At around 9 a.m. on Saturday morning, Tom Steyer, the billionaire hedge fund manager, climate activist, and onetime presidential candidate, slipped into a room in the recently-rebranded five-star Salamander Hotel. Steyer was one of 120 or so Democratic bundlers and mega-donors who had come to Washington to meet Joe Biden’s re-election team and hear his most senior advisors—Jen O’Malley Dillon, Steve Ricchetti, Mike Donilon, Emmy Ruiz, Julie Chávez Rodriguez, and Ron Klain, among others—lay out their plan for victory. It was an amusingly understated atmosphere in a hotel basement ballroom, especially considering that the presentation was limited to people who raised or donated $1 million to support Biden’s campaign last time around. But attendees got a boxed Biden-Harris mug, some pasta, some KIND bars, and plenty of access.
The event was heavier on ego-stroking than insider details, based on conversations with a half-dozen attendees. While Biden worked the photo line just across from Jeffrey Katzenberg—who was busy with some gripping-and-grinning of his own—there was no announcement about whether Katzenberg, or anyone else, will serve as Biden’s national finance chair. Some attendees were similarly disappointed that the campaign didn’t reveal who will win the race for finance director, although D.N.C. fundraiser-in-chief Michael Pratt—the favorite for the latter role—earned rave reviews for the two-day confab, raising expectations that he’ll soon get the nod.
The weekend was a Politics 101 refresher for the Biden bundling network, which is hoping to raise north of $2 billion this cycle, in part by sweet talking their networks of lukewarm friends and business contacts into cutting checks for up to $900,000 for the 80-year-old president. (Biden’s age is a frequent source of groaning even among his bundlers, despite their own median age.) The prior evening, Biden and Kamala Harris hosted a cocktail reception and formal dinner, just in time for some bundlers to hit the White House Correspondents Dinner party circuit. Harris, another occasional source of donor groaning, received good reviews. But the real workday was Saturday, when Biden bundlers sat in on a half-dozen sessions over six hours on topics like digital fundraising and communications strategy, getting previews of ads and watching White House officials get awkward when they were posed campaign-related questions they weren’t legally allowed to answer.