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Joe Biden eyes San Francisco fundraising tour, setting up a Bay Area battleground for 2020 Democratic dollars

Key Points
  • Joe Biden is preparing for a 2020 fundraising blitz within the California Bay Area that's expected to include trips to San Francisco and Silicon Valley.
  • The events are expected to take place in late June and will likely boast tickets starting at $500.
  • Biden's aim at making inroads into the surrounding San Francisco area comes after his rivals have already made their own visits and gobbled up donors for themselves.
Former US vice president Joe Biden speaks during his first campaign event as a candidate for US President at Teamsters Local 249 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, April 29, 2019.
Saul Loeb | AFP | Getty Images

Former Vice President Joe Biden is preparing for his first fundraising tour of the San Francisco Bay Area as a 2020 presidential candidate, CNBC has learned.

Biden's allies on the West Coast are aiming to host several money-making events starting in late June and carrying on throughout the rest of the year. The fundraising tour is expected to stop in various locations across the region, including in San Francisco and Silicon Valley, according to people with direct knowledge of the matter. A fundraiser in nearby Sonoma is being planned for late 2019, these people noted.

Biden's aim of making inroads into the surrounding San Francisco area comes after his rivals have already made their own visits and gobbled up donors for themselves. San Francisco itself was a key fundraising block for Democrats throughout the 2018 congressional midterm elections as donors within the city combined to give more than $155 million to their causes, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.

While the venues have not been decided, organizers are looking to sell tickets at prices between $500 and $2,800, those close to the campaign said. During Biden's swing through Hollywood earlier this month, people familiar with the planning said they opened up the event to young entrepreneurs and allowed them access with a $500 donation. The campaign ended up raising more than $700,000 that day, CNBC first reported.

The Bay Area gatherings will likely take place at the homes of Biden's established supporters, rather than at hotels in the area, a source added. The campaign has yet to determine a fundraising goal for the West Coast tour.

Biden backers who are putting together the events include Wade Randlett, CEO of the transportation fuels division of General Biofuels; Steve Westly, founder of tech investment firm The Westly Group; and Denise Bauer, former U.S. ambassador to Belgium under former President Barack Obama. Westly's firm lists Tesla as part of its investment portfolio.

All three organizers were involved with bundling for Obama when he ran for president in 2008 and during his reelection bid in 2012. Each helped raise as much as $500,000 in both cycles, data from the Center for Responsive Politics shows.

A political spokesman for Westly confirmed his involvement in helping Biden's campaign in the Bay Area but declined to comment further.

"We are active with Biden's campaign," Westly's political director said. "Steve is working in a major way for them to help fund raise. Everything is still being finalized."

Randlett, Bauer and a spokesperson for Biden did not return requests for comment.

South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg held a fundraiser at The Regency Ballroom in San Francisco earlier this month for $25 a ticket. Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif, visited the area in February for an event at the Delancey Street Foundation, a nonprofit that provides rehab services for convicted criminals and former addicts.

For Biden, the trip to California follows a similar fundraising blitz on the other side of the country in New York City. He's set to attend at least two fundraisers starting June 17, CNBC first reported. Short seller Jim Chanos is also slated to be there. Politico reported Biden's campaign collected $2.2 million while recently fundraising in Florida.

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