Sen. Elizabeth Warren tried to bloody 2020 Dem presidential rival Pete Buttigieg with a self-righteous accusation about his fund-raising in a finely appointed wine cave in California’s Napa Valley during Thursday’s debate, but she has since been castigated for her hypocrisy and duplicity.
“Billionaires in wine caves should not pick the next president of the United States,” Warren pontificated. “I do not sell access to my time,” she later added.
But lo’ and behold, just last year in June 2018, a few months before declaring her candidacy for president, Warren held a fundraiser at the City Winery Boston for her political donors. The senator’s dishonesty was laid bare via a “gotcha” that CNN political commentator David Axelrod called an “unforced error.”
This was the danger in the @ewarren “wine cave” attack on @PeteButtigieg. Her own past fundraising practices were pretty much in line with his, including even some of the same high dollar sponsors. She invited stories like this. Unforced error.https://t.co/OpO7U9avP3
— David Axelrod (@davidaxelrod) December 21, 2019
Reports indicate that Warren’s fundraising affair was in some ways a step up from Buttigieg’s in terms of rewards for her largest donors. Singer Melissa Etheridge performed at the pay-to-play function that also offered VIP photos and premium seating for those who contributed or raised $2700 per person, and a souvenir wine bottle went home with those who kicked in at least $1000.
Buttigieg’s soiree offered a $900 bottle of wine for purchase and that was a prominent bone of contention in Warren’s attack on the mayor of South Bend, IN.
“The mayor just recently had a fundraiser that was held in a wine cave full of crystals and served $900 a bottle wine,” Warren said. “Think about who comes to that. He had promised that every fundraiser he would do would be open door, but this one was closed door.”
“We made the decision many years ago that rich people in smoke-filled rooms would not pick the next president of the United States,” she claimed, perhaps trying to appeal to the “anti-capitalist” base of the Democrat Party.
“I do not sell access to my time,” Warren proclaimed on the debate stage. “I don’t call times with millionaires and billionaires. I don’t meet behind closed doors with big-dollar donors. Look, I have taken one that ought to be an easy step for everyone here. I said to anyone, if you want to donate to me, that’s fine. But don’t come around later expecting to be named ambassadors because that’s what goes on in these high dollar fundraisers.”
The backlash against Warren came quickly from many directions, to include progressive party leaders.
“This is just disingenuous,” Rufus Gifford, who was finance director for Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. “It implies a level of corruption and cronyism that is inaccurate and ultimately plays into the hands of Republicans,” he said of Warren’s assertions of underhandedness.
According to the AP, Warren has been transitioning from using high-dollar campaign events, but she did carry over more than $10 million from her Senate campaign account that was built with donations from wealthy donors. The AP story reported:
Even after her pledge not to hold private fundraisers, Warren has continued to attend the very kind of events for which she has criticized others. She has headlined fundraisers for the Democratic National Committee in settings that raise handsome sums, and she said she would continue to do that if she were the nominee, so that Democrats would not be at a financial disadvantage against President Donald Trump.
Those kind of events are at odds with her self-proclaimed image of a candidate who would rather be taking down-to-earth selfies with supporters who send her campaign $5 than being among the party’s donor elite.
A statement issued on Saturday by Warren spokesman Chris Hayden attempted to downplay the senator’s Boston winery event that was gaining so much attention after the debate. “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.”
Watch the debate exchange between Warren and Buttigieg:
Video by PBS News Hour
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