There is a growing shadow campaign to defend Joe Biden from House Republicans

WASHINGTON — As Republicans prepare to use their new House majorities to investigate the Biden administration and the business dealings of the president’s son Hunter, Democrats are assembling a constellation of groups to fight back.

President Joe Biden hasn’t said if he’s running for re-election, but the groups are designed to defend him and denigrate the opposition — including launching a massive opposition search effort on impeachment Republicans in Congress — ahead of a potential rematch with former President Donald Trump in 2024. .

Three new “war rooms” have popped up in the past two weeks to combat the House GOP investigation, each backed by dark multimillion-dollar budgets and some known operatives in the Democratic Party. Meanwhile, the Democratic National Committee and major outside groups are already working on its realignment to go from 2022 to 2024.

“Clearly, the White House was preparing for the expected barrage of futile investigations from House Republicans, and outside groups are an essential component,” said Adrienne Elrod, who helped run the Correction of Record, who defended Hillary Clinton from congressional investigations prior to 2016. The presidential campaign was up and running.

Every White House has faced congressional investigations. But the surplus of well-funded groups shows an eagerness among Democratic donors to defend Biden — or at least stop Trump — and a recognition that the struggle for public opinion is just as important as the legal battle, because it will lay the groundwork for the next campaign.

“It is important that the opposition not have the upper hand in determining a false narrative, and outside groups can help mitigate this from happening,” Elrod added.

The White House itself has been preparing for months for an avalanche of investigations, adding firepower in legal affairs and public relations to the Office of the White House Counsel, which supports its efforts, and encourages federal agencies to take similar steps.

This summer, as Republicans looked likely to win one or both houses of Congress, a small group of White House staffers began mapping potential investigative angles, with Republican investigators closely watching, including the investigative letters they sent to federal agencies.

said Eric Schultz, a former White House spokesman who sparred daily with Republican congressional investigators before President Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election bid.

For example, federal law prohibits government officials from engaging in politics. And the White House would prefer to stay above the political fray anyway. Therefore, outside groups can provide political and PR support, especially in the absence of the Biden campaign, and can get bogged down in the mud on particularly sensitive issues such as Hunter Biden.

Both sides insist that they are directly seeking the truth. But the politics of the situation are undeniably thinly veiled.

Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, who is preparing to use his potential Judiciary Committee chairmanship to vigorously investigate the Justice Department’s alleged politicization, said last month at CPAC that the GOP majority would “frame the 2024 race.”

These are bogus investigations. “You can take Jordan’s word for it,” said Kyle Herig, founder and CEO of one of the new war rooms, the Congressional Integrity Project, which is relaunching to counter investigations. They do not have an agenda that helps Americans. They only have one agenda and that is a political agenda.”

The Congressional Integrity Project, which already has focus groups under way, promises to be as much about offense as it is about defense. And it plans to investigate lawmakers investigating Biden, many of whom hail from safe congressional districts and have never faced a difficult election and the kind of opposition research and media scrutiny it brings.

“We’ll leave no stone unturned. Nobody did the investigative research we did on these investigators. People in greenhouses shouldn’t be throwing stones,” Herrig said. “We have a multimillion-dollar budget, we have a team of researchers and communicators.”

Herrig’s group is working with another group, Courage for America, which just launched. While the Congressional Integrity Project focuses on investigations, Courage for America focuses on legislation and personalities in the entire House Republican caucus.

Among other things, this means making controversial new legislators famous. That means highlighting and mobilizing opposition to GOP policies, such as a proposed national abortion ban and potential cuts to Social Security and Medicare.

“The American people need to be made aware of the extremist agenda of this new house and educated about who these members are,” said Zack Petkanas, who was the director of rapid response for the Clinton campaign and now runs a war room with support from Courage for America. . “It’s a very serious new caucus and we’ll be there every day to make sure people know about it.”

With a seven-figure budget and backing from the Hub Project, a giant democratic dark money network, the group plans an aggressive operation including polling, paid advertising and social media campaigns, along with traditional opposition research and communications.

The third group, Facts First, was started by David Brock, a self-described “right-wing hitman” who then turned political and used his fundraising talent to start a series of groups that became key parts of the democratic infrastructure. . Among them are Media Matters and American Bridge, both of which he walked away from to start Facts First.

Brock said an American Bridge donor has already pledged six figures to support Facts First, which he said will likely have a budget of $10 million over two years. Co-founders include former Republican Rep. David Golly, a Trump critic who has since left the party, and longtime Democratic strategist Maria Cardona.

Unlike the other two groups, in order to maintain its independence, Fact First decided not to formally approach the White House for its blessing, though back-channel contacts led him to believe the effort was welcome.

Brock, who also founded the pro-Clinton Correct the Record Foundation, said the experience taught him the new group needed to be more aggressive on social media and do more opinion research to understand how Americans view the controversy.

He said, before quickly adding that “Republicans are really making this a political issue. We’re doing it in response to that.”

Among the new groups, Brock appears to be working closely with Hunter Biden and his legal team, led by entertainment attorney Kevin Morris.

Hunter Biden’s relationship, struggles with drugs and alcohol, and Labor’s efforts to fund it all are sure to be a major focus of Republican inquiries. Republicans have long argued that Biden assisted his son in foreign business dealings — the allegation was at the center of Trump’s first impeachment trial — but they are still searching for evidence to substantiate it.

Brock recently traveled to Los Angeles to meet with Hunter Biden and said he returned reassured.

“I came out of it unnerved. I came out of it thinking that we’re going to be able to show, over time, this is a Republican fiction driven by a lot of unreliable witnesses and bogus conspiracy theories,” he said. “For me, the main story here is about an addict who has psychological issues of the kind found in most families in America. … I also think it’s the story of Joe Biden as an empathetic father.”

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