February 21, 2020
Joe Biden’s campaign is hurting for cash and increasingly reliant on the pro- Biden super PAC, Unite the Country, for help. Unite the Country is spending big in early states — the super PAC threw over $5.5 million into Iowa and is now expanding into South Carolina. But the Unite the Country donors swooping in to save Biden’s messaging efforts build on the super PAC’s established base of corporate lobbyists and consultants. Unite the Country recently picked up new supporters from private equity, venture capital, real estate, and other sectors that may be looking for favorable policies or to influence strategic appointments.
Headliners include the president of private equity firm Blum Capital Richard Blum, who donated $1 million to United the Country. Blum and his spouse, Senator Dianne Feinstein, have jointly raised over $25,000 for Biden’s campaign. Blum’s real estate firm CBRE Group has drawn scrutiny for lucrative contracts with the FDIC and USPS, the latter of which is costing the Postal Service millions of dollars a year in lease overpayments.
Unite the Country also picked up $150,000 in donations from three executives at Blackstone: Tony James, John McCormick, and Perry Verdun. Executive Vice Chairman Tony James appears to be hedging his bets, as he also donated $15,000 to the Pete Buttigieg-supporting super PAC VoteVets late last month. James is also a Buttigieg bundler. Michael Sacks of private equity firm Grosvenor Capital Management, who has already raised at least $25,000 for Biden’s campaign, donated $100,000. Bernard Aronson, founder of private equity firm ACON Investments, donated $15,000.
These firms have an economic interest in restricting federal oversight from their behavior. Private equity groups, including Blackstone, have been under fire for everything from bankrupting grocery chains to the global housing crisis to surprise medical billing.
Of course, private equity isn’t the only type of private investment fund. Players in its cousin, the venture capital industry, are warming to Biden as well. Doug Hickey, a former venture capitalist with Hummer Winblad and Biden bundler, donated $100,000 to Unite the Country. Hickey also bundled for Barack Obama and was later appointed to a role at the State Department. Venture capitalist and Wicklow Capital CEO Daniel Tierney also donated $100,000. Ron and Christopher Conway of the San Francisco angel investment firm SV Angel donated a total of $275,000 to the super PAC.
And Biden’s popularity with real estate moguls hasn’t dwindled either: Unite the Country received $50,000 from Kenneth Fisher, a partner at DC- and NYC- based real estate firm Fisher Brothers, as well as another $50,000 from Robert Friedman, president of the California- based YF Group.
Unite the Country also received donations from Silicon Valley techie types: Airbnb co-founder Joe Gebbia contributed $100,000. Airbnb settled a discrimination suit last year after a Harvard study found black guests were being discriminated against, and has faced criticism over its role in rising rents. Linkedin co-founder Reid Hoffman contributed $500,000 after previously splitting his support among several candidates, including Cory Booker. Hoffman co-founded Acronym, the group behind the app that caused a fiasco during the Iowa caucuses.
Unite the Country also received a major contribution of $750,000 from Masimo CEO Joe Kiani. The medical technology exec is a Biden bundler and recently hosted a fundraiser for Biden organized by the co-chair of The Blue Dog Coalition, Representative Lou Correa.
Unite the Country donors’ proximity to Biden’s campaign and deep pockets during the cash crunch may shed light onto the policies and appointments Biden might pursue if he wins the nomination. While Biden is not beholden to his donors, their specific interests in reducing federal oversight of private equity, real estate, and the tech sector might still be an indication of what to expect from a Biden administration.