and radio ads to reach Latino audiences. He also said he worked on the “Latino Always On” initiative, a Building Back Together program focused on Latino media outreach.
“I’m proud that my firm, Solidarity Strategies, had the opportunity to work with Building Back Together from day one to communicate with Latino audiences across the country about President Biden’s policy accomplishments and the historic impact they have had on the Latino community,” he said.
MESSAGE US — Are you a BBT VENDOR? We want to hear from you! And we’ll keep you anonymous. Email us at [email protected].
This one’s from Allie. Which president’s Secret Service code name was “Renegade?”
(Answer at the bottom.)
SAN FRANCISCO GIANT:Biden spoke with House Speaker NANCY PELOSI (D-Calif.) Thursday ahead of her announcement she will step down from leadership “and congratulated her on her historic tenure,” according to the White House.
In a separate statement, the president said that “because of Nancy Pelosi, the lives of millions and millions of Americans are better, even in districts represented by Republicans who voted against her bills and too often vilify her. That’s Nancy — always working for the dignity of all of the people.”
Biden also called House Majority Leader STENY HOYER (D-Md.) and Whip JAMES CLYBURN (D-S.C.) Thursday evening, according to a pool report. Both are also moving on from their current leadership positions, although Clyburn is seeking to remain in another role.
JOENOMICS: With Republicans set to take control of the House, our KATE DAVIDSON reports a new era of Bidenomics is on the way with Republicans in control of the House.
GETTING IN THE SPIRIT: First lady JILL BIDEN is set to receive this year’s White House Christmas tree on Nov. 21. The tree is an 18-and-a-half-foot concolor fir from the Evergreen Acres Christmas Tree Farm in Auburn, Pa.
‘NOT THE EVIDENCE’: Biden pushed back against claims by Ukraine’s leader that the missiles which killed two civilians in Poland earlier this week weren’t from Ukraine. While Ukrainian President VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY insists the missiles came from Russia, Biden said: “That’s not the evidence.” He spoke early Thursday morning after returning to the White House from the G-20 in Indonesia. More from WSJ’s VIVIAN SALAMA.
WEDDING BELLS: PETER NEAL, the fiancé of NAOMI BIDEN, the president's granddaughter, posted an Instagram picture of the pair at the District of Columbia Marriage Bureau. The two are getting hitched at the White House on Saturday.
Instagram post by Peter Neal | Instagram
PERSONNEL MOVES: RADHA ADHAR is now special assistant to the president in the office of legislative affairs at the White House. She most recently was director of legislative affairs at the Council on Environmental Quality.
NOT ON SPEAKING TERMS:Biden has renominated RICHARD GLICK to lead the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, but the nominee said he has not spoken to Sen. JOE MANCHIN since the West Virginia Democrat said he would not move to reconfirm him, our CATHERINE MOREHOUSE reports for Pro subscribers.
RAPID RESPONSE: With Rep. JAMES COMER (R-Ky.) announcing plans Thursday to investigate the Biden family, IAN SAMS, the White House spokesperson for oversight and investigations, responded with a meme from the show, “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.”
Tweet by Ian Sams | Twitter
CNN’s JEREMY DIAMOND, PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, JEREMY HERB, SEAN LYNGAAS, ZACHARY COHEN and KYLIE ATWOOD also have an in-depth look at what the White House has done to prepare to fight against the incoming investigations with the Republican majority.
RELATED: “Nonprofits With Ties to Democrats Plan Counteroffensive Against Congressional Investigations,” by NYT’s KENNETH P. VOGEL and KATIE ROGERS. FYI, DAVID BROCK is involved.
With GOP House win, Biden faces added curbs on foreign policy (WaPo’s Missy Ryan and Yasmeen Abutaleb)
Donald Trump, Grover Cleveland and a Quirk of Presidential History (NYT’s Blake Hounshell)
Former President BARACK OBAMA’s code name with the Secret Service was “Renegade,” after a 1989 film “Renegades,” which starred one of Obama’s favorite actors, KEIFER SUTHERLAND, according to Vanity Fair.
The rest of the Obama family also had code names that began with “R.” Former first lady MICHELLE’s code name was “Renaissance,” daughters SASHA was “Rosebud,” and MALIA was “Radiance”
A CALL OUT — Do you think you have a harder one? Send us your best one about the presidents with a citation and we may feature it.
Edited by Eun Kyung Kim and Sam Stein.Follow us on Twitter Alex Thompson @AlexThomp Eli Stokols @EliStokols Allie Bice @alliebice