Pete Buttigieg asked if taking big money out of politics includes not taking money from billionaires, he responds: 'No'

Conrad Duncan
Pete Buttigieg responds to a question about taking donations from billionaires in Iowa: Greg Chung

Pete Buttigieg implied that he would take money off billionaires and closed-door fundraisers during a terse exchange with a student activist, amid growing criticism of the Democratic candidate’s fundraising strategy.

The 2020 presidential candidate has come under scrutiny for his decision to take money from wealthy donors after a number of Democrats have pledged to take “big money” out of politics.

Greg Chung, a student activist from Iowa, challenged Mr Buttigieg about his fundraising at a campaign event over the weekend.

“I wanted to ask if you think that taking big money out of politics includes not taking money off of billionaires and closed-door fundraisers,” Mr Chung said.

Mr Buttigieg flatly replied “No” before immediately turning away to talk to another person.

The candidate, who is also the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, faced direct criticism from Elizabeth Warren, a 2020 Democratic rival, on Friday over his decision to hold closed-door fundraisers.

Ms Warren, along with Bernie Sanders, has pledged to run her campaign without “big money” donors and said she will focus on grassroots donations from supporters.

“I think that Mayor Pete should open up the doors so that anyone can come in and report on what’s being said,” she told reporters.

“Those doors shouldn’t be closed, and no one should be left to wonder what kind of promises are being made to the people that then pony up big bucks to be in the room.”

Mr Buttigieg refused to say last week if he would make his fundraising events open to the press when he was asked about the issue by a reporter.

“There are a lot of considerations and I’m thinking about it,” he replied.

When a different reporter asked him if he could give an example of those considerations, Mr Buttigieg responded with another flat “No”.

Yet a recent Monmouth University poll showed Mr Buttigieg leading in Iowa on 22 per cent with Ms Warren in third place on 18 per cent, behind former vice president Joe Biden on 19 per cent.

The Democratic candidate is also facing questions about his time working for the consulting firm McKinsey from 2007 to 2010.

Mr Buttigieg has said he cannot discuss some details of his work due to a nondisclosure agreement he signed.

He added that his campaign is trying to make the details of his time at McKinsey public but insisted his work mainly consisted of “doing mathematical analysis, conducting research, and preparing presentations”.

The issue has led to a feud with Ms Warren over transparency as the two battle for the lead in the influential Iowa caucuses in February, the first major contest of the Democratic presidential primary.

In an apparent challenge to Mr Buttigieg, Ms Warren has released details of her past legal income, showing nearly $2m (£1.5m) in compensation over a period dating back to 1985.

The Buttigieg campaign has said he is working on making details of his employment “fully transparent.”

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