Pete Buttigieg

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Pete Buttigieg

Peter Paul Montgomery Buttigieg (born January 19, 1982)[1] is the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and ran in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, dropping out after the first four states voted.


News and Controversies

Ended Campaign after South Carolina Primary Fourth-Place Finish

After a fourth-place finish in the South Carolina primary, Buttigieg received no delegates in the state. The former mayor ended his presidential campaign the following morning, on March 1, 2020.[2]

Third-Place Finish in Nevada Caucuses

In the February 22, 2020 Nevada caucuses, Buttigieg finished third, behind Sanders and Biden. Despite not breaking the 15% threshold statewide, Buttigieg received three delegates due to his performance in congressional districts.[3]

Second-Place Finish in New Hampshire Primary

In the February 11, 2020 New Hampshire primary, Buttigieg finished second behind Sanders. Because Buttigieg trailed Sanders by a margin of less than 2%, both candidates received 9 of the 24 pledged delegates from the state.[4]

Iowa Caucuses

Led Iowa Statewide Delegate Equivalents with 99.94% of Precincts Reporting

The results of the Democratic February 3, 2020 Iowa Caucuses were delayed until the following day due to technical failure.[5] At around 5:00 EST on Tuesday, February 4, the first results from about 62% of Iowa precincts were released and showed Buttigieg with a lead of 1.8 percentage points. As of February 12, Buttigieg maintained a 0.1 point percent statewide delegate equivalent lead over Sanders with 99.94% of the precincts reporting. However, Sanders led in the popular vote by around 2,500 votes as of this same time.[6] As of February 11, 2020, AP still considered the race in Iowa "too close to call" and was waiting on a recanvass that had been requested by Sanders's campaign.[7]

Treated Statewide Delegate Lead as Iowa Victory

On February 4, a Politico article claimed the former mayor was "crushing the spin game" despite not having officially won the caucuses, saying, "With a chunk of the returns still outstanding and some candidates expressing frustration and doubt over delayed results, Buttigieg was all but declaring victory." The Guardian echoed this sentiment on the following day, saying, "Pete Buttigieg is taking every opportunity he can to proclaim victory in Iowa and leverage that to win in New Hampshire."[8]

In a February 6 MSNBC interview, Buttigieg claimed, "we've begun to demonstrate, on Monday, coming in first in the Iowa caucuses, my ability to put together the coalition that it's going to take to defeat Donald Trump, getting urban, rural, and suburban voters together."[9]

Billionaire Donors and Wine Cave Fundraiser

In mid-December, Pete Buttigieg held a private fundraiser at the Hall Rutherford wine cave, which included "a chandelier with 1,500 Swarovski crystals, an onyx banquet table to reflect its luminescence and bottles of cabernet sauvignon that sell for as much as $900."[10] The winery's billionaire owners, Craig and Kathryn Hall, have frequently contributed to Democratic candidates, including Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi.[11] After the family's substantial donations to Democrats during the 1990's, Kathryn Hall became the ambassador to Austria during Bill Clinton's second term.[10]

December Debate

Buttigieg came under fire during the December Democratic debate for the wine cave fundraiser, especially from Elizabeth Warren, who said "Billionaires in wine caves should not pick the next president of the United States."[12] Buttigieg responded, saying "This is the problem with issuing purity tests you cannot yourself pass... Senator, your net worth is 100 times mine. Suppose you went home and felt the holiday spirit… and gave the maximum donation allowable by law, would that pollute my campaign because it came from a wealthy person? No. I would be glad to have that support."[13]

Also during the December debate, Bernie Sanders poked fun at both Buttigieg and Joe Biden, saying "there's a real competition going on up here... [Biden has] received contributions from forty-four billionaires, Pete on the other hand, is trailing, Pete! You only got thirty-nine billionaires contributing! So Pete we look forward to you... I know you're an energetic guy, and a competitive guy, to see if you can take on Joe on that issue."[13][14]

While Buttigieg has courted high-dollar donors, he pointed out in the debate that his personal net worth is far less than any other major Democratic candidate. According to Forbes, the former mayor's net worth is around $100,000, while each other candidate attending the December debate is a millionaire or billionaire.[15]

