Biden: I Tried to 'Prostitute Myself' to Big Donors During First Senate Run

VIDEO: Biden also compared himself to 'the token black,' 'the token woman'

Joe Biden
March 27, 2019

Former Vice President Joe Biden said during a 1974 discussion on campaign finance that he tried to "prostitute" himself to big donors during his first run for U.S. Senate but failed to get their money because he was too young.

His youth, however, was what enabled Biden to raise enough money to win, he explained.

"I'm like the token black or the token woman," Biden said. "I was the token young person."

Biden's comments came during an appearance on The Advocates, a weekly debate program that aired on PBS in the 1970s. Biden, then in his second year as a U.S. senator, was invited to argue in favor of public funding for political campaigns and contribution limits for individuals.

Biden argued the political system was inherently corrupt because it forced candidates to go to the "people who have money," and "they always want something." He called it the "most degrading experience in the world."

"You run the risk of deciding whether or not you're going to prostitute yourself to give the answer you know they want to hear in order to get funded to run for that office," Biden testified during the program.

Biden admits he decided to "prostitute" himself, but was denied because of his age.

"I went to the big guys for the money," Biden said. "I was ready to prostitute myself in the manner in which I talk about it, but what happened was they said, 'Come back when you're 40, son.'"

"So I had to go out, I had to go out to a number of small contributors," he said.

Biden goes on to say his ability to raise money despite his rejection from big donors—he said he raised $276,000—was due to his unique identity as a young person.

"I'm a 29-year-old oddball," he said. "The only reason I was able to raise the money is that I was able to have a national constituency to run for office, because I was 29."

"I'm like the token black or the token woman," Biden said. "I was the token young person."

Biden, now 76 years old, faces a different predicament. As he prepares to launch his presidential campaign, Biden has reportedly expressed concerns that he'll be unable to amass the small donations that carried two of his main rivals, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) and former congressman Beto O'Rourke, to giant opening fundraising hauls.

The former vice president has been reaching out to deep-pocketed donors to ensure he'll be able to quickly raise several million dollars, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Biden complained during the 1974 program that big donors are able to decide who can and cannot run for office.

"How long is the American public going to put up with a small group of men and organizations determining the political process by deciding who can run and who can't run?" Biden asked.

 Biden's full appearance on The Advocates can still be viewed on PBS.

A spokesperson at the Biden Foundation did not respond to a request for comment.

Published under: 2020 Election , Joe Biden