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US President Biden arrives to board Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland on December 20, 2023, as he departs for Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Mandel Ngan | Afp | Getty Images

President Joe Biden’s $140 million campaign war chest has been bolstered by a group of loyal advisers and fundraisers that some party strategists call a “dream team” effort to defeat the likely Republican nominee, former President Donald Trump.

The recent boom in fundraising can be traced primarily to five people: media executive and Biden campaign co-chair Jeffrey Katzenberg, former State Department official Rufus Gifford, campaign finance director Michael Pratt, longtime Biden adviser Jen O’Malley Dillon and Julie Chávez Rodriguez, the president’s 2024 campaign manager.

“They have kind of put together a dream team in fundraising,” said Jim Messina, who served as former President Barack Obama’s campaign manager for his successful 2012 reelection campaign.

Katzenberg has been speaking with donors to Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley and trying to recruit them to support Biden. “We are actively courting them,” he told CNBC in a recent interview.

“I’ve only done it with a handful of super high end donors and I would just say it has been well received. No one has said ‘leave us alone, we don’t want to talk to you,'” said Katzenberg

Haley insists she is staying in the race, despite polls showing her on track to lose Saturday’s Republican primary in her home state of South Carolina to Trump.

But Katzenberg pointed to Haley’s support in places like New Hampshire, where she won 43% of the Republican primary vote, saying that suggests there is a slice of the Republican party ready to move on from Trump.

CNBC spoke to over half a dozen Biden advisers, party fundraisers and Democratic strategists for this piece, several of whom were granted anonymity to share private conversations. They described how key players in a constellation of groups – Biden’s campaign committee, joint fundraising committees, his chief outside political action committee and the Democratic National Committee — have amassed $140 million to put towards the president’s reelection.

Their efforts have given Biden a significant advantage in the money race over Trump, whose political fundraising operation is paying for both his campaign and his attorneys in a host of civil and criminal cases.

Trump’s campaign and allied political organizations began the year with a combined $65 million in cash on hand, according to Federal Election Commission records. This was after paying roughly $50 million to the former president’s lawyers in 2023.

“President Trump’s campaign is fueled by small dollar donors across the country from every background,” Karoline Leavitt, the national press secretary for Trump’s campaign, said in a statement to CNBC. “We are more confident than ever that he will take back the White House in November.”

Splashy parties

The success of Biden’s team in building up his fundraising operation has grown more evident over the past year, as a series of one-time, private events raised millions of dollars each.

Already this week, Biden’s West Coast fundraising swing has raised up to $10 million between four different events for the Biden Victory Fund, according to a person with direct knowledge of the totals. The Biden Victory Fund raises money for the Biden campaign, the Democratic National Committee and a variety of state parties.

Three of these events so far have been hosted by entertainment executive Haim Saban, venture capitalist John Doerr and businessman Gordon Getty, respectively, according to the Biden campaign. Lawyer Robert Klein, Danielle Guttman Klein and Steve Westly are co-hosting a Thursday event in Los Altos Hills, Calif., according to an invitation.

In December, Biden attended an event in Los Angeles at the home of former U.S. ambassador to Spain James Costos and interior designer Michael Smith. The 400 people on the guest list included movie moguls Steven Spielberg and Peter Chernin, and the entertainment was a performance by musician Lenny Kravitz, according to the invitation and a person with direct knowledge of the event.

The evening ended up raising around $8.5 million for the Biden Victory Fund, this person explained.

Building on that success, Pratt and a group of Biden’s advisers came up with the idea of hosting a major fundraiser in New York in March, featuring former presidents Obama and Bill Clinton, these people explained.

US President Barack Obama (L), Vice President Joe Biden (C) and former president Bill Clinton chat before the start of a memorial service for US Senator Robert Byrd on July 2, 2010 at the West Virginia State Capitol in Charleston, West Virginia. 

Mandel Ngan | AFP | Getty Images

A personal approach

One-to-one outreach from influential figures like Katzenberg, Gifford and others has also helped to smooth down ruffled feathers of former Biden donors, some of whom were reportedly “pissed” at the lack of attention paid to them by the newly elected president and his team, following the 2020 election.

Now these donors are coming back to help, according to people familiar with the matter. One Biden fundraiser said donors were coming back to the team after they were invited to a variety of private events at the White House. This fundraiser credited Gifford, among others, for helping to improve outreach to donors.

It’s not just the draw of Biden, however, that is pulling some of these donors back into his camp. Donald Trump’s all-but-inevitable Republican nomination is at work here, too.

“We don’t have a choice,” said one formerly frustrated Biden fundraiser from Wall Street, who is helping the president again after connecting with Gifford and Katzenberg. “We can’t let Trump win.”

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