Joe Biden's campaign has signaled to allies that a tech company founded by billionaire former presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg is one of the firms it is considering hiring as it ramps up for the general election against President Donald Trump.
Biden's team has been in touch with multiple firms that specialize in crafting digital ads and online messaging campaigns, according to people familiar with the matter. Bloomberg's company Hawkfish, however, is one of at least three firms that are at the top of the campaign's list to work as its main digital ad agency, these people added. Hawkfish played the same role for Bloomberg's presidential campaign.
The people declined to be named as these discussions were conducted in private.
Bully Pulpit Interactive, founded by Obama inaugural digital director Andrew Bleeker, and Precision Strategies, a firm that was co-founded by Biden campaign manager Jen O'Malley Dillon, are the other firms holding talks with Biden's organization, one of the people added.
Records show that Biden's campaign has worked with two other digital teams: Civis Analytics and Blue State Digital.
The effort by Biden's campaign to start beefing up its digital team comes after its operations were forced to go virtual as the coronavirus spreads. Trump's team, meanwhile, has been preparing to fight the eventual Democratic nominee on the digital front for years.
The short list could indicate that Biden's team may be considering hiring various groups instead of signing a contract with one organization.
Bully Pulpit is a communications and digital advertising firm that helped President Barack Obama's reelection bid in 2012. The firm also worked with Hillary Clinton's team during her campaign against Trump.
Precision Strategies helped Obama's campaign with data and analytics when he was fighting for reelection, and it also assisted Priorities USA, the Democratic Party's biggest super PAC, with digital advertising during the buildup to the 2018 congressional midterms. Democrats won back the majority in the House that year.
O'Malley Dillon, Precision's co-founder, was a deputy campaign manager for Obama's reelection bid.
A spokesman for Biden and representatives for all the firms mentioned in this story who have recently been in touch with the campaign did not return requests for comment.
The developments come after Politico reported that there is a battle going on within the Biden campaign about whether or not to hire Bloomberg's tech firm and instead focus on building out the digital team from within. Progressives have publicly ripped the idea of Hawkfish joining Biden's ranks.
Tim Tagaris, an advisor to Sen. Bernie Sanders, tweeted his displeasure with the idea on Wednesday.
"Hiring Hawkfish to run its digital efforts would be a huge mistake by the Biden campaign. Lot of talented people coming off well-run digital operations: fundraising, video, social media, ads, organizing, data and more that are far better than Bloomberg's crew was. Hire them," he said.
The Intercept has reported that Biden's campaign is holding contract negotiations with Hawkfish.
Hawkfish was created by Bloomberg in 2019 and later became the primary digital ad agency and technology services provider for his presidential run. It was responsible for the campaign's content creation, a Bloomberg aide previously told CNBC.
The campaign, however, did not generate as much electoral success as it did online buzz. Bloomberg, who has a net worth of just over $54 billion, invested nearly $1 billion of his own money into his run, but he only amassed 55 delegates, including a victory in the American Samoa caucuses on Super Tuesday. His campaign spent $45 million on Hawkfish's services and, weeks after he dropped out, he spent over $20 million on the company for "digital consulting."
Bloomberg's digital strategy included the crafting of Facebook, YouTube and Twitter ads that mainly targeted Trump. The campaign has previously said they spent $49.6 million on anti-Trump digital ads.
Hawkfish's leadership ranks include longtime Facebook Chief Marketing Officer Gary Briggs, and Jeff Glueck, former CEO of location-tracking firm Foursquare.