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Pete Buttigieg returns lobbyists' donations, says values are more important

Pete Buttigieg returns lobbyists' donations, says values are more important
Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana who is rising in the crowded Democratic presidential primary polls, has announced he is no longer taking cash from lobbyists and promised to return over $30,000 in contributions.

"Mayor Pete will not be influenced by special interest money, and we understand that making this promise is an important part of that commitment," Buttigieg's campaign manager Mike Schmuhl announced on Friday in an email to supporters.

"Standing up for our collective values not only includes saying we believe that campaigns should not take money from lobbyists; it also means being aware of the loopholes that still allow special interests to impact the campaign."

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The campaign also promised to "establish internal procedures" to ensure federal lobbyist dollars didn't sneak in by other means, and pledged to return $30,250 that the candidate has received from 39 registered lobbyists since launching his presidential campaign.

Lobbyist Steve Elmendorf, a top donation "bundler" for Hillary Clinton whose recent clients include Facebook and Amazon, is no longer welcome as a Buttigieg bundler, according to campaign spokesman Chris Meagher, and his name has been removed from an event he was scheduled to host for Buttigieg next month. The campaign has banned all federal lobbyists from serving as bundlers going forward, it said, though Vanity Fair reported on Thursday that Obama bundler Barry Karas was also hosting a Buttigieg fundraiser next month. 

The presidential hopeful has raised over $7 million in the first quarter of 2019, and his schedule is packed with star-studded fundraising events, according to Variety, which name-drops Gwyneth Paltrow, Alan Cumming, Ilana Glazer, Jane Lynch, and Michael Stipe – among other Hollywood and music industry luminaries – as hosts of nearly two dozen posh, cash-infusing galas he reportedly has planned for May, one of which is selling tickets at $2,800 per person – the legal maximum for personal campaign contributions.

While Buttigieg has already pledged not to accept money from political action committees and the oil, gas, and coal industry, nearly half of his donations have been from "large" (over $200) donors, a category he has not renounced, unlike some of his Democratic primary rivals.

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Buttigieg is profoundly mediagenic – young, fit, gay, and non-threatening – and he has also arrived on the national stage with little baggage in the way of actual policy positions. Even CNN's Anderson Cooper called him out for his lack of a campaign platform during a town hall earlier this week, noting that his website "doesn't have anything specific about policy – there's no policy section on it – at what point do you need to start actually presenting specific policies, and a whole policy platform?"

Buttigieg was unfazed. "I think it's important that we not drown people in minutiae before we've vindicated the values that animate our policies," he said, lamenting that Democrats "go right to the policy proposals and we expect people to be able to figure out what our values must be from that."

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