June 4, 2020 / 10:12 AM / a month ago

Fundraisers say donations to Biden surge as George Floyd protests sweep country

(Reuters) - Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his allies have seen donations swell in recent days, several top fundraisers said, as protests against the police killing of an unarmed black man in Minneapolis roil U.S. cities.

FILE PHOTO: Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Joe Biden speaks during an event in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S. June 2, 2020. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

President Donald Trump’s response to the demonstrations over George Floyd’s death - including on Monday when police drove peaceful protesters out of a park in Washington so Trump could pose for photos in front of a church - pushed new donors and even some Republicans to open their checkbooks, the fundraisers said.

“I’ve seen several significant donors who had never been involved in politics before but believe that something has to be done,” said Michael Kempner, a New York-based fundraiser for Biden.

He called the influx “a sea change in the level of urgency and the size of the commitments,” but declined to compare recent totals with previous figures because of Biden’s relatively new arrangement with the Democratic National Committee that allows for much higher contributions.

Biden, the former vice president who will face the Republican Trump in the Nov. 3 election, told supporters in an email on Monday that his campaign hit an ambitious $6 million online fundraising goal over six days at the end of May.

The surge in contributions comes as Biden tries to shrink Trump’s significant money advantage.

The Biden and Trump campaigns did not respond to requests for comment on Wednesday.

Trump has denounced those who carried out looting during protests as “thugs,” and his campaign has reiterated his calls for “law and order” in fundraising appeals this week.

Biden initially struggled with online fundraising from small-dollar donations but has improved those efforts, especially after doubling the size of his email list thanks to help from other Democratic candidates who dropped out of the race.

Biden and the Democratic Party reported raising $60.5 million in April, just short of the $61.7 million netted by Trump and other committees including the fundraising arm of the Republican Party.

‘PHILANTHROPIC’ INVESTMENT

American Bridge 21st Century, a political group that backs Biden with ads and opposition research, had its best fundraising period of the election cycle between May 14 and this week, picking up $6.9 million and an additional $7.2 million in future commitments, according to its president, Bradley Beychok.

“I think in some cases they treat this as a philanthropic piece,” Beychok said of donors. “They feel very strongly that Donald Trump shouldn’t be president and in 150-some odd days, that has to change, and so that requires an investment now.”

Another major Biden fundraiser, who declined to be identified, said Trump’s photo-op on Monday prompted a flurry of calls and emails from donors, including from at least one person who earlier turned down requests for money.

He said donations were coming from people who were not previously Biden supporters but who felt compelled to give because of the coronavirus pandemic and the killing of Floyd, who died last week after a white police officer in Minneapolis pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck even after he lost consciousness.

A Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Tuesday showed a majority of Americans sympathized with the protests sparked by Floyd’s death and disapproved of Trump’s response to the unrest.

“People are really fired up,” said former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, who is co-hosting a Biden fundraising event next week that was initially aiming for $500,000 but which he now expects to surpass $1 million.

“I’ve gotten calls from people volunteering to give money, which in 40-some years of fundraising I’ve never had that experience before.”

Reporting by Elizabeth Culliford in Birmingham, England, and Trevor Hunnicutt in New York; Writing by Joseph Ax; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Peter Cooney

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