President Biden’s reelection effort is opening an office near the White House as a workspace for recently departed presidential aides and a staging ground for campaign officials who have been traveling regularly to the White House from Delaware, according to three people familiar with the plans.
The office, which will be funded by the Democratic National Committee, will serve as a home base for Mike Donilon, who is leaving the White House to serve as the Biden campaign’s chief strategist, and an occasional office for Jen O’Malley Dillon, who is leaving the White House to become campaign chair. Other top campaign aides will use the site when they travel to Washington to meet with Biden and other White House officials, the people said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss plans that are not yet public.
The creation of what is in essence a way station between the White House and the Wilmington, Del.-based campaign highlights Biden’s decision to keep most of his top aides with him at the White House, where they work on politics in their free time. It comes after Biden dispatched O’Malley Dillon and Donilon, two of his closest advisers, to the campaign earlier this week, nearly nine months after launching his reelection bid.
Allies of the president, including former president Barack Obama, had raised concerns about the structure of Biden’s campaign, in which Biden kept his closest aides at the White House and did not fully empower his campaign operation in Wilmington. The reassignment of Donilon and O’Malley Dillon aims to change that, but the creation of the new office suggests they often will not be far away.
Donilon and O’Malley Dillon are expected to move to the campaign full time early next month. O’Malley Dillon plans to commute weekly from Washington to Wilmington, Del., and spend most of the workweek at campaign headquarters, the officials said.
In addition, top campaign advisers — including campaign manager Julie Chavez Rodriguez, principal deputy campaign manager Quentin Fulks, deputy campaign manager Rob Flaherty and communications director Michael Tyler — have been making regular trips to Washington for White House meetings with the president and others. The office will provide them a staging ground for those meetings, so they do not have to wait in the White House lobby or at nearby coffee shops, the people said.
A spokesperson for the Biden campaign declined to comment.
O’Malley Dillon ran Biden’s general election campaign in 2020 and has been a principal architect of the president’s reelection effort while serving as Biden’s deputy chief of staff in the White House. Donilon, who has worked for Biden for decades, oversaw Biden’s message and strategy in the 2020 campaign and has replicated that role at the White House.
Chavez Rodriguez, who is based full time in Wilmington, will remain the campaign manager.
Biden wanted his campaign to be headquartered in his hometown of Wilmington, even though some campaign officials worried about creating two unequal power centers as most of Biden’s top aides stay in Washington. It is traditional for presidents to locate their reelection headquarters outside Washington — Obama’s was in Chicago — to signal to voters that they remain in touch with the people and have not been captured by the nation’s capital.
The opening of the Biden campaign’s Washington office, however, reflects the reality that many of the president’s top aides remain in Washington and continue to work for the White House, using their free time to work on the campaign. Federal law prohibits using federal resources or workspaces for campaign work, and Biden’s aides have been holding regular meetings in the White House residence, where political business can be conducted. The new office will provide a place for these aides when they work on Biden’s reelection.
That group includes Chief of Staff Jeff Zients, Communications Director Ben LaBolt, Political Director Emmy Ruiz and senior White House advisers Anita Dunn, Steve Ricchetti, Anthony Bernal and Annie Tomasini.