Distancing Himself from McKinsey & Company

Articles in late 2019 explained how, while Buttigieg used to highlight his work and business experience at McKinsey & Company, he now seeks to distance himself from the firm.[16][17]

Throughout its time as a consulting firm, McKinsey "has long advocated business strategies like raising executive compensation, moving labor offshore and laying off workers to cut costs."[18] In more recent years, after Buttigieg had departed, the firm has faced criticism for "advising Purdue Pharma on how to 'turbocharge' opioid sales, its consulting for authoritarian governments in places like China and Saudi Arabia, and its role in a wide-ranging corruption scandal in South Africa."[18] Additionally, "McKinsey consultants had recommended in 2017 that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement cut its spending on food for migrants and medical care for detainees."[18]

For around the first eight months of his campaign, a non-disclosure agreement prevented Buttigieg from revealing his clients during his tenure at McKinsey, which led to distrust from many voters and raised questions about his "coziness to power".[19]

On December 10, 2019, Buttigieg released a list of his former McKinsey clients in the form of a Medium article.[20]

Accused of Close Proximity with the National Security State

An article in the progressive, anti-war publication The Grayzone accused Buttigieg of being "a neoliberal cadre whose future was carefully managed by the mandarins of the national security state since almost the moment that he graduated from Harvard University."[21] The piece raised questions about Buttigieg's relationship with fellow Harvard student Nathaniel Myers and the pair's short excursion to Somaliland in 2008. The article scrutinized Myers's work for the World Bank and the U.S. Agency for International Development's Office of Transition Initiatives (USAID-OTI).[21]

The article also noted how Buttigieg's work at The Cohen Group and fellowship at Truman Center had brought him in contact with "Washington’s national security swamp". As it pointed out, the Truman Center was founded by Rachel Kleinfeld, who "assembled a cast of Democratic foreign policy heavyweights whose accomplishments included the devastation of entire countries through regime change wars", including Madeleine K. Albright.[21]

Finally, the piece criticized Buttigieg’s campaign pledge to "'balance our commitment to end endless wars with the recognition that total isolationism is self-defeating in the long run'",[21] saying "This was the sort of Beltway doublespeak that defined the legacy of Barack Obama, another youthful, self-styled outsider from the Midwest who campaigned on his opposition to the Iraq war, only to sign off on more calamitous wars in the Middle East after he entered the White House."[21]

Criticism of Douglass Plan

Misleading African-American South Carolinian Officials Endorsement Claim

In mid-November, Buttigieg came under fire[22] for a misleading press release that claimed three African-American elected officials, along with 400 other South Carolinians, had endorsed his "Douglass Plan", which the campaign describes as "A Comprehensive Investment in the Empowerment of Black America".[23]

Buttigieg's campaign had reached out to these South Carolinian officials and begun a conversation about his plan, but none of the three had expected their communication to be seen as an endorsement of Buttigieg nor his plan. In fact, one local elected official named prominently in the press release had endorsed Bernie Sanders rather than Buttigieg.[22]

Used Stock Photo of Kenyan Woman for Douglass Plan

Around the same time, it came to light that Buttigieg's campaign had used a stock photo of a Kenyan woman and her brother to promote his "Douglass Plan".[24] The use of this photo of a woman who was not African-American and had never heard of the plan was seen as further example of the disconnect between Buttigieg's campaign and Black American voters.[25]

Criticized for Record on Race and Police Killing as Mayor

Buttigieg has been criticized for his handling of the South Bend police department and issues surrounding race and policing during his tenure as mayor.[26][27]

The South Bend Tribune has released a timeline of events that escalated police tensions in the Indiana town while Buttigieg was mayor.[28]

Early Media Praise

Praise from Trump-Skeptical Conservatives

Moderate conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks praised Buttigieg in an April 2019 opinion piece, saying "The Trump era has been all about dissolving moral norms and waging vicious attacks. This has been an era of culture war, class warfare and identity politics... The Buttigieg surge suggests that there are a lot of Democrats who want to say goodbye to all that. They don’t want to fight fire and divisiveness with more fire and divisiveness. They don’t want to fight white identity politics with another kind of identity politics."[29]

