Dec 6, 2023 - Politics & Policy

A pro-Biden dark money group is slowing down

President Biden in the Oval Office on Nov. 30. Photo: Yuri Gripas/Abaca/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Building Back Together — the dark money group tasked by the White House to tout President Biden's agenda — stalled out last year, raising and spending a fraction of the amount it did in 2021, according to tax filings.

Why it matters: Biden often complains that voters don't appreciate or understand his legislative accomplishments. Heading into 2024, his team has been shifting that task to his campaign, outside super PACs and the DNC rather than BBT.

  • "Even today, a lot of Americans don't know what we've done," Biden said at a Minneapolis fundraiser last month.
  • Since Biden announced his re-election campaign in April, BBT has only announced two ad buys, both relatively small.

By the numbers: In 2022, BBT raised $8 million, compared to $41 million in 2021, according to its 990 tax forms.

  • Last year, it spent a total of $15 million, compared to $33 million in 2021.
  • BBT ended 2022 with just $1.1 million in assets.

What they're saying: "Building Back Together is continuing its work to help seed the narrative in states around the Biden-Harris agenda and how it has and is continuing to deliver for everyday people – specifically around the economy," said Mayra Macías, the group's executive director.

  • "We are very excited to continue this work in 2024 through our digital program and by traveling across the country and telling the story of impact, specifically targeting hard-to-reach communities like young people, Latinos and Black people," she said in a statement to Axios.
  • "With messaging on the President's agenda so clearly failing, it's not surprising to see the fundraising for Building Back Together plummet," said Caitlin Sutherland, Executive Director, Americans for Public Trust, a conservative group.

Zoom out: BBT — a 501(c)(4) — was created in the early weeks of Biden's presidency to promote his policies and defend him from GOP attacks.

  • It was blessed by Anita Dunn, a close Biden confidant, and worked closely with senior Democratic strategists and veterans of the Obama White House, like Stephanie Cutter.

Zoom in: Earlier this year, the group announced that its executive director, Danielle Melfi, would be leaving and that the group would shift its focus toward coordinating with other progress organizations instead of paid media campaigns.

  • The goal is to keep the outside coalition that helped Biden pass his three signature bills -- on infrastructure, climate, and semiconductors -- engaged and energized heading into the election.
  • They plan to serve as a message hub to help coordinate pro-Biden messaging with outside groups.

Between the lines: Going into 2024, Team Biden -- and Democratic donors -- are sending their money toward Super PACs and the DNC that are directly focused on the president's reelection.

Go deeper: Two years ago, GMMB -- the Democratic firm that was heavily involved in Biden's 2020 digital advertising effort -- raked in $14.8 million from BBT, most of it for paid advertising.

  • In 2022, the money directed to GMMB dropped to $1.1 million.
  • Precision Strategies, a public affairs firm co-founded by Cutter and White House deputy chief of staff Jen O'Malley Dillon, received $1.3 million in 2022, compared to $3.7 million in 2021.
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