Sparks fly when Warren takes Buttigieg to task for courting big donors in closed-door ‘wine caves’

(Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)

With House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and her party of co-conspirators sucking the air out of the room this week with their de facto meaningless impeachment farce, the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates were left in the unenviable position of trying to stir the interest of an exhausted public.

Coming just 24 hours after the Democrats’ partisan play, seven candidates gathered in Los Angeles for the sixth and last primary debate of 2019, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass, and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg did their best to provide a spark.

After a sleepy start, Warren and Buttigieg, two of the four top tier candidates, had an explosive exchange over the influence of money and wealthy donors that didn’t fare so well for hizzoner.

Things got heated when Warren touted her small-dollar campaign over “going back and forth from coast to coast to rich people and people who can put up $5,000 or more in order to have a picture taken, in order to have a conversation, and maybe in order to be an ambassador.”

“We can’t have people who can put down $5,000 for a check drown out the voices of everyone else,” the senator said.

Audio can be heard below:

The remark comes on the heels of Buttigieg holding a Palo Alto, Calif., fundraiser with a number of Big Tech billionaires and family, which followed a Napa Valley shindig at the Hall Rutherford wine cave featuring a chandelier with 1,500 Swarovski crystals.

“I can’t help but feel that was directed at me,” the openly gay candidate replied.

Justifying his embrace of big money donors, Buttigieg said “we are in the fight of our lives,” adding that President Trump will stop at nothing to hold onto power — he used the occasion to get in a cheap shot about foreign interference in our elections.

“This is our chance, this is our only chance to defeat Donald Trump, and we shouldn’t try to do it with one hand tied behind our back,” he said. “We need to bring everyone to our side in this fight . . . and if you can drop $1,000 without blinking, that’s great.”

Buttigieg set Warren up nicely, given how unpopular billionaires are with the party’s hard-left base, and she took full advantage of it in pushing her populist message.

“The mayor just recently had a fundraiser that was held in a wine cave full of crystals and served $900 a bottle wine,” Warren countered. “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,” she continued. “Billionaires in wine caves should not pick the next president of the United States.”

Buttigieg countered to point out that, according to Forbes magazine,1 he was “literally the only person on this stage who is not a millionaire or a billionaire.”

“This is the problem with issuing purity tests you cannot yourself pass,” he added. “If I pledge never to be in the company of a Progressive democratic donor, I couldn’t be up here.”

The mayor continued to defend taking top-dollar donations, but that only worked in Warren’s favor as she countered to say that she will stand up to the wealthy and well-connected as president.

“I do not sell access to my time,” she replied. “I don’t call times with millionaires and billionaires. I don’t meet behind closed doors with big-dollar donors. Look, I have taken one that ought to be an easy step for everyone here. I said to anyone, if you want to donate to me, that’s fine. But don’t come around later expecting to be named ambassadors because that’s what goes on in these high dollar fundraisers.”

Buttigieg’s response was to compare the fundraising guidelines he employs to that of former President Obama and Speaker Pelosi, not exactly an endearing image among the hard left.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar mercifully brought the back and forth to an end, chiming in to insist, “I did not come here to listen to this argument. I came here to make a case for progress.”

 

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Tom Tillison

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