Elizabeth Warren attacks Pete Buttigieg’s private fundraisers: ‘Open up the doors’

ATLANTA, GEORGIA - NOVEMBER 20: South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg (L) speaks as Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) listen sduring the Democratic Presidential Debate at Tyler Perry Studios November 20, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. Ten Democratic presidential hopefuls were chosen from the larger field of candidates to participate in the debate hosted by MSNBC and The Washington Post.  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
–Alex Wong / Getty Images

BOSTON — Sen. Elizabeth Warren on Thursday called on Mayor Pete Buttigieg, a rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, to open his campaign fundraising events to the news media and to release a full accounting of the wealthy donors who are gathering contributions for him.

The remarks represented a departure from Warren’s previous unwillingness to publicly chide most of her top-tier primary opponents, and came as Buttigieg has overtaken Warren in some polls in Iowa, the first state to hold a nominating contest next year.

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

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Warren, of Massachusetts, has made skipping the traditional donor circuit a centerpiece of her 2020 message, funding her campaign primarily through small-donor contributions from grassroots supporters. But she has rarely invoked that strategy to directly question her rivals.

After her speech at a Democratic Party fundraiser here, Warren was asked by a reporter about whether Buttigieg should release more information about his work at McKinsey & Co., the management consulting firm where he spent nearly three years before his time as mayor of South Bend, Indiana. She quickly pivoted to his fundraising.

“It is even more important that candidates expose possible conflicts of interest right now,” she said. “And that means, for example, that the mayor should be releasing who’s on his finance committee, who are the bundlers who are raising big money for him, who’s he’s given titles to and made promises to.”

Unlike Buttigieg, former Vice President Joe Biden, another leading candidate, has opened all his fundraisers this year to a small clutch of reporters. Neither man has released a full list of bundlers, the supporters who solicit large campaign contributions from other donors (though Buttigieg released a handful of names earlier in the year).

Besides Warren, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont has bypassed raising money from large donors at private events.

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Lis Smith, a senior adviser to Buttigieg, responded to Warren on Twitter by calling on her to release old tax returns from her years in the private sector.

“If @ewarren wants to have a debate about transparency, she can start by opening up the doors to the decades of tax returns she’s hiding from her work as a corporate lawyer — often defending the types of corporate bad actors she now denounces,” Smith wrote.

Warren has released 11 years of tax returns on her website, covering her time in public office. Buttigieg has said he has asked McKinsey to release him from the nondisclosure agreement that covered his work.

Warren has also focused criticism in recent weeks on former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York, who has spent tens of millions of dollars from his multibillion-dollar fortune since entering the Democratic primary. She took out an advertisement on Bloomberg’s own television network calling out the former mayor by name. And she sat for an interview on Bloomberg Television, saying, “I don’t believe that elections ought to be for sale.”

In Boston on Thursday, Warren reiterated her attacks on Bloomberg, saying his candidacy validated her campaign’s theme of battling corruption in politics.

“If campaigns are nothing more than billionaires and people who suck up to billionaires buying tens of millions of dollars of TV ads, then we’re just not going to have any America where everybody gets an opportunity,” she said.

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