Other Group

Building Back Together

Building Back Together (BBT) is a lobbying and advocacy group promoting the policy agenda of the Biden administration. The group is led by a team of former Biden 2020 campaign staff and veteran Democratic Party operatives. The Biden administration has claimed that it will not be directing the group’s efforts, and that the group will not be able to coordinate with the Democratic Party at the state level. [1] However, news sources including CNN and the Wall Street Journal have reported that White House officials helped determine the group’s structure, had a say in staffing decisions, and would be coordinating with its leadership. [2][3]

The news site Axios has compared BBT to the Common Purpose Project, an Obama-era group with a similar mission of promoting the Obama administration’s agenda. Unlike the Common Purpose Project, the BBT plans to raise unlimited funds without disclosing its donors. In a statement, the group claimed to be following “the same standard as many other outside groups working to impact the direction of this country,” and said that it was “playing by the rules of today’s system.” [4]

BBT places a strong emphasis on appealing to Hispanic voters and convincing them to support the Biden administration’s policies. Newsweek reported that the group is attempting to address President Joe Biden’s performance with Hispanic voters in 2020, which was worse than expected as former President Donald Trump gained Hispanic votes. [5]

Numerous BBT staff have connections to former President Barack Obama’s campaigns and Illinois politics. Former Obama deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter is listed as a member of the group’s advisory team. [6] Also listed as an advisor is political consultant Addisu Demissie, who worked as a field director for former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s Chicago mayoral campaign in 2010. [7][8] The group’s development advisor is Leah Israel, who has worked as the finance director for the Illinois Democratic Coordinated Campaign and as national finance director for U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL). [9][10]

Initiatives

In April and May 2021,  Building Back Together started running advertisements on television and social media to promote the actions of the Biden administration. The initial advertising campaign aimed to portray President Biden’s first 100 days in office as a series of successes and to put a positive spin on planned Biden administration policies. [11] Some of the main issue areas the group plans to promote are COVID-19 relief, environmentalism, and increased government control of the economy. [12]

Building Back Together has attributed economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic to President Biden’s American Rescue Plan. The group says that the relief bill is responsible for “lifting millions of children out of poverty,” as well as “reopening schools” and “giving a lifeline to small businesses.” BBT executive director Danielle Melfi has also claimed that President Biden is responsible for “getting Americans back to work.” [13]

As of May 2021, Building Back Together was running television advertisements in Georgia, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and North Carolina. The organization also led advertising on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. The group spent several million dollars on the advertising campaign. [14]

Hispanic Outreach

Building Back Together is running an advertising campaign promoting the Biden administration’s lenient policies towards illegal immigration. The advertisements attack the Trump administration’s former policy of separating underage illegal immigrants from adults claiming to be their parents in order to discourage illegal immigrants from using children to get across the border. The campaign also promotes the Biden administration’s plans to grant legal status to illegal immigrants. [15]

BBT has tailored some of its COVID-19 pandemic relief messaging for Hispanic audiences. BBT executive director Danielle Melfi has said that the group’s goal is to promote the ways in which the American Rescue Plan benefits Hispanics. Melfi has also said that President Biden will support policies that prioritize the interests of the Hispanic population. The group has recruited several left-of-center Hispanic leaders, including Mayra Macias, the former executive director of the Latino Victory Project, and Xochitl Hinojosa, the former communications director of the Democratic National Committee. [16]

In April 2021, the left-of-center Hispanic activist group Voto Latino announced that it would be forming a coalition with BBT. Voto Latino president Maria Teresa Kumar said the partnership would emphasize the priorities of Hispanic voters, and the group indicated that it would focus on promoting the Biden administration’s agenda in states with shifting demographics due to growing Hispanic populations. The group also stated that its objective is “the full realization” of Hispanic “political power.” [17] The Latino Victory Project and another group, Somos Votantes, have also joined the BBT coalition. [18]

Leadership

Danielle Melfi is the executive director of Building Back Together. [19] She previously worked as the director of the Biden 2020 campaign in Wisconsin. Before that, Melfi was the assistant secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families. Melfi’s previous campaign experience includes working as the director of early voter outreach for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential run and as director of political engagement for U,S, Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)’s 2018 campaign. Melfi has also worked on initiatives to counter human trafficking and child sexual abuse. [20]

Mayra Macias is the chief strategy officer for BBT. [21] She was previously the executive director of the Latino Victory Project, a group working to increase the political influence of left-of-center Hispanic voters. She has also held several positions in the Florida Democratic Party, including deputy political director after the Obama 2012 campaign and political director in 2016. [22] Newsweek has described Macias as working “in a co-leadership role” with Melfi. [23]

