It's not clear whether former Vice President Joe Biden will run for president in 2020. But something else is apparent: He's making money by keeping the public guessing. He pocketed a $150,000 speaking fee for a January trip to the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, according to newly unearthed public records.
Biden visited Fort Lauderdale, arguably home to America's most important concentration of establishment Democratic Party fans, January 28. And despite the huge number of skeletons in Biden's closet — he at one point argued against school desegregation in 1975 and was perhaps the loudest cheerleader for the War on Drugs in the '80s and '90s — the party's center-leaning wing is begging him to announce his candidacy.
At his Broward Center appearance, Biden danced around whether he would run for the White House. He reportedly told the crowd he would "make the decision soon." According to the Sun Sentinel, Biden blathered for ten to 15 minutes per question on inane topics such as "America's soul." The newspaper strongly implied the event was pretty boring.
As it turns out, Biden's hosts knew ahead of time the former VP wouldn't say anything controversial. That's because, according to copies of Biden's contract and rider obtained by MapLight, a nonprofit that tracks money in politics, the questions in Biden's supposed Q&A session were approved in advance.
"Questions for the Moderated Conversation will be provided to Artist at least two (2) weeks in advance of the Engagement for Artist's review and written approval," the contract states. "Moderator is subject to Artist's advance written approval."
The contract indicates even audience questions were prescreened so nobody could zing him. "Questions by the audience shall be submitted via question cards in advance, which will be triaged for content, quality, and topic by Artist's representative before being submitted to the moderator."
Joe Biden was paid $150,000 to answer a series of approved questions at the Broward Center two weeks ago, including about whether he would run for president (still thinking about it!). Read the contract - and please credit @MapLight https://t.co/R9n4joi6kp https://t.co/zkRL1mmrKU— Andrew Perez (@andrewperezdc) February 15, 2019
Instead of announcing for president and asking everyone for donations, Biden has been doing campaign style events where he can personally collect $150,000 pic.twitter.com/rF15sszxHZ— Andrew Perez (@andrewperezdc) February 15, 2019
The payments — two installments of $75,000 each — went to CelticCapri Corp., a Delaware-based shell company named for Joe and Jill Biden's Secret Service code names, "Celtic" and "Capri."
The contracts yet again raise questions about Biden's morals and alleged self-obsession. He is apparently happy to fly around the country making huge chunks of change off people coming to see him probably because he might be the next U.S. president.
Powerful Democrats and Republicans alike have massive problems with morally questionable speaking gigs: Both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, for example, have made gigantic cash windfalls from addressing insurance executives for the health-care industry.
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MapLight unearthed the contracts as Biden's career is coming under new scrutiny. The former Delaware senator spent decades in politics, but his career achievements have been almost universally on the conservative side. In 1975, for example, he argued against busing black students to white schools. In fact, Biden developed a lifelong friendship with segregationist Dixiecrat Strom Thurmond, one of the most classically racist villains of the '50s and '60s civil rights era. Biden and Thurmond famously worked together on a 1984 drug-war bill that expanded drug-trafficking penalties and bolstered the use of civil-asset forfeiture, the extremely controversial technique that allows cops to take virtually any property from a drug suspect, even one who hasn't been convicted. And Biden delivered a eulogy at Thurmond's funeral.
Biden's career in the '80s and '90s centered on locking up poor black and brown people for drugs. He was a barbaric drug warrior. Biden was the author of a racist bill that ratcheted up prison sentences for people caught with crack cocaine instead of the powdered variety. The law was used for decades primarily against impoverished black users, while upper-class white cocaine users got off relatively unscathed.
In 2003, Biden sponsored the RAVE Act, which imposed penalties on property owners and landlords who knowingly let others hold rave parties in their venues. According to Vox, the bill might have actually made raves more dangerous because it forced many organizers to stop offering makeshift drug-safety or treatment services at parties. At a few junctures in his career, Biden even lambasted Republicans for being too soft on drugs.
Of course, Biden wasn't asked anything tough at his Fort Lauderdale appearance. Instead, his tour rider stated the Broward Center would buy him a plate of spaghetti