Pro-Biden super PAC Unite the Country sees fundraising dip during peak of coronavirus lockdown


A man wearing a face mask walks past signs for Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign amid the coronavirus outbreak on May 11, 2020 in Alexandria, Virginia.

Olivier Douliery | AFP | Getty images

A pro-Biden super PAC saw a massive drop in fundraising at the peak of the coronavirus lockdown and as its preferred candidate’s campaign suggested another outside group is where donors should plant their money. 

Unite the Country, a PAC formed by people with ties to Joe Biden and former President Barack Obama, only raised just over $723,000 in April, according to a Federal Election Commission filing reviewed by CNBC. It represents a dip of close to 93% in fundraising since the month of March, when it brought in $10 million.

The committee has raised well over $22 million throughout the 2020 election cycle and went into May with $6.6 million on hand. It has spent millions producing ads that back Biden and take on President Donald Trump.  

The sudden fall came at the same time most states decided to shut down as the coronavirus pandemic spread throughout the country. All campaigns have had to go fully virtual in the wake of Covid-19 and party bundlers previously told CNBC last month that they were struggling to find the resources and time to raise a ton of cash. 

The drop for Unite the Country was also over the same month that the Biden campaign suggested to The Wall Street Journal that Priorities USA Action was its preferred super PAC. 

“As Democrats across the country come together to achieve this goal, we are pleased that Priorities USA will be a leader of an unprecedented and united community of organizations focused on winning in November,” the campaign told the Journal at the time, while not mentioning any other PAC by name, including American Bridge 21st Century, another super PAC that recently formed an alliance with Unite the Country

The Biden campaign appeared to walk back its preference for Priorities in a follow up statement to The Washington Post.

A person familiar with Unite the Country’s fundraising explained that April was when Joe Biden’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee reached a joint fundraising agreement, while noting that the outside group didn’t want to detract any resources that could go toward that effort. This person declined to be named as these decisions were made in private. 

Meanwhile, Priorities USA, which includes the three entities Priorities USA, Priorities USA Foundation and Priorities USA Action, the super PAC, combined to raise $7.6 million. Although the PAC’s latest filing had yet to be made public as of late Wednesday, a spokesman for Priorities told CNBC the committee raised more than the Unite the Country’s April total. 

Lily Adams, a spokeswoman for Unite the Country, pointed to the coronavirus as the reason it believes its fundraising wasn’t up to its highs in previous months. She also noted that the PACs fundraising haul in May was strong enough to go on the air with a recent seven-figure ad buy. Those figures will be made public next month. 

“We don’t expect to have a record breaking fundraising month every single month, particularly when so many are struggling in this pandemic,” Adams said. “We’re proud of the support we’ve received so far in May which allowed us to go on the air with a recent 7-figure ad buy, and we’re in a strong financial position to have Joe Biden’s back and tell the positive story about his candidacy.”

The top donors to Unite the Country last month include Joshua Bekenstein, co-chair of private investment firm Bain Capital, and John Bell, a partner at Bell & Brigham. 

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