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Blackstone’s Tony James Hosts Fundraiser for Biden

Jennifer Epstein

(Bloomberg) -- Blackstone Group Inc. Executive Vice Chairman Tony James hosted a small, high-dollar fundraiser for Democratic nominee Joe Biden on Wednesday.

James and his wife, Amabel, led the virtual event for 30 donors with Biden, who’s been appearing nearly daily at fundraisers before the end of the quarter next week. Biden has been seeking to balance his efforts to raise hundreds of millions of dollars for his campaign from wealthy donors with the policy concerns of progressives who hope to see him enact tough rules on Wall Street if elected.

“I know you’re not here to hear from me, but I do want to say I believe that Donald Trump is destroying the fabric of America. And I think we cannot allow him to have a second term,” James said in his introduction of Biden.

James is viewed by other Wall Street donors as a potential candidate for top job in a Biden administration, and holding a fundraising event is a way to help strengthen the ties between candidate and donor. He was considered for top posts in the Obama administration and Reuters reported that he turned down an offer to serve as Commerce secretary as he held out for a more influential job.

Biden took a question from James about the economy, arguing that Trump has been a poor steward. The candidate leaned on his campaign stump speech, saying he’d push for more fairness and to grow the middle class.

“We’ve got to bring it back, we’ve got to rebuild the middle class and this time we’ve got to bring everybody along. Everybody of color. Those with disabilities. We’ve got to bring them all along. When we do, everybody’s better off,” he said.

“We can all win together,” James responded.

Blackstone chief executive officer, Stephen Schwarzman, is a major Republican donor who’s offered advice to Trump, a longtime friend. He’s given at least $16.5 million to Republican groups during the current election cycle, as well as hundreds of thousands more to GOP candidates and the Republican National Committee, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Jonathan Gray, James’s successor as president of Blackstone, was a co-host of a Biden fundraiser in New York in mid-February, one of the darkest times for Biden’s campaign. James also raised money for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign and hosted a fundraiser last year for one of Biden’s opponents in the 2020 Democratic primary, Pete Buttigieg.

Biden struggled to raise money during much of the Democratic primary season but has begun attracting small and large donors since becoming the party’s nominee. He has raised money not just for his campaign operation but for the Democratic National Committee and state parties.

Fundraising surged in May, when Biden’s campaign, the Democratic National Committee and allied fundraising vehicles took in $80.8 million, a record for Biden’s campaign, which beat the $74 million that Trump and the Republican National Committee raised last month.

Biden leads Trump in national polls, including one released Wednesday by the New York Times and Siena College that showed him ahead 50% to 36%.

“It’s not about how bad Trump is, it’s really about how good Joe Biden would be,” James said at the fundraiser. Biden, he said, “is the one leader in America who can pull the nation together and start to heal us” and someone “who’s shown he gets things done in Washington” and can find “the middle ground.”

(Adds comment from Biden in fifth, sixth paragraphs)

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