Stephanie Cutter is an advisor to BBT. [24] She is a founding partner at Precision Strategies, a marketing agency where she provides reputation management and crisis communications services. She was also the chief program executive for the 2020 virtual Democratic National Convention. Cutter also held several positions in the Obama administration, including chief of staff to First Lady Michelle Obama and counselor to Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner. Cutter was the communications director for former Secretary of State John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign and was the White House Deputy Communications Director in the Clinton administration. [25]

Patrick Bonsignore is an advisor to Building Back Better. [26] He previously worked as the director of paid media for the Biden 2020 campaign and worked on digital advertising for the Clinton 2016 campaign. He also worked for Precision Strategies from 2014 to 2015 and worked as an assistant to House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) in 2009. [27]

“Dark Money” Accusations

By law, BBT is not required to identify its donors or place a cap on fundraising. The group has indicated that it will raise unlimited funds and avoid revealing the identities of its donors. News aggregator Axios noted that many groups supporting the Trump administration also collected unlimited donations from anonymous donors and suggested that the Democratic Party had adopted the practice to stay competitive with them. [28]

The Washington Examiner criticized the group’s perceived lack of transparency and cited Jeff Hauser of the Revolving Door Project, a watchdog group, who said that “dark money erodes trust in politics.” [29] The Hill reported that right-of-center commentators had criticized “dark money” groups and their alleged close ties to the Biden administration, citing BBT as an example. [30] CNN reported that the Biden campaign received $132 million in “dark money” donations from nonprofits with anonymous donors and corporations operating as shell companies, while the Trump campaign received only $22 million. [31]

References

  1.              Hans Nichols. “Exclusive: Pro-Biden group won’t disclose donors.” Axios. March 19, 2021. Accessed May 13, 2021. https://www.axios.com/pro-biden-group-donors-disclosure-c8fc8ea3-9741-4734-94d5-99568814bd0e.html ^
  2.        Jeremy Diamond and Jeff Zeleny. “Pro-Biden outside group launching with White House’s blessing.” CNN. February 17, 2021. Accessed May 13, 2021. https://www.cnn.com/2021/02/17/politics/biden-outside-group/index.html ^
  3.       Ken Thomas and Chad Day. “Biden Allies to Launch Advocacy Group to Promote Covid-19 Relief Plan, Other Policies.” The Wall Street Journal. February 17, 2021. Accessed May 13, 2021. https://www.wsj.com/articles/biden-allies-to-launch-advocacy-group-to-promote-covid-19-relief-plan-other-policies-11613601833 ^
  4.            Hans Nichols. “Exclusive: Pro-Biden group won’t disclose donors.” Axios. March 19, 2021. Accessed May 13, 2021. https://www.axios.com/pro-biden-group-donors-disclosure-c8fc8ea3-9741-4734-94d5-99568814bd0e.html ^
  5. Adrian Carrasquillo. “Biden Outside Group Goes All In on Latino Voters to Sell COVID-19 Rescue Package.” Newsweek. April 26, 2021. Accessed May 13, 2021. https://www.newsweek.com/biden-super-pac-goes-all-latino-voters-sell-covid-19-rescue-package-1586029 ^
  6.              Team. Building Back Together. Accessed May 13, 2021. https://buildingbacktogether.org/team/ ^
  7.        Addisu Demissie. LinkedIn. Accessed May 13, 2021. https://www.linkedin.com/in/addisu-demissie-26b71516 ^
  8.       Addisu Demissie. LinkedIn. Accessed May 13, 2021. https://www.linkedin.com/in/addisu-demissie-26b71516 ^
  9.      Team. Building Back Together. Accessed May 13, 2021.https://buildingbacktogether.org/team/ ^
  10.       Leah Israel. LinkedIn. Accessed May 13, 2021.https://www.linkedin.com/in/leahisrael   ^
  11.          “Building Back Together: Launches first TV and digital ad campaign to mark first 100 days of Biden-Harris Administration.” WisPolitics.com. Accessed May 13, 2021.

