Warren, Buttigieg clash over donors at debate

Christopher Wilson
Senior Writer


The simmering feud between Democratic candidates Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg boiled over at Thursday night’s debate.

Warren attacked Buttigieg for the high-dollar donors he’s courted, including at a swanky Sunday night fundraiser in Napa Valley. 

“So the mayor just recently had a fundraiser that was held in a wine cave full of crystals and served $900 a bottle wine,” said Warren. “Think about who comes to that. He had promised that every fundraiser he would do would be open door, but this one was closed door. We made the decision many years ago that rich people in smoke-filled rooms would not pick the next president of the United States. Billionaires in wine caves should not pick the next president of the United States.” 

Buttigieg’s response was that he’d welcome the financial support of anyone who wanted to defeat President Trump. He said he was the least wealthy person on the stage, and that Warren, who has sworn off high-dollar fundraisers for her presidential campaign, raised money from large donors in her Senate race. 

“This is the problem with issuing purity tests you cannot yourself pass,” replied Buttigieg. “If I pledged never to be in the company of a progressive Democratic donor, I couldn’t be up here. Senator, your net worth is 100 times mine. Now, supposing you went home and feeling the holiday spirit — I know this isn’t likely but stay with me — and decided to go on to PeteForAmerica.com and give the maximum allowable by law: $2,800. Would that pollute my campaign because it came from a wealthy person? No, I would be glad to have that support.”

Pete Buttigieg, left, and Elizabeth Warren. (Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Warren shot back that she had pledged not to appoint big-dollar donors as ambassadors, a long-standing bipartisan tradition among past presidents, and that Buttigieg had failed to do the same. 

The Buttigieg campaign had promised to release the names of all its high-dollar bundlers, but its initial disclosure was incomplete, leaving out hedge fund investors and former ambassadors. 

Sen. Bernie Sanders weighed in as well, stating that he had no billionaire donors, while Joe Biden had 44 and Buttigieg had 39. Those figures were contained in an analysis by Forbes magazine of Federal Election Committee data through the first nine months of 2019. But Sen. Kamala Harris, who exited the race earlier this month, led the field with 46 billionaire contributors.

The Sanders campaign had also set up www.peteswinecave.com, which redirected to a donation page for the Vermont senator.

Tom Steyer, himself a billionaire, blamed the influence of corporations on politics. Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota said she did not come to the debate to talk about donations but noted she had never been to a wine cave. She recommended a place she had visited, the Wind Cave National Park, in South Dakota.


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