Biden Campaign Quiet on Staff Donations to Group Backing Defunding of Police

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden approaches reporters to answer questions following a campaign stop at Lindy's Diner in Keene, N.H., Saturday, Aug. 24, 2019. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
AP Photo/Michael Dwyer

Former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign is remaining quiet about its staffers donating to a criminal justice group championing the defunding of police.

As Breitbart News noted last month, at least 13 individuals employed by the former vice president’s campaign have donated money to the Minnesota Freedom Fund (MFF) in the wake of George Floyd’s death.

The group, which opposes pre-trial detention and uses donations to pay bail fees, has seen a flood of contributions from both celebrities and elected officials since the protests over Floyd’s death began in late-May. Many of those donating have done so as a show of solidarity, with the assumption that their donations will be used to post bail for individuals arrested throughout Minneapolis during the protests.

While the donations do not appear to be coordinated with the former vice president’s campaign, they do pose something of a problem now for Biden.

On Tuesday, the presumptive Democrat nominee made headlines by breaking with members of his party’s grassroots over defunding the police. The issue has gained traction among progressives and social justice activists, many of whom feel the outrage sparked by Floyd’s death presents an opportunity to reform law enforcement practices to protect against racial bias and prevent police brutality. Some, like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), also argue that reducing and defunding police department budgets would help provide for more funding for education and public housing.

Biden, though, seems not to agree. On Monday, the former vice president’s campaign released a statement through its rapid response director, arguing that reforming policing practices and adequately funding community programs do not have to come at the expense of each other.

“Biden does not believe that police should be defunded. He hears and shares the deep grief and frustration of those calling out for change, and is driven to ensure that justice is done and that we put a stop to this terrible pain,” the campaign said. Adding that the former vice president “supports the urgent need for reform,” including more funding for public schools, summer programs, as well as mental health and substance abuse treatment, among other initiatives.

The former vice president, himself, is set to address the topic head-on during a CBS interview, which will air Tuesday.

“No, I don’t support defunding the police. I support conditioning federal aid to police based on … certain basic standards of decency and honorableness and, in fact, are able to demonstrate they can protect the community and everybody in the community,” Biden said, according to excerpts of the interview that aired Monday.

The position, however, puts Biden, and his campaign staff, in opposition to the MFF. In fact, on the same day that Reuters reported that at least 13 of the former vice president’s staffers had donated to the organization, MFF announced its support for defunding the police.

“We’re gonna need you … to do better than vague promises of change,” the group told Minnesota’s governor upon the announcement that Derek Chauvin, the Minneapolis police officer accused of killing Floyd, was arrested. “Defund the Police. End Money Bail. Rebuild our small [Black, Indigenous, People of Color] owned businesses.”

Since then the group has become only more vocal about the cause. MFF is encouraging donations to Reclaim the Block, a Minneapolis-based advocacy organization calling for the city government to divest from the law enforcement and commit to never again “increase the police department’s budget.”

Given the circumstances, it is unclear if the staffers on Biden’s campaign who donated to MFF knew of its support for defunding the police at the time of their contribution.

The former vice president’s campaign did not respond to questions about whether its staffers knew prior to making their donation or if they would be requesting their money be returned.

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