- The Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg has refused to rule out nominating high-dollar campaign donors to ambassadorships should he become president.
- The CNN host Jake Tapper pressed the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, on “State of the Union” based on a pledge by Sen. Elizabeth Warren not to award positions to top donors if she were president.
- Buttigieg has attracted scrutiny over his wealthiest donors, with Warren slamming a wine-cave fundraiser with billionaires.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Pete Buttigieg said on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday morning that he wouldn’t avoid awarding ambassadorships to his top-dollar donors.
When the host Jake Tapper pressed the 2020 Democratic presidential contender on Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s pledge not to nominate any high-dollar donors as ambassadors if elected, Buttigieg shrugged off a commitment, saying he would select ambassadors “based on their readiness to do the job” regardless of whether they had supported his campaign.
“If I’m trying to figure out who ought to be a senior envoy to deal with, let’s say, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and somebody emerges as the right person for that job with the best qualifications, are they going to turn out to be disqualified because they came to a house party for my campaign years earlier?” Buttigieg asked.
Tapper then clarified he was asking specifically about “big-dollar donors” to the campaign, before Buttigieg insisted that the donation limit was $2,800. Referring to donation bundling and super PACs that are used to skirt campaign donation ceilings, Tapper pressed Buttigieg, saying, “You know how it works.”
The former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, then reiterated that “any candidate to be appointed to any position will be there on their merits and will neither be qualified or disqualified based on the idea that they supported and believed in my campaign.”
Wealthy donors moving into ambassadorships once their candidate of choice takes office is a longtime practice, as Vox reports that President Barack Obama included 31 bundlers, or people who raised at least $50,000 for his campaign, as top diplomats, and President Donald Trump nominated 14 inauguration donors, who averaged contributions of about $350,000, as ambassadors.
Buttigieg has attracted increasing scrutiny over his relationships with donors.
Later that month, Axios reported that a top fundraiser for Buttigieg’s campaign, the Washington consultant HK Park, sent an email suggesting a donation would mean getting on the campaign’s “radar,” which appeared to sell access to Buttigieg.
In a statement to Axios, the campaign attempted to distance itself from the fundraiser’s choice of words, dismissing concern over what it characterized as a standard tactic for recruiting new donors.
Amid the scrutiny, Buttigieg closed out December reporting that the campaign raised a whopping $24.7 million in the final quarter of the year and $76 million total in 2019.
His campaign manager, Mike Schmuhl, said in a statement after the figures were released that 98% of the campaign’s 2019 donations came in under $200 and that the average donation size was $38.