A fundraiser for former Vice President Joe Biden Monday night at the Manhattan townhouse of hedge fund billionaire Jim Chanos was met with angry protests, as demonstrators brandished signs and shouted class-warfare barbs at attendees, many of them Wall Street executives and real estate barons.
But inside Chanos’ swanky digs, it was all peace, love and lots of money.
The fundraiser, attended by a bipartisan crowd of 180 people, was a wild success, having raised in excess of $500,000, FOX Business has learned. The draw, while still being counted Tuesday afternoon, is said to be a record for a single candidate at a Manhattan residence fundraiser, according to people with direct knowledge of the matter.
Presidential candidates from both parties have been feted by the uber-rich at their Manhattan homes over the years as a way to tap into one of the biggest pools of campaign cash available: That coming from Wall Street, New York’s real estate industry and local celebrities. In 2012, former President Barack Obama made headlines for attending a similar event at the Manhattan townhouse of actress Sarah Jessica Parker, a $40,000-a-person soiree famously dubbed “Checks and the City.”
But the Biden bash was a bit different. First, it included a bipartisan crowd (former Sen. Al D’Amato, R-N.Y., and other New York City Republicans attended), showing Biden’s cross-party appeal even as the Democratic front-runner faces opposition from his own party’s leftist voter base. It is also said to have raised a lot more money than other such fundraisers, as its fat-cat list of attendees easily forked over $2,800 a head for a chance to meet the former vice president who served nearly four decades in the U.S. Senate.
A spokesman for Biden had no comment; a spokeswoman for Chanos declined to comment.
The 76-year-old Biden grew up in Scranton, Pennsylvania and is best known for his blue-collar appeal; his nickname “Amtrak Joe,” underscores this persona as he famously took the train from his home in Delaware to work in Washington, D.C. During that time, he also crafted a reputation as a centrist who worked with Republicans on legislation – a bipartisan approach that is eschewed by many of the other progressive contenders for the 2020 Democratic nomination.
Biden’s centrism and its opposition from the far left of the party was on full display Monday night as attendees, many of them brokerage and real estate millionaires and billionaires, entered Chanos’ swanky townhouse. Protesters greeted them with chants of “Down with Big Oil! Down with Corporate America,” while holding signs advocating various left-wing causes on everything from the environment to income redistribution.
Biden hasn’t traditionally been associated with Big Oil but he has supported banks and financial firms, many of them domiciled in his home state of Delaware, another big plus for the donors at the event. And he didn’t appear flustered by the protests; attendees say he fired up his crowd by making a few pointed jabs at Trump, then reminded his donors that while the country needs to “strengthen our middle class,” it will not be at the expense of economic growth.
He said the rich will do “just fine” during a Joe Biden presidency, a remark taken to mean that while he may raise taxes on the rich, he has no grand plan to redistribute wealth in the ways proposed by other leading Democratic candidates such as independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, a self-described democratic socialist, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. Despite the class-warfare mood of the party, Sanders and Warren are said to be the only Democratic candidates not soliciting Wall Street money.
Biden also spoke of the need to repair U.S. relationships with “our allies,” a reference to Trump’s more aggressive positions on trade, which has focused not just on Chinese misbehavior but on upending trade deals with long-standing partners like Canada and Mexico. He then called for major new government funding for research to cure cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer’s.
"He had the crowd really fired up,” said one attendee. “And he spent very little time on Trump, instead offered a more positive message.”
Other attendees to the event included John Catsimatidis, a Republican who ran for New York City mayor, Charles Myers, a prolific Democratic fundraiser and chairman of the investment firm Signum Global Advisers, and Omeed Malik of merchant bank Farvahar Partners, who recently had held a fundraiser for Tulsi Gabbard, the Hawaii congresswoman also seeking the Democratic nomination.
Noticeably absent from the event was New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who was supposed to introduce Biden to the crowd but was said to have had a scheduling conflict. With Cuomo a no-show, that task was left to Chanos, one of Wall Street’s most successful short sellers, or a type of trader who profits by betting stocks will decline in value. Chanos has uncovered a slew of corporate frauds during his career including the 2001 Enron debacle that led to one of the nation’s largest bankruptcies.
A long-time Democrat and liberal, Chanos is personal friends with Biden but has told people he has political views that are further to the left than the former vice president, particularly on environmental issues and in regulating big companies.
In fact, as he was introducing Biden and the protests of “Down with Corporate America” could be heard faintly from outside, Chanos quipped, “I guess they’re not familiar with my work.” Biden is said to have laughed before moving on to his remarks.