- South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg said he wouldn’t avoid appointing someone for an ambassadorship if they were a high-dollar donor to his campaign.
- Host Jake Tapper pressed the 2020 Democratic contender on CNN’s “State of the Union” based on fellow hopeful Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s pledge to not award positions to top donors.
- Buttigieg has had a turbulent time with reports on his wealthiest donors, including Warren’s slams over a “wine-cave fundraiser” with billionaires, and an email from a top fundraiser that appeared to sell access to the mayor.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg said on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday morning that he wouldn’t avoid awarding ambassadorships to his top-dollar donors.
When host Jake Tapper pressed the 2020 Democratic contender on his fellow hopeful Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s pledge to not appoint 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 if they had supported his campaign or not.
“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 the donation limit is $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 mayor then re-iterated 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 former 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 around $350,000, as ambassadors.
The comments come as the latest in Buttigieg’s turbulent public relationship with his donors.
Later that month, Axios reported that a top fundraiser for Buttigieg’s campaign, Washington consultant H.K. Park, told a potential donor in an email that if they donate, they would get on the campaign’s “radar,” which appeared to sell access to the mayor.
In a statement to Axios, the campaign attempted to distance itself from the fundraiser’s comments insisted the offer while dismissing concern over what it characterized as a standard tactic for recruiting new donors.
Despite the scrutiny, Buttigieg closed out December with a whopping success that saw the campaign accept $24.7 million in the final quarter of the year and $76 million total in 2019.
Campaign manager Mike Schmuhl said in a statement after the figures were released that $76 million raised in 2019, 98% of donations were for figures under $200, and the average donation was $38.