Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenHillicon Valley: Biden calls on Facebook to change political speech rules | Dems demand hearings after Georgia election chaos | Microsoft stops selling facial recognition tech to police Trump finalizing executive order calling on police to use ‘force with compassion’ The Hill’s Campaign Report: Biden campaign goes on offensive against Facebook MORE made $200,000 speaking to a Republican-leaning audience in the battleground state of Michigan just weeks before November’s midterm elections.
Biden spoke in Benton Harbor, Mich., for the Economic Club of Southwestern Michigan, according to a speaking contract and interviews with organizers reported by The New York Times. The group is linked to Rep. Fred UptonFrederick (Fred) Stephen UptonHoyer: Infrastructure package to hit floor this month Republicans walk tightrope on police reform Bipartisan Senate group offers new help to state, local governments MORE (R-Mich.), who was also in the audience for the speech, according to the Times.
The contract reportedly made it clear that the audience would be “primarily older, conservative Republicans and local community members.” It is unclear whether the $200,000 fee was standard for other speeches Biden has given.
The former vice president reportedly during the speech praised Upton, the congressman from the area who was facing a tight reelection race, calling him a champion in the fight against cancer and “one of the finest guys I’ve ever worked with,” referring to Upton’s support for a medical research law.
Upton’s family foundation helps support the Economic Club of Southwestern Michigan. Upton told the Times that he had “no idea” Biden would refer to him.
People involved in the event’s planning told the Times that Biden was not urged to praise Upton, suggesting the comments were a result of the congressman’s role in forming the 21st Century Cures Act after Biden’s eldest son Beau Biden died from cancer.
“It was one of the few bipartisan bills passed in an otherwise deeply divided and gridlocked Congress,” Bill Russo, a spokesman for Biden, told the Times. “Vice President Biden believes to his core that you can disagree politically on a lot and still work together in good faith on issues of common cause — like funding cancer research.”
Biden’s comments quickly found their way into Republican advertising and the local Democratic Party pleaded with Biden to walk back his comments, which he never did, according to the Times. Upton eventually won his reelection bid by 4.5 points.
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Biden “received hundreds of requests for endorsements from all over the country and endorsed in 135 races this cycle where his impact could be greatest,” Russo told the Times, regarding the decision to not endorse Upton’s Democratic challenger.
Biden’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Hill.
The report from the Times comes as the former vice president is considering a potential 2020 presidential bid.