A super PAC that backs Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden received significant funding from Republican donors, including one supporter of President Donald Trump, according to campaign finance disclosures from February.

Unite The Country was launched in October by former Biden aides. The board was chaired by Mark Doyle, a former Biden aide. It also included fellow Biden alum John MacNeil and Larry Rasky, who was part of Biden’s 1988 and 2008 presidential campaigns.

In early February, as Senator Bernie Sanders surged and gained momentum, Unite The Country warned donors against abandoning Biden. 

“Donors hedging their bets on Biden because of Bloomberg could be creating a doomsday scenario for Democrats everywhere,” Rasky declared. “The Sanders-Warren wing of the party is ready for the [Mike] Bloomberg fight. Democrats cannot afford a split convention.”

“If Bernie has more delegates, do you really think the Bros will make way for Mike? Not to mention that the legacy of the Sanders campaign (such as the Squad) will ravage any chance center-left Democrats have of maintaining hard won victories in states from Pennsylvania to California,” Rasky argued.

Unite The Country was viewed among billionaires, particularly so-called moderate wealthy Democrats, as a vehicle for attacking the Sanders campaign. They were desperate for some way to stifle Sanders in the days before Biden handily won South Carolina.

Carlos Duart, a major Republican donor, contributed $50,000 to Unite The Country on February 6. He is the president of an engineering firm called CDR Maguire in Miami, Florida.

On February 28, 2019, he donated $19,750 to the Trump Victory Committee. He also gave $2,800, the maximum amount one may contribute during a primary, to Trump on the same day.

Duart contributed $35,000 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) and the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) on June 13, 2018, during the midterm election.

Greg Wendt is an equity portfolio manager for Capital Group, which is based in San Francisco. As he did in January, Wendt contributed $50,000 to Unite The Country on February 5.

He has given tens of thousands of dollars to Republicans, like former Senator Jeff Flake, Senator Lindsey Graham, Senator Mitt Romney, Representative Kevin McCarthy, and former Speaker of the House Paul Ryan.

Wendt donated $40,000 to Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign. He contributed $50,000 to McCarthy in March 2019. While President Barack Obama was in the White House, he gave $100,000 to the NRSC in October 2015.

Club For Growth Action, a conservative super PAC, ran attack ads against Sanders after they feared a “radical socialist” may become the Democratic nominee. Wendt donated $50,000 to this super PAC in July 2018.

Billionaire Herbert Allen Jr. contributed $100,000 to Unite The Country. He is known for Allen & Company, which is a boutique investment bank that was involved in the IPOs for Groupon, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

Allen appears to be a Never Trump Republican. He gave $25,000 to Romney’s presidential campaign and $25,000 to the Republican National Committee in 2012. He contributed $100,000 to the RNC Republican National State Elections Committee in 2000, when George W. Bush ran for president.

To be clear, Biden’s super PAC was funded by individuals that backed Republican efforts to defeat and undermine Obama’s agenda, as well as his re-election. They played a role in propelling him to a commanding lead in the 2020 primary.

That matters because one of the super PAC’s ads recycled an attack against Sanders from 2016 and declared, “Democrats want a nominee who’s a Democrat. An Obama-Biden Democrat.” Yet, that ad was funded by Republican donors.

Several corporate Democrats made large contributions as well. Bernard Schwartz, the chair of BLS Investments, donated $200,000 to Unite The Country on February 24—a couple days after Sanders achieved a huge victory in the Nevada Caucuses.

Schwartz is a chair emeritus on the board of trustees for Third Way, which is a “centrist” think tank notorious for its opposition to progressive policies on behalf of business interests. So far, in 2020, he has given more than $150,000 to the Democratic National Committee.

On March 16, despite Biden’s Super Tuesday victories, he still believed elites needed to “put a lot of effort into fighting Bernie Sanders” and force him out of the primary.

CNBC reported, “Schwartz [was] a vocal opponent of Sanders since the start of the election. His attempts to push Sanders out of the primary include privately reaching out to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. Schwartz hoped they would come out to endorse any of the moderate candidates that, at the time, were still in the race.”

