Report: Elizabeth Warren Using ‘Stockpile’ of Big Donor Money to Cushion Presidential Bid

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., acknowledges the applause as she arrives on stage to speak at the New Hampshire state Democratic Party convention, Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019, in Manchester, NH. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) is using millions of leftover funds from her 2018 Senate bid – when she happily courted big donors –  to cushion her presidential campaign, according to a report from the New York Times.

Warren has prided herself on refusing to entertain big donors. She has been largely successful without them, raising $19 million in the second quarter without the help of big donor-hosted fundraisers. However, to say that she is not benefitting from her previous days of courting millionaires and billionaires in Hollywood and Silicon Valley would be – at best – dishonest, according to a report from the New York Times.

The Massachusetts senator attended big fundraising events for her Senate reelection bid in 2018, and while she has declined big donor involvement in her presidential bid, she reportedly transferred $10.4 million in “leftover funds from her 2018 Senate campaign to underwrite her 2020 run.”

Ultimately, Warren’s $10.4 million cushion gave her more flexibility, allowing her to get ahead of other candidates, some of whom are still struggling to get their campaigns off the ground.

Some critics say it makes her a hypocrite.

According to the Times:

As Ms. Warren has risen in the polls on her populist and anti-corruption message, some donors and, privately, opponents are chafing at her campaign’s purity claims of being “100 percent grass-roots funded.” Several donors now hosting events for her rivals organized fund-raisers for her last year.

“Can you spell hypocrite?” said former Gov. Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania, who contributed $4,000 to Ms. Warren in 2018 and is now supporting former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

Mr. Rendell said he had recruited donors to attend an intimate fund-raising dinner for Ms. Warren last year at Barclay Prime, a Philadelphia steakhouse where the famed cheesesteak goes for $120. (The dish includes Wagyu rib-eye, foie gras, truffled cheese whiz and a half-bottle of champagne.) He said he received a “glowing thank-you letter” from Ms. Warren afterward.

Rendell cohosted a Biden fundraiser earlier this year. To his surprise, the Warren campaign slammed the event as “a swanky private fund-raiser for wealthy donors” – despite the fact that Warren benefitted from similar events in the recent past.

“She didn’t have any trouble taking our money the year before,” Rendell said, according to the Times. “All of a sudden, we were bad guys and power brokers and influence-peddlers. In 2018, we were wonderful.”

That was not the only fundraiser she attended:

In Florida, she was hosted for an event by the billionaires Henry and Marsha Laufer. In New York, Meyer S. Frucher, the vice chairman of Nasdaq, held a reception for her. She was hosted by the “Lost” creator Damon Lindelof and his wife, Heidi, in Southern California. The philanthropist Stephen M. Silberstein had Ms. Warren over to his San Francisco-area home. And as late as the fall of 2018, she visited Silicon Valley, where Karla Jurvetson, a multimillion-dollar Democratic contributor, hosted an event for her.

The Massachusetts senator’s campaign, however, is dismissing the critics, arguing that its current grass-roots strategy is authentic.

“When we made the decision to run the campaign this way, the players in the usual money-for-influence game dismissed it as naïve and said it would never work and it would kill the campaign,” Warren’s communications director Kristen Orthman said, according to the Times.

“We’re pleased that our grass-roots strategy has been so effective that they’re now threatened enough to be attacking us for it,” she added.

Warren’s pledge to refrain from big donors caused tension within her own campaign in its early stages, leading her top financial adviser, Michael Pratt, to step down from his role in its official capacity due to her vow to stay away from wealthy donors.

Warren has happily issued jabs at her opponents for seeking the help of big donors in recent months, telling supporters that she has enough time to take hundreds of questions and pose for thousands of selfies because she is not “behind closed doors with a bunch of corporate lobbyists.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) falls in line with Warren, refusing to accept big donor money. As the Times notes, the socialist senator also transferred millions to cushion his presidential bid, but his pledge to refrain from big donor money is not a new position.

The Times adds that it is unable to indicate how much of Warren’s transferred funds come directly from big donors, but the fact remains that she welcomed big donor money in 2018:

There is no way to say exactly how much of the $10.4 million Ms. Warren transferred from 2018 was attributable to large donations. Her campaign said she had 380,000 donors to her re-election who gave an average of $30 — a strong grass-roots following. Records show about $6 million of her Senate funds also came from donors who gave $1,000 or more.

Warren’s campaign came under fire in July following reports that Jurvetson, the Silicon Valley doctor who held an event for Warren in the past, assisted the campaign in accessing the Democrat Party’s voter database. Warren’s team adamantly dismissed the claims and maintained that the campaign was consistent with its pledge, noting that Warren did not personally reach out to Jurvetson or ask for her assistance.

The Times suggests that Warren’s use of big donor money was a strategic move in the early stages of her presidential bid, indicating she was essentially “bankrolling an apparent 2020 apparatus in waiting.”

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