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Buttigieg Campaign Omitted Top Wall Street Donors From Disclosure

Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaking with attendees at the 2019 California Democratic Party State Convention at the George R. Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco, California.
Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaking with attendees at the 2019 California Democratic Party State Convention at the George R. Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco, California. (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

“The first time I saw this list, I said, ‘There is no way this is comprehensive.’ It’s just kind of mind-blowing that they would be this dishonest.”

Last week, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg responded to Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s demand that he open his private fundraisers to the media and disclose his high-dollar donors, or “bundlers,” by releasing a list of over 100 wealthy donors to the public. But a Politico analysis published on Tuesday found that Buttigieg’s campaign omitted more than 20 wealthy donors from the list.

The episode reflects ongoing criticism of Buttigieg’s reliance on wealthy donors, which the candidate has dismissed as “purity tests.”

As Politico reported, the non-disclosed donors included:

“Uberwealthy supporters such as Boston power broker Jack Connors Jr. — who declared he was ‘all in for Pete Buttigieg’ in a June fundraiser invite — and Hollywood producer Jordan Horowitz, whose films include ‘La La Land.’ Buttigieg also omitted hedge fund investor John Petry; William Rahm, senior managing director at the private equity firm Centerbridge Partners; Nicole Avant, the former U.S. ambassador to the Bahamas; and former U.S. Ambassador to Italy John Phillips. The latter two were also major Obama donors.”

Buttigieg’s campaign said the omissions were a mistake and that they would update the list.

“Some bundler names, which were on a list over the summer that some reporters had, should have been on the list the campaign released last week,” Buttigieg campaign spokesman Chris Meagher told HuffPost. “They mistakenly were not. We are adding those names to our current bundler list to keep the information up to date.”

Critics remained skeptical, however: “Producing data four days after they were asked for it with obvious omissions, that is sketchy,” Jeff Hauser, executive director of the Revolving Door Project, told Politico. “The first time I saw this list, I said, ‘There is no way this is comprehensive.’ It’s just kind of mind-blowing that they would be this dishonest.”

Several of the omitted donors are highly controversial, such as William Rahm, managing director of the hedge fund Centerbridge Partners. The hedge fund hid its Puerto Rican debt holdings in shell companies as the territory was forced to cut pensions to pay back creditors. The American Prospect’s Ellen Brown has explained how Puerto Rico’s $73 billion debt is largely held by vulture funds like Centerbridge who bought it “for pennies on the dollar,” yet demand interest payments from the devastated territory.

H. Rodgin Cohen is another example, having been described by the New York Times as “the dean of Wall Street lawyers,” for working to consolidate and deregulate the industry in the 1980s and 90s and playing an outsized role in negotiating bail outs for the too-big-too-fail banks in 2008.

“Give Buttigieg credit: He is at least aware of which bundlers he should try to conceal from the public. Case in point: Rodgin Cohen, powerhouse lawyer who greased the Wall Street bailout for most of the major banks,” tweeted journalist Ryan Grim.

Pssst, while you're here...

Progressives Vs. Buttigieg

Activists have been sharply critical of Buttigieg in recent months as the Mayor has moved away from the progressive positions of his early campaign and embraced big-dollar donations.

For example, Buttigieg declared his support for Medicare for All last year before becoming one of its fiercest critics on the debate stage and switching to a “Medicare for All Who Want It” plan that critics argue would maintain the status quo. The South Bend Mayor’s switch came amid an influx of donations from pharmaceutical, health insurance, and hospital industry donors, which “gave a total of close to $97,000 to the Buttigieg campaign in the third quarter of 2019,” according to Sludge.

Despite pledging to reject donations from the fossil fuel industry, Buttigieg’s campaign is heavily funded by top financiers of oil and gas companies.

“The Buttigieg campaign has also received maxed out donations from executives at Atlas Energy, a holding company which seems to only invest in fossil fuel operations,” reported the Intercept earlier this month. “Blackstone Group, a major financier of the oil and gas industries; and Elliot Management, a massive hedge fund, among others. Fuld, the former Lehman Brothers CEO and villain of the 2008 financial crisis, maxed out his contribution to Buttigieg in September. So did his wife, Kathy Fuld.”

Buttigieg has had a series of tense exchanges with young protestors at his campaign events in recent weeks, with activists presenting banners reading “Wall Street Pete” and “Youth to Pete: You will kill us.” During a campaign event earlier this month, student activist Greg Chung asked Buttigieg about his concerns with the mayor’s closed-door fundraisers:”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?”

Buttigieg responded, “No,” then walked away.

The South Bend Mayor’s positions appear to have hurt him with young voters: In a recent Quinnipiac poll, Buttigieg had the support of just 2% of voters under 35. As CNN reported, “an average of CNN polling in October and November, Buttigieg gets slightly better with 8% of voters under 35 — still a single-digit number.”

Buttigieg is the only top candidate to disclose their high-dollar donors so far, as Warren and Sanders have rejected private, big-money fundraisers, while Biden has not yet shared his bundlers. Biden notably reversed a previous pledge and opened the door for super PAC funding in October.

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Peter Castagno

Peter Castagno is a staff writer and assistant editor at Citizen Truth.

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