Eugene Ludwig donated $25,000 to the super PAC. He was United States comptroller of currency from 1993 to 1998 during President Bill Clinton’s administration, which was “a period characterized by significant deregulation of the financial services industry.” That is according to a 2011 interview with The Street that was headlined, “Former Regulator Now Has The Banks’ Back.”

He is the CEO of Promontory Financial Group, which is owned by IBM, and the co-founder of the Promontory Interfinancial Network, which he sold to the Blackstone Group for $2.5 billion in October 2019.

Sheila Bair, “who played a pivotal role in the response to the [2008] financial crisis as chair of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), criticized the sale. She contended Promontory’s business model games the FDIC rules. “The FDIC takes all the credit risk, and Promontory gets the profit.”

Ludwig once was the vice-chair of Deutsche Bank, and some of his past clients have included Citigroup, Countrywide Financial, and Allied Irish Banks. He gave over $300,000 to the Hillary Victory Fund in 2016 to help Hillary Clinton defeat Trump.

Yaron Minsky, a wealthy Democratic donor, contributed $1 million to Unite The Country. He is the chief technology officer for Jane Street Capital, a stock trading firm. Mary Swig, a member of an elite family in San Francisco who funded Senator Kamala Harris’ political rise, gave $25,000.

Alan Leventhal, the CEO of Beacon Capital Partners, donated $250,000 to Unite the Country, and Steven Laufer, senior economists for the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, gave $300,000.

Reid Hoffman, the billionaire co-founder of LinkedIn, who was tied to a dark money group behind the app that Shadow Inc. produced, which turned the Iowa Caucuses into a fiasco, contributed $1 million to Unite The Country on February 28.

He was part of an effort to rehabilitate Jeffrey Epstein’s public image after Epstein was convicted of offenses involving sex with children. Hoffman also funded a Russian intelligence-style disinformation campaign during a special election in Alabama.

Ahead of the March 17 primaries, which the DNC pressured states to hold in the middle of the global coronavirus pandemic, the super PAC sent mailers that targeted Latino voters in Chicago and Orlando. It highlighted an endorsement from the Latino Victory Fund and maintained, “We don’t need a revolution in this country. We can’t afford a never-ending ideological war with more division and upheaval.”

To some extent, Biden’s success in South Carolina and the Super Tuesday states meant Unite The Country never really had to ramp up their attacks against Sanders. But the disclosures reveal the coalition of Republicans and corporate Democrats, who provided funds that would’ve helped Biden make Sanders toxic to voters.

Center for Economic Policy and Research’s Andrea Beaty previously reported on the support Unite The Country received from “private equity, venture capital, real estate, and other sectors that may be looking for favorable policies or to influence strategic appointments” in January.

Richard Blum, the president of Blum Capital, donated $1 million. “Blum and his spouse, Senator Dianne Feinstein, have jointly raised over $25,000 for Biden’s campaign. Blum’s real estate firm CBRE Group has drawn scrutiny for lucrative contracts with the FDIC and USPS, the latter of which is costing the Postal Service millions of dollars a year in lease overpayments.”

Beaty further reported that Blackstone executives Tony James, John McCormick, and Perry Verdun donated $150,000. “Michael Sacks of private equity firm Grosvenor Capital Management, who [had] already raised at least $25,000 for Biden’s campaign, donated $100,000. Bernard Aronson, founder of private equity firm ACON Investments, donated $15,000.”

Biden initially was opposed to having a super PAC. In October, he flip-flopped because campaign finance limits meant he would not be able to raise the same amount of funds as Sanders, since he had much fewer supporters willing to donate.

During the March 15, Sanders confronted Biden over the Super PACs, including Unite The Country, which supported “very ugly negative ads.”

Biden falsely suggested Sanders has nine super PACs backing his campaign. Sanders has no super PACs.

This is the point. In the richest country in the history of the world, half of our people should not be struggling to put food on the table,” Sanders remarked. “And the reason for that is you have a political structure in which big money interests not only dominate the political system but dominate our economy as well.”

“Somebody makes a decision. We’re going to shut down a factory in America. We’re going to move to China. We’re going to move to Mexico, pay people starvation wages there.”  

This is an issue that has got to be ultimately deal with. Who has the power in America? Are we content with so few exercising so much power when so many people have given up on the political process?” Sanders added. 

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."