    Building Back Together: Launches first TV and digital ad campaign to mark first 100 days of Biden-Harris Administration

    ^

  12.            Ken Thomas and Chad Day. “Biden Allies to Launch Advocacy Group to Promote Covid-19 Relief Plan, Other Policies.” The Wall Street Journal. February 17, 2021. Accessed May 13, 2021. https://www.wsj.com/articles/biden-allies-to-launch-advocacy-group-to-promote-covid-19-relief-plan-other-policies-1161360183 ^
  13.         “Building Back Together: Launches first TV and digital ad campaign to mark first 100 days of Biden-Harris Administration.” WisPolitics.com. Accessed May 13, 2021. https://www.wispolitics.com/2021/building-back-together-launches-first-tv-and-digital-ad-campaign-to-mark-first-100-days-of-biden-harris-administration/ ^
  14.        “Building Back Together: Launches first TV and digital ad campaign to mark first 100 days of Biden-Harris Administration.” WisPolitics.com. Accessed May 13, 2021. https://www.wispolitics.com/2021/building-back-together-launches-first-tv-and-digital-ad-campaign-to-mark-first-100-days-of-biden-harris-administration/ ^
  15.            Rafael Bernal. “Exclusive: Pro-Biden group launches family reunification campaign.” The Hill. May 10, 2021. Accessed May 13, 2021. https://thehill.com/latino/552581-exclusive-pro-biden-outside-group-launches-family-reunification-campaign ^
  16.   Adrian Carrasquillo. “Biden Outside Group Goes All In on Latino Voters to Sell COVID-19 Rescue Package.” Newsweek. April 26, 2021. Accessed May 13, 2021. https://www.newsweek.com/biden-super-pac-goes-all-latino-voters-sell-covid-19-rescue-package-1586029 ^
  17.        “Voto Latino Joins Building Back Together to Ensure Latino Concerns at Top of National Agenda.” PR Newswire. April 26, 2021. Accessed May 13, 2021. https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/voto-latino-joins-building-back-together-to-ensure-latino-concerns-at-top-of-national-agenda-301276835.html ^
  18.         Adrian Carrasquillo. “Biden Outside Group Goes All In on Latino Voters to Sell COVID-19 Rescue Package.” Newsweek. April 26, 2021. Accessed May 13, 2021. https://www.newsweek.com/biden-super-pac-goes-all-latino-voters-sell-covid-19-rescue-package-1586029 ^
  19.             Team. Building Back Together. Accessed May 13, 2021.

    Team

    ^

  20. Danielle Melfi. LinkedIn. Accessed May 13, 2021. https://www.linkedin.com/in/daniellemelfi/ ^
  21.            Team. Building Back Together. Accessed May 13, 2021. https://buildingbacktogether.org/team/ ^
  22.            Mayra Macias. Netroots Nation. Accessed May 13, 2021. https://www.netrootsnation.org/profile/mayra-macias/ ^
  23.        Adrian Carrasquillo. “Biden Outside Group Goes All In on Latino Voters to Sell COVID-19 Rescue Package.” Newsweek. April 26, 2021. Accessed May 13, 2021. https://www.newsweek.com/biden-super-pac-goes-all-latino-voters-sell-covid-19-rescue-package-1586029 ^
  24.        Team. Building Back Together. Accessed May 13, 2021. https://buildingbacktogether.org/team/ ^
  25.        Stephanie Cutter. Precision Strategies. Accessed May 13, 2021.

    Stephanie Cutter

    ^

  26.             Team. Building Back Together. Accessed May 13, 2021. https://buildingbacktogether.org/team/ ^
  27.          Patrick Bonsignore. LinkedIn. Accessed May 13, 2021. https://www.linkedin.com/in/patrickbonsignore/ ^
  28.        Hans Nichols. “Exclusive: Pro-Biden group won’t disclose donors.” Axios. March 19, 2021. Accessed May 13, 2021. https://www.axios.com/pro-biden-group-donors-disclosure-c8fc8ea3-9741-4734-94d5-99568814bd0e.html ^
  29.         Katherine Doyle. “Biden allies to launch ‘dark money’ group with White House blessing.” Washington Examiner. February 18, 2021. Accessed May 13, 2021. https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/news/biden-allies-dark-money-group-white-house-blessing ^
  30.        Brett Samuels. “Conservatives slam ties between liberal groups, White House.” The Hill. April 14, 2021. Accessed May 13, 2021. https://thehill.com/homenews/administration/548092-conservatives-slam-ties-between-liberal-groups-white-house ^
  31.            Fredreka Schouten. “Democrats deride ‘dark’ money, but a new analysis shows it helped boost Joe Biden.” CNN. November 27, 2020. Accessed May 13, 2021. https://www.cnn.com/2020/11/27/politics/dark-money-democrats-joe-biden/index.html ^
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