A Daily Beast article from around the same time highlighted Buttigieg's general appeal to "Trump-skeptical conservative and center-right pundits."[30]

Strikingly Popular Morning Joe Appearance

Towards the beginning of his candidacy, Buttigieg appeared on MSNBC and received an extraordinary amount of praise from viewers, according to host Joe Scarborough, who tweeted "Mika and I have been overwhelmed by the reaction @PeteButtigieg got after being on the show. The only other time in twelve years that we heard from as many people about a guest was after @BarackObama appeared on Morning Joe."[31]

Political Stances

Many of Buttigieg's political stances align with those of most other 2020 Democratic candidates. These include support of the Paris climate agreement, the Green New Deal, universal background checks for firearms, legalization of marijuana, a pathway to citizenship for DREAMers, and abortion rights.[32]

Political Ideology

When asked about his political ideology in an MSNBC interview towards the beginning of his campaign, Buttigieg claimed he did not find labels particularly useful. He also said, "I don't believe that the best way to reach independents today is through ideological centrism... mathematically, you look at the numbers in my county and it's very clear that there are a lot of people who voted for Barack Obama, Donald Trump, Mike Pence, and me, which indicates that voters, especially voters in the Heartland where I come from, don't necessarily make their decisions by just lining everybody up on an ideological spectrum and then looking for the dot that's closest to where they are."[33]

When asked whether he self-defined as a socialist, Buttigieg claimed the term had lost all meaning in American politics, saying, "That began when a conservative proposal, the Affordable Care Act, which was developed in The Heritage Foundation, began to be described as 'socialist' by conservatives who were opposing it."[33]

No Incarceration for Any Type of Drug Possession

In a December 2019 interview with the Des Moines Register, Buttigieg claimed: "I would not have said even five years ago what I believe now, which is that incarceration should not even be a response to drug possession. But what I've seen is— while there continue to be all kinds of harms associated with drug possession and use— it's also the case that we have created, in an effort to deal with what amounts to a public health problem, we have created a bigger problem, a justice problem, and its own form of a health problem, if you think about the impact on a child."[34]

Support of a Public Option, Opposition to Medicare for All

While some candidates in the field support Medicare for All, sweeping legislation that would provide "comprehensive health care coverage, free at the point of service" as well as "No networks, no premiums, no deductibles, no copays, no surprise bills",[35] Buttigieg favors a more incremental approach.

The former mayor's plan, dubbed "Medicare for All Who Want It" calls instead for an "affordable, comprehensive public alternative"[36] to private health insurance. Buttigieg claims, "This affordable public plan will incentivize private insurers to compete on price and bring down costs." While advocates for Medicare for All seek to eliminate premiums altogether and guarantee free healthcare, Buttigieg's more moderate approach would "cap market payments at 8.5% of income for everyone".[36]

Buttigieg's campaign website highlights the lower headline cost of a public option compared to Medicare for All, claiming a rollback of Trump's corporate tax cuts would pay for nearly all of his plan.[36]

Backtracking on Medicare for All Support

In early 2018, Buttigieg tweeted support for Medicare for All[37] and supported the plan as late as April 2019.

In a February 2019 MSNBC appearance, Buttigieg characterized Medicare for All as a compromise, saying, "ACA, which was a conservative proposal, came to be caricatured as 'left-wing' by a very disciplined right-wing message machine. What is Medicare for All? It's a compromise. I mean, in the U.K., you got national health care, that would be the... true left-wing position. The true right-wing position is free-for-all, all corporate. And the compromise position is a single-payer system where you have private doctors but a public payer."[33]

In November 2019, progressive media outlet Common Dreams produced a timeline of Buttigieg's different stances on Medicare for All, noting how Justice Democrats accused him of abandoning the bill after taking campaign donations from pharmaceutical and health insurance executives.[38]

