As he seeks to cement his status as the establishment frontrunner, Pete Buttigieg (recipient of contribution from over 40 billionaire donors) has accused Bernie Sanders of taking dark money from the Sunrise Movement, an environmental advocacy group. Yet just weeks ago, Mayor Pete was cosying up to them seeking their endorsement.
In itself, this could be seen as just another example of the cut and thrust, and the increasing cynicism that characterises American politics, especially as an increasingly desperate Democratic establishment seeks to cut down Bernie Sanders. But it does give cause to take a look at Mayor Pete’s own fundraising record; as we have noted, he talks a big game as a progressive, but much about him raises more questions than answers.
For starters, his tally of 40 billionaire donors is second only to Joe Biden, who has 44. Would these people be giving to Mayor Pete if they thought he was going to upset the applecart of American capitalism? Probably not. Then, there is the matter of who these people are. Three of them, Bill Ackman, Philippe Lafont and Seth Klarman are described by Forbes as “hedge fund billionaires”, the same class of people that were at least partly responsible for the Global Financial Crisis. Craig and Kathryn Hall put in an appearance at Mayor Pete’s now infamous wine cave fundraiser- Craig Hall was known for his role in the 1980s savings and loans crisis, whilst Kathryn Hall served a stint as ambassador to Austria in the 1990s, secured at least partly by the couple’s contributions to the Democrats during the Clinton administration. Another donor is Daryl Roth- her husband Steven Roth is a business partner of President Trump.
What then of Bernie Sanders, on the other hand. For starters, the accusation that taking money from a group such as the Sunrise Movement constitutes dark money is, to borrow an adjective from another candidate, malarkey. Where Sanders’ money does and has always come from has largely been a network of small donors. And they all add up; to $25 million in January alone, with an average contribution of $18. The top employers of his donors according to FEC records were retail chains such as Walmart and Target, the US Postal Service and Amazon, whilst the top career was teachers. Seemingly a stark difference from the kind of people who would spend nearly $3000 on a night at a Napa Valley wine cave.
As the cliche goes, “follow the money”; voters would do well to keep an eye on who is contributing where, because with contributions come inevitable expectations should a candidate be successful. And it seems pretty clear where Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s obligations will lie should he be successful.