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

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WASHINGTON -- As Republicans prepare to use their new House majority to probe the Biden administration and the business dealings of the president's son, Hunter, Democrats are assembling a constellation of groups to respond.
President Joe Biden has not said whether he will run for re-election, but the groups are said to be defending him and discrediting the opposition -- including an intense opposition research effort on Republicans leading the impeachment in Congress -- ahead of a likely rematch with former President Donald Trump in 2024.
In the last two weeks, three new "war rooms" have sprung up to fight investigations by House Republicans, each backed by multimillion-dollar dark money budgets and some of the Democratic Party's most prominent agents. Meanwhile, the Democratic National Committee and major outside groups are already gearing up to move from 2022 to 2024.
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"It is clear that the White House has prepared for the expected barrage of baseless investigations by House Republicans, and outside groups are a key component," said Adrienne Elrod, who helped direct Correct the Record, which Hillary Clinton proposed Congressional investigations before the 2016 defended presidential campaign ran.
Every White House has faced congressional scrutiny. But the abundance of well-funded groups shows the eagerness among Democratic donors to defend Biden -- or at least stop Trump -- and a recognition that the battle for public opinion is at least as important as the legal one, as it lays the foundation for it will next campaign.
"It's important that the opposition doesn't get the upper hand when it comes to defining a false narrative, and outside groups can help prevent that from happening," Elrod noted.
The White House itself has been preparing for the spate of investigations for months, adding both legal and public relations firepower to the Office of the White House Counsel, which is stepping up its efforts, and encouraging federal agencies to take similar steps.
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That summer, when it looked likely that Republicans would win one or both houses of Congress, a small group of White House staffers began to outline possible investigative angles and keep a close eye on leading Republican investigators, including investigative letters that sent them to federal agencies.
"There are many limitations on government when responding to oversight investigations -- even if they're blatantly wrong -- but none of them apply to outside groups," said Eric Schultz, a former Obama White House spokesman who speaks to investigators daily Republican Congress prior to President Barack Obama's re-election in 2012.
For example, federal law prohibits government officials from engaging in political activity. And the White House prefers to stay above the political fray anyway. So outside groups can provide political and PR support, especially in the absence of a Biden campaign, and get caught in the mud on particularly sensitive issues like Hunter Biden.
Both sides insist they are only after the truth. But the politics of the situation is undeniable and only thinly veiled.
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, who is poised to use his likely judiciary committee chair to aggressively investigate alleged politicization of the Justice Department, said at CPAC last month that the GOP majority will work to "make the 2024 race to design. ”
"These are bogus investigations. You can take Jordan at his word," said Kyle Herrig, the founder and executive director of one of the new war rooms, the Congressional Integrity Project, which is being restarted to counter the investigation. "They have no agenda to help Americans. They only have one agenda and it is a political agenda.”
The Congressional Integrity Project, which already has focus groups underway, promises to address both offense and defense. It plans to examine lawmakers investigating Biden, many of whom hail from the safe districts of Congress and have never faced tough elections and the kind of opposition research and media scrutiny that it entails.
"We will leave no stone unturned. Nobody did the investigations that we did on these investigators. People in glass houses shouldn't throw stones," Herrig said. "We have a multi-million dollar budget and are assembling a team of researchers and communicators."
Herrig's group is collaborating with another, Courage for America, which has just started. While the Congressional Integrity Project focuses on the investigation, Courage for America focuses on the legislation and personalities of the entire House GOP caucus.
That means, among other things, making red-hot freshman lawmakers famous. And it means highlighting and mobilizing opposition to GOP policies, such as a proposed national ban on abortion and potential cuts to Social Security and Medicare.
"The American people need to be informed and educated about the extremist agenda of this new House, and also about who these members are," said Zac Petkanas, who was the Clinton campaign's rapid response campaign director and is now supporting a Courage for America campaign war room directs . "It's a very dangerous new caucus and we'll be there every day to make sure people know about it."
With a seven-figure budget and the support of the Hub Project, a vast democratic dark money network, the group plans a robust operation that will include polling, paid advertising and social media campaigns, as well as traditional opposition research and communications.
The third group, Facts First, was started by David Brock, the former self-proclaimed "right-wing hitman" who then converted politically and used his fundraising talent to start a series of groups that have become vital parts of the democratic infrastructure are . These include Media Matters and American Bridge, both of which he retired to found Facts First.
Brock said an American Bridge donor has already pledged six figures to support Facts First, which he believes will have a budget of $10 million over two years. Co-founders include former Republican Rep. David Jolly, a Trump critic who has since left the party, and longtime Democratic strategist Maria Cardona.
Unlike the other two groups, Facts First, in order to maintain its independence, chose not to formally approach the White House for its blessing, although backchannel communications led it to believe the effort was welcome.
Brock, who also founded the pro-Clinton Correct the Record, said the experience taught him the new group needed to be more aggressive on social media and do more polling to understand how Americans view the controversy du jour .
"I believe that without a vigorous operation like the one we're conducting, it makes it difficult for President Biden to get re-elected," he said, before quickly adding, "it's really the Republicans that are making this a political issue." We are doing this in response.”
Of the new groups, Brock's appears to be working most closely with Hunter Biden and his legal team, led by entertainment attorney Kevin Morris.
Hunter Biden's relationship, struggles with drugs and alcohol, and business efforts to fund it all will surely be a focus of Republican investigations. Republicans have long argued that Biden helped his son's foreign operations -- the claim was central to Trump's first impeachment -- but are still looking for evidence to prove it.
Brock recently traveled to Los Angeles to meet with Hunter Biden and said he got off with peace of mind.
"I didn't come out of it nervous. I came out of this thought that over time we can show that this is a Republican fantasy narrative fueled by a lot of unreliable witnesses and false conspiracy theories," he said. "For me, the main story here is about an addict who has mental health problems that run in most families in America. ... I also think it's the story of Joe Biden as an empathetic father.”
This article was originally published on NBCNews.com
Joe Biden
President of the United States since 2021
Hunter Biden
Joe Biden's son

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