Top fund-raisers for former Vice President Joe Biden include eight former ambassadors, three U.S. senators, and some of the better-known names in Democratic fund-raising around the country — and in the Philadelphia region.
Biden this week released his list of fund-raising “bundlers," who are not on the campaign payroll but have brought in at least $25,000 in donations.
The list of 233 is nearly twice as long as those of other candidates and includes several prominent attorneys, lobbyists, and politicians from the area. It’s posted on his campaign website, joebiden.com.
His 13 bundlers from Pennsylvania include Sen. Bob Casey; Comcast executive David L. Cohen; attorneys Kenneth Jarin, Alan Kessler, Thomas A. Leonard III, and Stephen A. Cozen; and real estate investor Richard Oller. Several of the people on the list, like Jarin and Kessler, also bundled for Hillary Clinton in 2016.
Biden’s bundlers also include Delaware Sen. Chris Coons; California Sen. Dianne Feinstein and her husband, Richard Blum; Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan; and Hollywood producer Jeffrey Katzenberg.
The list provides a window into a critical component of his campaign — big-money donors whom he relies on for fund-raising, perhaps more than any other candidate. In the last quarter, Biden brought in $15 million total from all fund-raising sources, trailing Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
Campaign finance and transparency have become a tension point in the Democratic primary race, most recently at the last debate, when Warren criticized the role that big money plays in campaigns.
Buttigieg, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, and California Sen. Kamala Harris, who has since dropped out of the race, have all previously released lists of their bundlers. Warren and Sanders did not publish lists because they do not hold fund-raisers and have said they have no bundlers.
A bundler isn’t legally defined except in the case of lobbyists, but the generally accepted understanding is that it’s a person credited with collecting donations from others, often by hosting fund-raising events.
They’re often necessary for candidates to raise enough money to pay staff, run ads, and stay competitive, given that individuals are limited to giving $2,800 to a candidate in a presidential election.
There’s no requirement that campaigns identify their bundlers, despite their importance and influence. Bundlers often go on to receive ambassadorships and other political appointments, as well as access to candidates and policy-making.
Kessler, an attorney at Duane Morris in Philadelphia, said this week that he doesn’t think there’s any outcry against bundling. “It’s always existed and it probably always will," Kessler said. He also dismissed the concern that bundlers can buy influence or cushy jobs down the road.
“The people that I do it with, we do it because we care," Kessler said. "Not some competition for ambassadorships. And if you take a look at who has raised money and become ambassadors, it’s probably a distinct minority of all the ambassadors around the world.”
Most of the bundlers, across all candidate lists, live in New York and California.