Joe Biden sees surge in health-care industry fundraising as Trump slumps in polls over coronavirus response

Key Points
  • Throughout the 2020 election cycle, people in the health-care field have given over $3.8 million in donations to former Vice President Joe Biden's campaign and the outside groups that are supporting him. 
  • Biden's fundraising surge from health-care leaders and their employees comes as Trump's coronavirus response has come under withering criticism from Democrats.
Democratic presidential candidate and former US Vice President Joe Biden arrives to pay his respects to fallen service members on Memorial Day at Delaware Memorial Bridge Veteran's Memorial Park in Newcastle, Delaware, May 25, 2020.
Olivier Douliery | AFP | Getty Images

Joe Biden has seen a surge in support from health-care professionals as President Donald Trump struggles to bring in cash from those working in an industry under pressure from the coronavirus pandemic. 

The apparent Democratic nominee for president is ahead of Trump not just in many national polls but also in financial support from individuals in the health-care business. Throughout the 2020 election cycle, people in the field have given over $3.8 million in donations to Biden's campaign and the outside groups that are supporting him, including to pro-Biden super PACs, according to data from the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. 

Over the month of April, when most states started to go into lockdown mode due to fears of Covid-19 and donors struggled to find the time to work the fundraising circuit, Biden and his allied groups raised over $680,000 from health-care workers who gave up to six-figure checks, the data shows.  

Employees in the pharmaceutical and health-product industries have combined to spend $2.6 million on Biden's run for the White House so far.

Biden's fundraising surge from health-care leaders and their employees comes as Trump's coronavirus response has come under withering criticism from Democrats. The U.S. has confirmed just over 1.7 million cases of the virus and over 100,000 deaths, and over 40 million Americans are unemployed. Trump's approval rating has been stuck below 50%, according to most national polls.

American Bridge 21st Century, one of the super PACs backing Biden, saw a major donation in March from Patricia Cloherty, listed as a chairman of Mojave Therapeutics. The PAC has seen an uptick in contributions since the market started rebounding through at least the month of May, according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter, who declined to be named as these efforts are made in private. 

Party donors appear to sense an opportunity as most national surveys show Trump falling to Biden, this person added. A Real Clear Politics national polling average shows Biden ahead of Trump by close to four points. Biden also leads Trump in several swing states, polls show.

Trump, on the other hand, has a massive war chest, but the campaign and his affiliated external groups have struggled to match Biden's haul from a similar donor pool. Trump and committees supporting him have brought in at least $2.4 million from health professionals during the election cycle, with close to $1.6 million from those who are involved with nursing homes, the data show. In April, though, Trump and the outside committees supporting him raised just over $4,500 from health-care workers. 

Many of the donations that have gone toward Trump's reelection bid have come from retirees. But a recent Quinnipiac survey shows Biden ahead of Trump by 10 points with voters over the age of 65.

Biden and the Democratic National Committee combined to raise $60.5 million in April, while Trump and the Republican National Committee brought in just over $61 million. The Republican-led effort, however, has $255 million on hand. Biden and the DNC had $103 million on hand going into May. All campaigns have gone fully virtual in the wake of the pandemic, although Trump reportedly will start hosting small in-person events in June. 

Representatives for Trump and Biden did not respond to a request for comment. 

The Democratic Party as a whole has placed health care at the top of its 2020 policy platform, according to a memo released by the Democratic National Committee and other official campaign organizations for the party. Democrats successfully ran on the issue during the 2018 congressional midterm elections, when they flipped the U.S. House of Representatives. 

Biden has taken a more moderate approach to campaigning on the issue of health care. He has repeatedly said he would not support "Medicare for All" and would rather build on the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, while adding a public option. 

"I do not support Medicare for All. I will not support Medicare for All. But I do support making sure that Obamacare is around with a public option," Biden said in an interview with CNBC's "Squawk Box."

Bundlers involved with helping Biden raise campaign cash say they sense that health-care workers are giving big to the former vice president because they have nothing to fear from his policies if he becomes president. 

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"Biden is more centrist on health-care policy," said Charles Myers, the former vice chairman of investment firm Evercore. "Even Elizabeth Warren has backtracked on Medicare for All, so a Biden administration will not be a transformation or punitive for the health-care sector." 

Of the nearly $4 million Biden has seen go his way, over $670,000 came in the month of April, the same time states were in lockdown due to the pandemic and the president was besieged by his rivals for what they argued was a bungled response. A large chunk of last month's surge came on the back of a massive $500,000 donation from a longtime Democratic donor, Joe Kiani, to Priorities USA Action, a super PAC working to get Biden elected. He's previously given six-figure checks to another pro-Biden super PAC, Unite the Country. 

Kiani, who recently hosted a virtual fundraiser for Biden, is the CEO of Masimo, a medical device company that produces, among other items, ventilation monitors. Kiani has been an ally of the Clinton family for years and contributed to both Hillary Clinton's campaign and the Democratic National Committee when she ran for president in 2016. 

Another health-care donor who gave big to a pro-Biden group is New York-based Dr. Lisa Minsky-Primus. She gave $400,000 to Unite the Country earlier this year. 

Employees at pharmaceutical giants Pfizer and Roche Holdings combined to give $26,000 to Biden in the month of April. 

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