Oct 19, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Clinton fundraiser poised to join White House

Illustration of a pair of aviator sunglasses resting on a stack of one-hundred dollar bills.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Dennis Cheng, a longtime Hillary Clinton aide and fundraiser, is preparing to join the White House as deputy political director, according to people familiar with the matter.

Why it matters: Cheng will be part of the small White House team setting the direction for President Biden's official re-election campaign.

  • Cheng, a seasoned Democratic Party operative who worked for Biden during the 2020 general election, knows how to keep donors happy.
  • Many of them have privately complained that the Biden White House hasn't given them the kind of attention they received from previous Democratic administrations.

Those relationships will become increasingly important as November 2024 approaches, with Democrats looking to spend close to $2 billion to hold the White House.

  • Cheng, currently the executive vice president at the Clinton Foundation, will serve under White House political director Emmy Ruiz.
  • The White House declined to comment.

The intrigue: Biden's White House political office is now led by two aides who didn't work for him in the 2020 primary.

  • Ruiz signed up for Clinton in 2016 before joining then-Sen. Kamala Harris' presidential campaign in 2019.
  • Cheng served as Clinton's national finance director in 2016 and most recently worked at the Clinton Foundation.
  • Some Biden loyalists who worked on his 2020 primary campaign — which nearly collapsed before staging a remarkable victory — have resented how other operatives have ascended in the White House. They aren't really "Biden people," the loyalists privately grouse.

Zoom out: While Biden announced his reelection campaign in April, he is far from full campaign mode and is spending most of his time touting his legislative accomplishments, attending international summits and — over the last several days — responding to an acute foreign policy crisis.

Zoom in: Still, Democrats are bracing for a close contest and are working to improve perceptions on the economy, where voters consistently give the president low marks.

  • Beginning in September, the campaign advertised in swing states during NFL games with spots focused on the economy, part of a $25 million buy.
  • Last month, Harris attended at a donor retreat in Chicago, where top contributors were reminded that federal law allows them to give $929,600 to the Biden Victory Fund.
  • In the second quarter of the year, the campaign raised $72 million, while its expenditures exploded to $57 million.
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