In this article it is stated that 13 Biden campaign staff members made donations to the Minnesota Freedom Fund, a foundation that pays the bail fees for imprisoned people, including those arrested during protests in Minneapolis. The campaign clarified the point that it was individual actions taken by people on their own.

But let's try a thought exercise: if we assume that this action is a political one, what are the possible benefits? By doing so they could give the impression that they are helping so-called "bad guys" continue their actions since the bail fees are no longer a threat. Would this be well received by US citizens? I mean, I don't think that people imprisoned during protests represent the majority of the voters. So here is my question:

What, if any, are the political advantages of paying bail fees of people accused of rioting in Minneapolis?

P.S. This is view from Switzerland where I live, I'm not a US citizen and I don't have an opinion regarding the current US campaign.

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    Welcome on Politics.SE . The article you link to mentions that Biden's campaign opposes bail-out system as a whole and that their donation were not to given specifically for protesters (even less "rioters" and "looters"). Are you looking for something else ? On a side note
    – Evargalo
    Commented Aug 25, 2020 at 9:16
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    'The bad guys'? What ever happened to due process?
    – Strawberry
    Commented Aug 25, 2020 at 9:34
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    Is there a difference between "Biden" and "Biden campaign staff members"? Commented Aug 25, 2020 at 9:49
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    I share most of the concerns with the framing and tone of the question but I think that came from a genuine surprise and my answer shows that it could be addressed constructively to the satisfaction of the OP so I don't see any reason to close it. Also, it clearly isn't “off-topic“.
    – Relaxed
    Commented Aug 25, 2020 at 13:20
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    @Relaxed I think you've provided a good answer, but even the edits of the question leave a number of assumptions that should really be directly addressed. That the donation is an action taken by the campaign, that it directly relates to the 2020 riots all, what a "political action" means in the context of the question need to be clarified.
    – Jontia
    Commented Aug 25, 2020 at 14:45

2 Answers 2


I think that the missing context is the nature and consequences of the cash bond system in the United States. That might not be a winning issue with the American public in general but that certainly is something the left wing of the Democratic party and African-American community would be sensitive to, even without necessarily condoning the violence and destruction itself (remember that these riots stem from the killing of a black man by the police, that context is always very salient).

In most countries, pre-trial detention is supposed to be a technical way to deal with issues like flight risk or tampering with evidence, not a punishment or something you fear. Importantly, those who have been arrested have not been found guilty of anything at this point. Cash bonds add a lot of perverse incentives to the system and disproportionately impact the poor and minorities.

It's very well possible that some of those arrested did nothing illegal, will eventually be found not guilty (whether they did something or not) or end up receiving a very mild sentence. Pre-trial detention and the inability to “make bail” (pay for a cash bond) means they will be under pressure to admit to things they haven't done or see their lives teared apart (not showing up for work, which can easily lead to losing your livelihood and place of living) without even having been sentenced to anything.

In a riot situation, there is also always some concerns about the standard of evidence (even if some law enforcement agencies try to use video-surveillance both to establish the crime, identify the perpetrators and enable arrest in a less dangerous situation) and the proportionality of the response.

Now, regarding campaign strategy, treating “US citizens” as a monolithic group (presumably invoking images of some white family in the suburbs of middle America as we so often see on TV) can be highly misleading. A majority (especially the Democratic coalition) is made of many minorities, which Biden needs to string together and motivate to vote if he wants to win.

If you look at their past (voting) record, the Biden-Harris ticket is very much moderate/right-of-center, with a history of pro-business and tough-on-crime politics. That puts them in a delicate position towards the Black Lives Matter movement or the left wing of the Democratic party for example. For them, there are huge cons on both sides of the debate on defunding the police or dealing with riots. Even peaceful protests pose a problem for the campaign, they would find it difficult to fully embrace the demands of the BLM movement.

That's precisely why the campaign initially seemed to refuse to comment on the record and tries to stick to the “protesters have the right to be angry but that more violence won’t solve justice problems” line (in other words: we don't like riots either but it's not simply a problem of “bad guys” rioting for no reason). In that context, the donations could be a way to show the more politically active corners of the Internet that they care about criminal justice reform and racial inequalities issues while still maintaining some distance with the candidate himself.

It also seems entirely possible to me that the donations were made by party insiders who personally feel very strongly about the issue, without any coordination or approval at the top level. In any political party, activists will tend to have firmly held positions that do not necessarily line up with the broader public mood.


There are a couple of assumptions in the question that need to be addressed directly. As comments are not permanent, the only way to do this is to provide an answer.

13 Biden campaign staff members made donations to a foundation that pays the bail fees of people imprisoned during protests in Minneapolis.

The Minnesota Freedom Fund, the unnamed foundation in the question, is not focused on the recent protests in the way this quote suggests. Their mission statement is;

Since 2016, our mission has been to pay criminal bail and immigration bonds for those who cannot afford to, as we seek to end discriminatory, intimidating and oppressive money bail.

At Minnesota Freedom Fund, we believe that wealth should never determine who is kept in jail. That’s what the money bail system does. It puts a price on freedom that only a few can afford and many cannot. This system is unjust.

So while they may well be paying bail for people involved in the riots it is not their only cause.

By doing so they could give the impression that they are helping "bad guys" continue their actions since the bail fees are no longer a threat.

The pinned thread on MFF's twitter feed includes some data addressing this;

It’s important to remember that iIn MN, >60% of those incarcerated are being held in pre-trial detention — they are presumed innocent & are waiting for their day in court.

The last point I want to address is the phrase in the question;

If we assume that this action is a political one, I don't see how the pros can exceed the cons.

As far as I can see from the article linked in the OP, the only named staffer is "Collen May". Her Twitter feed and Linked In Profile place her at just above entry level in the campaign, certainly not someone who would be involved in national strategy planning or message direction. And this is presumably the best and highest profile of the 13 "staffers" the writer had to offer.

Volunteer training and relationship building
Engagement event planning and execution (in-person and virtual)
Digital organizing
Door-to-door voter canvassing
Phone canvassing and volunteer recruitment

All actions are political in some way, but given the older version of the question in the edit chain, this appears to be suggesting that the donations are a political action by the Biden Campaign. This position is not justified by any action or statement from the campaign itself or the position held by the "staffers" themselves. Guilt by association is a common political tool, just not a healthy one.

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    Thanks for the clarification. I did a research on Twitter and I found a lot of people showing their donation to MFF during the period mentioned in the Reuters article, the 13 people simply followed the chain. I was mislead by the wording of the article which strongly suggest that the donations were political.
    – Genorme
    Commented Aug 26, 2020 at 8:26

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