Campaign Financing

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Official Campaign Stance

Early on in his 2020 presidential campaign, Mayor Pete Buttigieg sent out an email with this commitment:

This campaign will:

  • Not accept money directly from individuals who are registered as federal lobbyists
  • Not allow registered lobbyists to serve as bundlers for our campaign, because that would still allow them to use their influence to benefit our campaign
  • Add new language to our contribution forms about our standards around lobbying and donating
  • Implement internal procedures and audits to ensure we are living by these commitments
  • Not accept money from companies or corporate PACs
  • Not accept money from the fossil fuel industry[1]

In addition, one of Pete's proposed policy goals is to overturn Citizens United. As Buttigieg told Metro Weekly: "I think that Citizens United was a disaster for U.S. politics. I think it has called our democracy into question, because effectively it has come to mean that dollars can vote, and, in some respects, have more rights than people do."[2]

NO FOSSIL FUEL PLEDGE - Signed by Pete Buttigieg (VIDEO)

Starting from zero

Pete Buttigieg has less income and personal wealth than any other candidate on the 2020 race. He disclosed his tax returns[3] after launching his presidential run. In 2018, he and his husband Chasten had income of $152,693 and that was unusually high because Pete received $45,000 in advances for his book, Shortest Way Home. By comparison, Biden and his wife earned $4.5 million in 2018, according to his tax returns, and Kamala Harris $1.9 million.[4]

As far as personal worth, the infographic below is from OpenSecrets.[5]

Dem wealth3.jpg

Other candidates who are not shown on the graph include:

  • John Delaney with a net worth of $168 million (listed at the top of the above graph)
  • Tom Steyer has a net worth of $1.6 billion.[6]
  • Marianne Williamson has a net worth between $783,031 and $2,126,006.[7]
  • John Hickenlooper has a net worth of at least $5 million.[8]

The candidate who is the "least wealthy and privileged" is Pete Buttigieg.

In addition to his modest personal wealth, Buttigieg also did not have millions in "war chests" left over from other campaigns with which to finance his presidential run, unlike many other candidates such as Elizabeth Warren with over $12 million[9] and Bernie Sanders with $8.8 million [10]. These "war chest" funds come from previous races which did not shun PACs and lobbyist money.

The funds Buttigieg has leftover from his run for DNC Chair in 2017 were rolled into his Hitting Home PAC that donated to Democratic campaigns, primarily in races where they ran against Republican incumbents.[11] The Hitting Home PAC was shut down in May 2019 in accordance with Pete's campaign pledge to shun PAC money.

In sum, Buttigieg built his 2020 funding from zero.

Donor Breakdown

In Q2 2019, Buttigieg raised the most of any Democratic candidate. [12]

* Q2 Donations: $24.8 million

* 249,000 new donors in Q2 2019

* 400,000 unique donors in Q1 and Q2

* Average contribution in Q2: $47.42

* 51.2% came from "big donors" and 48.8 percent from "small donors". Big donors are individuals who gave $200 or more while small donors gave less than $200[13]

* Q3 Donations: $19.1 million

* 180,000 new donors in Q3 2019

* 580,000 unique donors in Q1, Q2 and Q3

* Average contribution in Q3: $32.00

* Q4 Donations: $25.7 million

* 326,000 new donations in Q4 2019

* Average donation in Q4 2019 was $33.62

* TOTALS for all of 2019

* 2 mill donations total in 2019

* 733,000 unique donors in 2019

* 98% of all donations in 2019 were under $200

The funds were raised thanks to hard work and strategy, with Pete holding a large number of small fundraising events and his campaign successfully courting online and email donors. The NY Times says "no other Democratic presidential candidate has married traditional high-dollar fund-raising with online small donations as successfully as Mr. Buttigieg". [14]

Individual Contributors With A Maximum Cap

All contributions to Pete For America come from individual donors, not companies. When you donate to a campaign, you must enter your name and employer. Some data aggregators show donation breakdown by company name, but these are donations from individuals who work at those companies, not from the company itself.[15]

All individual donors, whether they are poor, middle class, or wealthy, can give a maximum of $2800 during the primary campaign and another max of $2800 during the general election. No one is donating to the Pete For America campaign to the tune of millions in order to gain special access or favors.

“Pete has never made a decision based on a contribution that he’s received, and where he receives his contributions from has no bearing on the policy positions and governmental actions he takes,” Lis Smith, Buttigieg’s top communications adviser, told NBC News.[16]

Billionaire Donors

Forbes recently reported on the number of donors for each candidate in Q2 fundraising who were worth a billion or more. Pete had 23 "billionaire donors" followed by Cory Booker with 18, Kamala Harris with 17, Michael Bennet with 15, and Joe Biden with 13.[17]

However, Pete also raised more than anyone else in Q2, so his number of donors of all classes would be higher than that of other candidates.

