Joe Biden’s campaign exponentially increased payments to a public relations firm after a #MeToo advocacy group founded by one of the firm’s partners began considering an allegation against the former vice president.
Federal Election Commission filings indicate Biden’s campaign paid SKDKinckerbocker more than $806,000 in the first two months of this year. The money, supposedly used for direct mail fundraising, dwarfed what the public relations firm was paid the year prior.
More troubling is that the payments came as the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund, founded by SKDKnickerbocker partner Hilary Rosen, was weighing if it would offer legal assistance to Tara Reade, a former Biden staffer.
In January, Reade approached Time’s Up in hopes of receiving help in dealing with the fallout generated by her own #MeToo story involving a powerful man. The previous April, Reade had come forward to accuse the former vice president of inappropriate touching while working in his Senate office during the early 1990s. The allegations, which were reported to a local Nevada newspaper, had resulted in Reade being attacked by journalists and media personalities for an old Medium piece she had penned praising Russia and Vladimir Putin. Whether intended or not, the revelations about Reade’s pro-Russian sentiments ensured that most media outlets paid little attention to her allegations.
Given how poorly that first attempt had gone, Reade was hoping that Time’s Up could not only help renew interest in her story, but also provide financial assistance for any suit against Biden or her online “harassers.
In that regard, Reade had some cause for optimism. Shortly after reaching out to Time’s Up, she spoke to a program director at the National Women’s Law Center, which house’s the group legal defense fund. The initial talks seemed to go well, with the director informing Reade that since there was contemporaneous evidence about her allegation—she had informed a friend about the incident when it happened—she was likely to qualify for assistance.
Despite those early positive signs, Reade soon learned the organization would, in fact, not be able to help. The reasoning, she learned, was because Time’s Up would be putting its status as a 501(c)3 nonprofit in jeopardy. Sharyn Tejani, the group’s director, claimed that since Biden was running for president, any effort on Reade’s behalf would be in violation of laws prohibiting 501(c)3’s from intervening in political campaigns.
The group’s interpretation of the law, though, struck many as overly stringent, with a top campaign finance expert telling Breitbart News it raised questions if Time’s Up had a conflict of interest between its mission and its politics.
“If they is an advocacy group that publicizes incidents of sexual harassment, their failure to publicize this one is likely more problematic, as they appear to be making a decision to protect a prominent political candidate,” said Celta Mitchell, a partner at Foley & Lardner LLP.
While all of this was out between Reade and Time’s Up, the Biden campaign’s relationship with SKDKnickerbocker was taking on a new dimension.
At the beginning of January, the campaign paid the public relations firm more than $218,000 for its direct mail fundraising services. Normally, such a large payment would not have raised much attention. After all, one of SKDKnickerbocker’s managing directors, Anita Dunn, was a top adviser on the Biden campaign.
It does stand out, however, if only for the sheer disparity in payments. In December, the firm was paid only $7,345 for its direct mail services. One month later, the campaign upped that sum by 30 times, shelling out $218,693 for SKDKnickerbocker’s help with direct mail.
The payments did not stop there. At the end of January, Biden’s campaign paid the firm another $329,000 for its services, in three separate installments. This was followed up by futher payment for more than $257,000 at the end of February.
Overall, between January 1 and February 29, Biden’s campaign paid SKDKnickerbocker more than $806,000. In comparison, between June and December 2019, the firm was paid a little over $75,000. The reason for increases remain unclear.
The connection between the two entities and the Biden campaign comes as Reade is leveling a new sexual assault allegation against the former vice president. Earlier this week, Reade accused Biden of pushing her up against a wall, kissing her, and digitally penetrating her sometime in 1993, while she was in his employ.
Reade did not mention that alleged incident when coming forward last April. It is uncertain if she attempted to broach the new allegations with Time’s Up when first making contact with the group.