Pete Buttigieg Campaign Suggests Influence For Cash Days After ‘Wine Cave’ Controversy Explodees

Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks on stage at 2019 ESSENCE Festival Presented By Coca-Cola at Ernest N. Morial Convention Center on July 07, 2019 in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Paras Griffin / Getty Images

Democratic presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg’s campaign recently sent an email to a wealthy prospective donor that suggests influence for a donation in startlingly frank language, according to Axios. The news comes shortly after the South Bend, Indiana mayor took heat at the democratic debate for attending a fundraiser at a Napa Valley “wine cave.”

On Thursday, “Mayor Pete” met with some of his fellow nominees for a Democratic debate that covered a range of topics, including campaign funding. At one point, Buttigieg faced criticism from Elizabeth Warren for attending a fundraiser where pricey bottles of wine were served underneath crystal chandeliers. Fellow candidate Amy Klobuchar also joined in on the attack, saying that the fundraiser indicated that Buttigieg is open to large donors, which could mean that he will allow money to influence both his campaign and his potential presidency.

While many of the candidates have pledged to maintain a grass-roots campaign and have refused to attend fundraisers from large donors, Buttigieg has accepted money from wealthy donors. He explained that he was the only person who wasn’t a millionaire or billionaire on the stage and so he had to take money from large donors, but wouldn’t let that money influence him. He also criticized Warren for having accepted money from large donors in the past, a criticism that other people have lobbed at the lawmaker.

Now, the message from his campaign raises more questions about whether or not he will pledge to maintain a more grass-roots campaign as well.

“If you want to get on the campaign’s radar now before he is flooded with donations after winning Iowa and New Hampshire, you can use the link below for donations,” the fundraising email read.

A campaign finance expert and leader of the watchdog group Campaign Legal Center called the email a plain attempt to allow donors to buy influence calling it “an example of a campaign offering potential donors an opportunity to buy influence.”

“It’s rare that the public has an opportunity to see it in writing,” the expert said, “but this is not the only campaign that’s offering big donors the opportunity to get on the radar of the candidate in exchange for large contributions.”

A campaign spokesperson responded, denying that the message was an indication that Buttigieg would be willing to sell influence.

“The campaign did not see or authorize the language in this email. But it is ridiculous to interpret it as anything more than asking potential supporters who may be interested in Pete to join our campaign before caucusing and voting begins,” the spokesperson said.