Use of Health Care Industry Talking Points

On Jeremy Scahill's Intercepted podcast, former health insurance executive Wendell Potter criticized Buttigieg for calling Medicare for All "a policy that would eliminate the job of every single American working at every single insurance company in the country."[39] As Potter explains, "the suggestion that every single job in the insurance industry would disappear [is] what the industry wants someone to say, someone who has a national platform like he does to scare people and all these are precisely what Buttigieg is doing. And one part of that, one part of the playbook is to get candidates and elected officials to carry your water for you, to recite your talking points."[39]

Debt-Free Public College for Lower-Income Families

In comparison to more progressive candidates Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, Buttigieg does not support free, universal public college. Instead, his campaign website details his plan to "make public college truly debt-free for lower-income families... through a state-federal partnership that makes public tuition affordable for all and completely free at lower incomes– combined with a large increase in Pell Grants that provides for basic living expenses and keeps up with inflation. Middle-income families at public colleges will pay zero tuition."[40]

An April 2019 Washington Post article explained the debate over free public college within the Democratic party.[41]

Ad Attacking Free College for All

In late November, Buttigieg's campaign aired a 30-second ad in Iowa in which he attacked the idea of free college. The ad drew condemnation from progressives, including Bernie Sanders's campaign manager and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.[42]

Congressional Oversight, not Whistleblowers, Should Uncover Abuses of Power

Towards the beginning of his candidacy in 2019, Buttigieg was asked about his feelings on whistleblower Chelsea Manning, to which he responded, "As somebody who was tasked with handling sensitive information, information that could get people killed, I took an oath and I made promises that I would handle it responsibly... when you're involved in divulging classified information that can harm American troops overseas, that is not something to be taken lightly."[43] When asked whether Edward Snowden was a hero or villain to him, Buttigieg responded in a similar manner, saying "When you are trusted with classified information, you have made a promise. And if you're not comfortable safeguarding information that could get Americans killed, then you shouldn't be in that profession. I certainly agree that we have learned things about abuses and that, one way or the other, that needed to come out, but, in my view, the way for that to come out is through congressional oversight, not through a breach of classified information."[43]

A November 2019 Huffington Post article reported that Buttigieg "would not commit to rethinking the way the federal government prosecutes people who disclose classified information, instead distinguishing between politically motivated leaks during the Obama administration and the federal official who has sought formal 'whistleblower' protections to raise the alarm about President Donald Trump’s conduct."[44] The article also mentioned that few 2020 Democratic hopefuls "have diverged from the consensus view of the U.S. national security establishment that unauthorized leakers who decline to take advantage of official whistleblower protections should be prosecuted."[44]

Elimination of the Electoral College

Buttigieg, along with Elizabeth Warren, has called for eliminating the electoral college.[45] His campaign website states: "It’s simple: the candidate who gets the most votes should win. States don’t vote, people vote, and everyone’s vote should count exactly the same. The Electoral College has to go."[46]


National Polling Average

According to data collected by FiveThirtyEight, Pete Buttigieg consistently polled fourth nationally, behind Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren before primary voting began. His peak national average was 9.9% on December 4, 2019. In January 2020, he has averaged between 7.5% and 7.7%.[47]

Early State Polling Averages

According to FiveThirtyEight, Buttigieg's polling average of 15.7% in Iowa had him in third place on February 3, 2020, the day of the state's caucuses. Between mid-November and late December 2019, Buttigieg had led in Iowa polling, peaking at 24.2%.[48]

In New Hampshire, the second state to vote, Buttigieg's polling average of 13.3% has him in fourth, behind Sanders, Biden, and Warren. In New Hampshire, Buttigieg shortly enjoyed a lead in mid-December, peaking at 18.2% in the state.[49]

In Nevada and South Carolina, the following scheduled voting states, Buttigieg has averaged fourth or fifth at best throughout January 2020.[50] [51]


Fourth-Quarter Announcement

On January 3, 2020, Buttigieg's campaign released a video announcing he had increased his total amount raised to $76,300,000 and had received 2,000,000 donations from 733,000 unique donors.[52]