His 23 "billionaire donors" could each donate a max of $2800 to his campaign. That totals $64,400. He raised a total of $24.8 from all donations. Therefore, his percentage of funding from "billionaire donors" is only 0.2% of his entire fund-raising intake. Cory Booker, by comparison, raised $4.5 million and had 18 "billionaire donors", so his percentage of "billionaire donations" is 1%.

Pete's Pro-Worker Plan: A New Rising Tide

Pete has always been a strong supporter of worker's rights. His "New Rising Tide" plan[18] is the most sophisticated in the Dem field. It calls for raising the minimum wage to $15/hour, protecting workers from being denied benefits like health care due to illegal contractor status, and enabling strong unions. His believes that unions protect worker's rights, and his plan includes the right to unionize across companies (for example, a fast food worker's union that would include various fast food franchises). The plan also supports legislation that would allow gig workers to earn benefits like health care and paid family leave by logging hours into the federal system from any gig. In our changing economy, this is critical to protect the growing gig workforce, and it's something no other candidate has addressed.

Pete has marched with unionizers for years and continues to do so on the campaign trail. Examples can be found on The Pete Channel's "Activist Pete" video page. To say he is a "corporate stooge" because people from all walks of life support him is disingenuous. As Pete has said: he stands for what he stands for, and he doesn't change his message depending on who he's speaking to. His message resonates with many who want a fairer country for all, from teachers to CEOs.

Democrat Vs Republican Fund Raising

While nearly all Democratic candidates have made pledges similar to that of Pete Buttigieg to not take money from corporate lobbyists, the Republicans have no such compunction.

Trump's 2020 campaign will spend at least $1 billion, according to his campaign manager Brad Parscale.[19]

This is the challenge for Democrats--to raise enough money to even begin to compete with the Republicans in the general election while rejecting corporate and lobbyist money, as most (including Pete) have committed to do.

Rufus Gifford, the former ambassador to Denmark who was Obama’s national finance director in 2012, said Democrats need to depend on many streams of revenue. Small donors will never be enough. “Buttigieg has to make sure he diversifies his revenue streams just like we did in 2007 and 2008. Early on it was the big supporters that got us to that first number. That wasn’t online money. That was old school fundraising, direct mail and telemarketing. That gets you out of the gate. You should never be reliant on one strain of fundraising and I think a lot of the campaigns have been doing that. The idea that I can send an email and be good to go? That’s just naive as far as I’m convinced.”[20]

Uniting Together

Divisive ideologies "won't get us very far", as Pete puts it.[21] Pete's practical, label-busting, and future-looking vision transcends categories. He believes that having a happy and prosperous working class, strong infrastructure, good healthcare, and other Democratic goals is ultimately not only better for the economy, better for workers, and better for our society, but it's also better for companies in the long run.

This is the leadership and common sense vision we need to unite us all under common goals.

  1. Politico:Buttigieg renounces lobbyist donations, refunding over $30,000
  2. Metro Weekly: Pete Buttigieg is Primed to put America to the Test
  3. Pete For America site: Tax Returns
  4. CNBC News: How Pete Buttigieg made his money before he was a presidential hopeful
  5. Open Secrets: Breaking down the personal finances of the 2020 Democrats
  6. Forbes: How Tom Steyer Made His $1.6 Billion Fortune
  7. Yahoo Finance: What is Marianne Williamson's net worth?
  8. - What’s John Hickenlooper Worth? A Look at the Finances of the Presidential Candidate
  9. The Week (Jan 2, 2018): Elizabeth Warren has more money for 2020 than any other senator
  10. Seven Days: Bernie Sanders' Senate War Chest Reaches a Record $8.8 Million
  11. CNBC: Pete Buttigieg shuts down PAC as rival 2020 Democrats reject PAC money
  12. Washington Post: Buttigieg raised $24.8 million for his White House bid during the past three months, his campaign says
  13. What Second-Quarter Fundraising Can Tell Us About 2020
  14. New York Times: Big Donors, Small Donors: Pete Buttigieg Has Courted Them All — Successfully
  15. Twitter thread on company vs individual donors for various candidates
  16. Washington Blade: Hollywood’s A-list gays welcome Buttigieg
  17. Forbes: Here Are The Democratic Presidential Candidates With The Most Donations From Billionaires
  18. Pete For America: New Rising Tide plan
  19. WJLA: Trump's 2020 campaign will spend at least $1 billion, Parscale tells 'America This Week'.
  21. VIDEO: Identity Politics with Pete Buttigieg