Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., held a fundraiser at the City Winery Boston in 2018, less than two years before she called out South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg at the Democratic debate Thursday for holding a similar fundraiser.
“Billionaires in wine caves should not pick the next president of the United States,” Warren threw at Buttigieg in a reference to his fundraiser last weekend in Napa Valley, Calif. “I do not sell access to my time.”
Warren’s fundraiser was in June 2018, just months before she announced her candidacy for president. Singer Melissa Etheridge performed at the event, which offered VIP experiences to $2,700 donors and souvenir wine bottles for $1,000 donors.
“This is just disingenuous,” Rufus Gifford, former finance director for President Barack Obama’s campaign, said of Warren’s jab. “It implies a level of corruption and cronyism that is inaccurate and ultimately plays into the hands of Republicans.”
“This is just disingenuous. It implies a level of corruption and cronyism that is inaccurate and ultimately plays into the hands of Republicans.”
— Rufus Gifford, former finance director for Obama campaign
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., speaks as South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg listens during a Democratic presidential primary debate Thursday in Los Angeles. (Associated Press)
Buttigieg was quick to point out that Warren couldn’t pass her own purity test, adding that he was the only one of the stage who isn’t a millionaire.
“Your presidential campaign right now as we speak is funded in part by money you transferred having raised it at those exact same big-ticket fundraisers you now denounce,” Buttigieg shot back. “Did it corrupt you, Senator? Of course not.”
Warren also held private meetings with wealthy donors in Boston before she announced her run to gauge their level of interest in supporting her as a candidate and she continues to attend private fundraisers and headline some for the Democratic National Committee.
“Many of the events for her that I went to were on the Cape in the summer,” Alix Ritchie, who has donated more than $20,000 to Warren and co-hosted events for her in the past, said. “They would have wine and some kind of finger food. It’s pretty standard. It wasn’t any different from what other people do. She raised money the way every candidate raises money.”
“Many of the events for her that I went to were on the Cape in the summer. They would have wine and some kind of finger food. It’s pretty standard. It wasn’t any different from what other people do. She raised money the way every candidate raises money.”
— Alix Ritchie, past Warren donor
Actors like Matt Damon and Ben Affleck have also hosted fundraisers for Warren and she allows wealthy donors to establish pages on ActBlue, a Democratic funding website.
Warren has pledged to not hold top-dollar fundraisers in her White House run.
“I’ve said to anyone who wants to donate to me, ‘If you want to donate to me, that’s fine, but don’t come around later expecting to be named ambassador,’ because that’s what goes on in these high-dollar fundraisers,” Warren said at the debate.
Warren spokesman Chris Hayden issued a statement Saturday in response to an Associated Press report about the candidate’s 2018 fundraiser.
“This event, which occurred before the Presidential campaign, was held at a large public music venue with multiple locations throughout the country, not an exclusive wine cave. Their most expensive bottle of wine is $49. As the invite shows, the minimum to get in was $100. It did not require a maxout donation to attend.
“When we made the decision to run the campaign this way, the players in the usual money-for-influence game dismissed it as naive,” Hayden continued. “We’re pleased that our 100 percent grassroots strategy has been so effective that they’re now threatened enough to be attacking us for it.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.