Core Financials

From the Federal Election Commission as of February 2020:[53]

  • Total raised: $82,998,032.87
  • Total spent: $76,366,742.41
  • Cash on hand: $6,631,290.46

Source of Funds

As of September 2019:[54]

Contribution Size Amount Percentage of Total
Large contributions $46,596,363 56.50%
Small individual contributions (< $200) $35,791,545 43.39%
Other $87,339 0.10%

Top Contributors

From Open Secrets:[55] "The money came from the organizations' PACs; their individual members, employees or owners; and those individuals' immediate families" (Only top 15 contributors shown).[55]

Contributor Amount
Alphabet Inc (parent company of Google) $248,709
Microsoft Corp $145,714
University of California $130,398
Paul, Weiss et al $127,819
Walt Disney Co $102,554
AT&T Inc $100,188
Sullivan & Cromwell $98,728 $98,288
Kaiser Permanente $98,226
Apple Inc $88,652
Wells Fargo $88,107
McKinsey & Company $87,625
Harvard University $86,573
Comcast Corp. $86,464
University of Notre Dame $73,700

Expenditures Breakdown

From Open Secrets:[56]

Type Amount Percentage of total
Media $6,758,609 24.64%
Salaries $6,729,853 24.54%
Administrative $5,299,789 19.32%
Fundraising $3,623,101 13.21%
Unclassifiable $3,212,938 11.71%
All Other $1,800,961 6.56%
Top Vendors/Recipients

From Open Secrets:[56]

Recipient Amount
Facebook Inc $2,926,795
Grassroots eCom LLC $1,955,631
Paychex Inc $1,770,497
ActBlue $1,722,361
Google Inc $1,564,446
AKPD Message & Media $857,708
Production Management One $616,696
Patriot Group NY $561,417
Jenner & Block $543,530
Advanced Aviation $490,224
Benenson Strategy Group $286,616
UnitedHealth $346,582
Vertivue Air Charters $200,687
Perkins Coie $180,000
Democratic National Committee $175,000
ABD Direct $156,157
Hilton Hotels $152,172
Microsoft Corp $150,610 $135,300
Hyperakt $135,239
Democratic Party of Iowa $120,000
Gusto Inc $110,387
Twitter $109,981
United Airlines $109,150
Kos Media LLC $105,606

Outside Spending in Favor of Buttigieg

As described by OpenSecrets, "Organizations and individuals looking to do more than just write a check to their favorite candidates can spend unlimited money-- independently-- to buy ads, send mail or otherwise advocate for the election or defeat of specific candidates. Corporations, labor unions and ideological groups may also spend directly on these activities as a result of the Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. FEC. They cannot coordinate with candidates or parties."[57]

Committee Amount in Support of Buttigieg $1,697,231

Outside Spending Opposing Buttigieg

Taken from OpenSecrets[57] (Only expenditures above $5,000 shown)

Committee Amount Opposing Buttigieg
Drain the DC Swamp PAC $14,100


As of February 2020, Buttigieg was sixth in endorsements, behind the three other front-runners as well as Amy Klobuchar and Michael Bloomberg, according FiveThirtyEight's endorsement tracker. The prediction website ranks endorsements based on their position within the party. For example, former presidents and vice presidents are worth 10 points, governors are worth 8 points, U.S. senators are 6 points, and U.S. representatives are 3 points.[58]


  • 2004: B.A. in Literature and History, Harvard University [1]
  • 2007: First-class Honors degree in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics, University of Oxford, Rhodes Scholarship


  • 2004-2005: worked for The Cohen Group, a lobbying company headed by former U.S. Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen[1][59]
  • 2007-2010: worked as a consultant for McKinsey & Company, a global management consulting firm
  • 2009-2017: Served in the U.S. Navy Reserve; deployed to Afghanistan for seven months during 2014

Campaign Media

Campaign website: Pete For America
Facebook: @petebuttigieg1
Instagram: @petebuttigieg
Twitter: @PeteButtigieg
YouTube: Pete Buttigieg

Related SourceWatch


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