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Some Biden Supporters Have Had a Helping Hand


Sen. Joe Biden addresses the crowd at the Clinton, Iowa corn boil this August. (AP).

When Democratic Sen. Joe Biden traveled to Columbia, South Carolina yesterday to announce the latest in a string of endorsements he has received from state lawmakers in early primary and caucus states, two local lawmakers there declared themselves proud and loyal supporters of his presidential bid.

"He will be a great Commander-in-Chief," state Rep. Vida Miller told onlookers.

What was not said was that the two lawmakers endorsing Biden, Miller and state Rep. Jim Battle, had received $500 contributions earlier this year from the Unite Our States Political Action Committee, a leadership PAC Biden controls.

There is a pattern of similar exchanges between Biden's leadership PAC and the early-state political endorsements that dates to the weeks before he announced for president in January. At least nine state legislators in Iowa and South Carolina who have endorsed Biden have also received contributions from his leadership PAC.

Biden advisers said the leadership PAC contributions were not intended to help his presidential bid. "They were intended to support their local campaigns," said Larry Rasky, communications director for Biden for President

Biden's campaign spokeswoman, Marion Steinfels, said the senator used his leadership PAC for the purpose of spreading the word about his Iraq plan. "Sen. Biden has campaigned across the country, and has given to local candidates and state parties. Obviously he also spent a lot of time working with candidates, talking about the Iraq plan, working with folks running for congress."

It's not unusual for members of congress to distribute money to state legislators. And other politicians with presidential ambitions, most notably Mark Warner and John McCain, made extensive contributions from their leadership PACs to state legislative candidates in early states.

The difference with Biden is that his contributions continued after he formally announced his bid for the White House. Michael Toner, a former Federal Election Commission chairman who in 2003 wrote the regulation governing how politicians can use their leadership committees, said it is "very dangerous to be operating a leadership PAC while simultaneously running for president." Toner was formerly chief counsel of the Republican National Committee and now works for GOP presidential hopeful Fred Thompson.

"Leadership PACs cannot be used to underwrite campaign activities," Toner said. "If you have a pattern where the leadership PAC is making disbursements in early primary states, that's exactly the kind of fact pattern that could invite an FEC investigation. When you have spending from the leadership PAC in early primary states, that is a real red flag."

Don Simon, a campaign finance lawyer who serves as counsel to the group Democracy 21, said he could not speak specifically to Biden's activity, but added that generally the problem with using leadership PAC funds to assist a presidential bid is that it circumvents contribution limits. Someone could donate the maximum amount to both the leadership committee and to the campaign. As a result, if a leadership PAC spends money on behalf of a campaign, it is supposed to be treated as an in-kind contribution, he said.

The only potential concern then for Biden, would be that his leadership committee has doled out more than $10,000 to state legislators in 2007. The legal limit for an in-kind contribution is $5,000.

No one has suggested that the state politicians endorsed Biden because of the contribution. Iowa state Rep. Doris Kelley, the recipient of a $500 contribution from his PAC, told the Associated Press she opted to endorse Biden not out of obligation but because after sorting through all the candidates, he was her top choice. "If I chose to go with another candidate, I'm sure that there would be financial support there, but I truly believe that those decisions are based on each individuals' opinion of who will make the best president," she said.

Meredith McGehee, the policy director at the Campaign Legal Center in Washington, said that the perception that is created by leadership PACs is that they are "political slush funds" used to "buy favor."

"When you see someone using a leadership PAC this way, where there is a financial reward for an endorsement, it makes the public roll their eyes," McGehee said. "The public cynicism is well earned."

--Matthew Mosk

Posted at 4:33 PM ET on Oct 2, 2007
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If Joe Biden is really as brainy as those posting in response to this story would have us think, why did he plagiarize from speeches of the British House of Commons opposition leader during his 1988 presidential bid?

Plagiarism during a presidential campaign raises so many issues, in the regard of personal attributes such as ability, judgment, and character, that it deserves its own special category in the "Darwin Awards."

Posted by: garyw | October 9, 2007 11:44 AM

I would have voted for Biden in the last election - I'd like to vote for him in this election. He's by far the best qualified candidate as well as the experience to implement changes. Why isn't he up there at the top? Let's make it happen.

Posted by: joanlk | October 8, 2007 9:58 PM

My interest in Joe Biden spans many years of watching and listening to him during Congressional Hearings and public speaking. I now support him as the best qualified candidate and will actively work for his campaign given a chance. Thanks to anyone and all who see this man as a President we can respect and be proud to represent us.

Shame on people who think that because Hillary is a woman who spent time in the White House she is qualified to run this country. Well, she couldn't be much worse than what we have now. I think we can do much better. Take a closer look at Joe Biden, consider his record and his experience, he's worth our vote.

