Pete Buttigieg is returning all the money he has collected from registered lobbyists during his presidential campaign in a new promise to eschew “special-interest money,” his campaign announced in a Friday email.
“Moving forward, Pete for America will not accept any money from lobbyists and we are returning all donations from registered lobbyists who have contributed to date ― that’s $30,250 from 39 individuals,” campaign manager Mike Schmuhl wrote in the email.
As HuffPost reported earlier this week, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, had been alone among top-tier 2020 Democratic presidential candidates in accepting donations from Washington lobbyists. Other top-tier candidates who received lobbyist money promised to return it soon after.
A spokesman for Joe Biden confirmed to HuffPost earlier this week that the former vice president would also not take money from registered federal lobbyists during his presidential campaign.
Lower-tier candidates including former Rep. John Delaney and former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper have continued to take lobbyist donations, however.
Democrats have faced growing pressure in recent cycles to disavow special-interest money. Before Friday, Lis Smith, the Buttigieg campaign’s communications director, had defended the campaign’s decision not to do so, saying Buttigieg “has never made a decision based on a contribution that he’s received.”
On Friday, the campaign reversed course.
“We understand that making this decision and being vocal about our values is important; that the decision means more than just whether or not we are willing to accept money from a specific individual,” Schmuhl wrote Friday.
Going forward, Buttigieg’s team will no longer allow registered federal lobbyists to donate to the campaign or act as financial bundlers for it. It will also refuse money from corporate PACs and the fossil fuel industry, Schmuhl said.
To ensure it keeps to its promise, the campaign is also implementing new “internal procedures and audits” and amending its contribution forms to make its “standards around lobbying and donating” clear.
“We understand that making this decision and being vocal about our values is important; that the decision means more than just whether or not we are willing to accept money from a specific individual,” Schmuhl wrote.
The campaign also announced Friday it has created a “grassroots fundraising team” that is “organizing around campaign finance goals.”