Buttigieg discloses ex-clients as fundraising swing begins

Steve Peoples
AP National Politics Writer

New York – Facing intense pressure to answer questions about his work in the private sector, Democratic presidential contender Pete Buttigieg on Tuesday disclosed a roster of former consulting clients that include a major health insurance provider, a nationwide electronics retailer, the U.S. Department of Energy and the Department of Defense.

Democratic presidential candidate and Mayor of South Bend, Ind., Pete Buttigieg speaks during a campaign stop at the Danceland Ballroom Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019, in Davenport.

Buttigieg’s campaign released the details while the 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, Indiana, attended an evening fundraiser on Park Avenue in Manhattan. It was the first event on a five-day fundraising swing that features 10 meetings with big donors, and the first time he allowed the media to cover fundraising events that had previously been kept secret.

Walking into the event, he told The Associated Press he’s “seeking to live out the values of transparency that we talk about, and given that we have a White House that has so moved radically in the opposite direction.”

His work history, never before revealed, features a detailed list of the clients he worked for when he was an associate at the consulting firm McKinsey & Co. between 2007 and 2010, his first job after graduating from Oxford. In a press release announcing the disclosure, Buttigieg downplayed his role in the firm, saying he had released details of his work there “even though it was my first job out of school where I had little decision making authority.”

His campaign said Buttigieg’s work included trips to Iraq and Afghanistan during a three-month project in 2009 for the U.S. Department of Defense. That project, he said, was focused on “increasing employment and entrepreneurship.”

He also worked for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, where the campaign said he “looked at overhead expenditures such as rent, utilities, and company travel.” That work, his first assignment at McKinsey, did not involve policies, premiums or benefits, according to his campaign.

Protesters outside his Tuesday fundraiser on Manhattan’s Upper East Side seemed more bothered by Buttigieg’s association with wealthy donors than his work history.

Progressive activist Alice Nascimento led chants of “Wall Street Pete” from the sidewalk outside the event.

“He’s hanging out with millionaires!” she charged. “He’s not for working people.”

While he is still unknown by many voters nationally, Buttigieg has emerged as one of his party’s most successful fundraisers this year – collecting more than $50 million so far in 2019 – in part by tapping the resources of big donors. That’s set him apart from Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Sen. Bernie Sanders, who have rejected traditional fundraising techniques in favor of small dollar donations.

Buttigieg resisted opening his fundraisers to public scrutiny for much of the year, but that position became untenable as his campaign moved into the top tier of the Democratic primary.

Former Vice President Joe Biden is the only other current Democratic candidate who regularly opens his fundraisers to a pool of reporters. Warren only does fundraisers for the Democratic Party and says she’ll only do those if they are open to the media. Sanders holds what his campaign calls “grassroots” fundraisers that are meant to prioritize even small donors and have generally been open to the press or livestreamed.

Buttigieg was under significant pressure to release details about his work for the McKinsey & Co. consulting firm. The company said Monday that it would allow Buttigieg to identify the clients he served more than a decade ago.

One of the donors who attended Tuesday’s fundraiser, Henry Lowenstein, shrugged off questions about Buttigieg’s work history.

“There’s not a candidate that doesn’t have baggage,” he said. “This is the smartest guy who has a grasp of every issue, but unlike Elizabeth Warren doesn’t have a plan for every issue. He’s the real deal.”