Senior citizen (woman) in California

Posted by: papyper36 | October 8, 2007 2:46 PM

Biden was wrong in 2002 when he voted to take the US to war in Iraq and is wrong today when he continues to vote for bills funding the war and proposes billions more to be spent on our occupation of Iraq. Dems would lose if he is the nominee as the public would eventually figure out that Biden's plan to withdraw from Iraq is one that seeks a military victory.

Posted by: shcassidy | October 8, 2007 2:30 PM

Joe Biden is the most experienced candidate and certainly the smartest and most experienced in foreign policy matters,including Iraq. The next president has to be able to fix our foreign policy blunders and re-establish our credibility with not only our allies, but also our adversaries and the many " neutral " countries who increasingly view us and our recent actions with mistrust. He certainly,if elected,can do that. He deserves the same amount of good coverage as the front-runners,so the electorate can see that there are viable alternatives available to them.

Posted by: jpereira | October 4, 2007 10:57 AM

I'm glad that the Post has discovered Senator Biden! However, I think this is a non-story. Joe Biden needs his fair share of media coverage. He has a lot to tell and give - 35 years congressional experience, the most Foreign Relations experience of any candidate of either party, a political solution to Iraq (PlanForIraq.com), an honest record of supporting working Americans in his congressional votes.

Iowans are turning out for Joe Biden and the rest of the Country will too - I urge you to cover Joe more.

Des O'Dwyer
http://www.IrishForJoe.org

Posted by: roscomain | October 3, 2007 6:10 PM

Biden is bright, "articulate," and reasonably telegenic. And, most importantly, he is one of the few in either primary campaign to actually provide creative solutions to the situation in Iraq. Our question is: why is Biden still running for president? Is he positioning himself as and "Eminence Veep"or Secretary of State? As veep, he doesn't provide either a big block of electoral votes -- or a large natural constituency. As Secretary of State, he will have tough competition from someone like Bill Richardson. It's a shame, because he might have a better shot in 2004.

The Political Brandwagon
http://www.politicalbrandwagon.com

Posted by: pscohl | October 3, 2007 9:43 AM

What about buying former Governors in Iowa? Hillary is helping Tom Vilsack, the former Iowa governor and second person to drop out of the race on the Democrat side(the first being fellow DLC compadre Evan Bayh, who recently endorsed Hillary as well: surprise, surprise - next up Harold Ford) to repay the debt he accrued while fumbling away his campaign. Hillary has promised to repay Vilsack's $400,000 plus debt.

Hillary said she's just helping out an old friend, but with a sugar mama like that, where do I sign up.

But I'm sure the Washinton Post already knew all this. Everyone in Iowa does, and it still isn't going to help her buy an Iowa victory in Janurary.

Biden has wooed the 10 legislative endorsements in Iowa with his real experience, his intellect, and his courage to speak the truth, not for pandering to special interests.

Posted by: witsend_daily | October 2, 2007 11:56 PM

I agree with Willey and Lavrat.

Further, the NY Times has become grossly partial and unjust in it's reporting. This newspaper is doing a serious disservice to the public. Where was the headline when the Biden/Brownback Amendment was passed? Where was the headline when Senator Obama missed three critical votes last week? Where was the headline about Senator Clinton voting for the Lieberman Amendment last week? All three of these issues were significant and deeply impactful to the current presidential campaign, yet the NY Times treated them as if they weren't.

As it happens, the Times cursorily glosses over every negative story about Obama and Clinton like it does with every positive story about Biden and Dodd. Rather than report something that might be meaningful,like Biden/Brownback, the Times files report after report about some inconsequential aspect of Obama or Clinton's past.

I have long enjoyed reading the NY Times, but the prejudicial reporting of the presidential campaign is sickening. This newspaper has betrayed it's responsibility and failed it's readers.

Posted by: Pscoots14 | October 2, 2007 10:49 PM

Biden is the dumbest man in the Senate , maybe in all D.C.

Posted by: borntoraisehogs | October 2, 2007 10:43 PM

This article is so far from the mark that it's not even funny. Did the Washington Post put this out or did Hillary's campaign?

Joe Biden is the only candidate she's worried about because when he gains traction, she knows that it's all over for her. She can't claim more experience (vs. a Joe Biden) she can't claim more foreign policy qualifications (vs. a Joe Biden) and she won't be the next Democratic nominee (vs. a Joe Biden).


How about a deeper investigation into her camp? She raised $27 million dollars this quarter...great. The better question is:

How many Hsu's are in her camp? 10, 15, 20?

Let's focus on what matters, the fact that Biden has the brains, the character, and the expertise to be the next GREAT AMERICAN PRESIDENT.

Posted by: willey | October 2, 2007 8:35 PM

I think Joe Biden is the smartest of all the Democrats and he is the ony one with the smarts to get us out of the mess in Iraq. Too bad be can't get the nomination and that the voters get snookered by glamour and glitz and ignore the guy with the brains.

Posted by: Lavrat2000 | October 2, 2007 5:16 PM

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