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As President Obama faced an uncertain reelection future in 2011, the Democratic establishment set its sights 611 miles west down the Rust Belt.
Pete Buttigieg was running for Mayor of South Bend, Indiana, climbing up Mount Meritocracy as an Obama-esque figure. A Harvard and Oxford-educated Afghanistan war veteran and former McKinsey consultant, Buttigieg seemed like the perfect political specimen; a bridge that could attract and connect the professional managerial class the Democratic Party has hitched its wagons to while also appealing to the gritty worker bee in the heartland.
And based on campaign finance documents, which were deleted by the state of Indiana and also withheld by Buttigieg’s campaign, the corporate Democratic establishment backed Buttigieg in this small-city, Rust Belt election with all its might.
According to Buttigieg’s donor records, first obtained by The Center for Public Integrity and The Young Turks, Buttigieg received $16,200 from The Feldman Group, run by veteran Democratic Party pollster Diane Feldman, during his 2011 mayoral campaign. Feldman had done polling for both Hillary Clinton and President Obama’s presidential campaigns along with polling and consulting for the DNC and gubernatorial and congressional candidates.
It’s not clear why the name-brand D.C. pollster was pouring in such a significant amount of money into a relatively no-name mayoral campaign in South Bend, Indiana (Feldman didn’t respond to Status Coup’s request for comment).
Aneesh Raman, who, after serving as a CNN war reporter moved over to writing speeches for President Obama, donated $500 to Buttigieg. The two men came from the same elite circles, studying together at Harvard, and according to Raman, becoming buddies.
My buddy @PeteButtigieg said it best this week: “the thing you will be remembered for is whether, in this moment, with this President, you found the courage to stand up to him or continue to put party over country.”
Who’s next? https://t.co/Z2I5rw2JJY
— Aneesh Raman (@AneeshRaman) August 2, 2019
I knew @PeteButtigieg from college. And while, of course, only athletes can have fun because that makes total sense, we definitely didn’t spend every weekend night reading books and watching CSPAN. Or any. https://t.co/FvzmIBq6MJ
— Aneesh Raman (@AneeshRaman) July 12, 2019
Other members of the Obama-era Democratic establishment who supported Buttigieg: Woodrow Myers Jr, a former Indiana health commissioner who served on Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign, donated $1,515; Chris Hughes, a Facebook co-founder who left the company to work on Obama’s 2008 campaign, donated $1,000; Matt Burgess, a veteran campaign manager who managed several Democratic senatorial campaigns, donated $515; Jim Crounse, a top Democratic direct mail consultant who worked on Obama’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns—and close friend with 2012 Obama campaign manager Jim Messina—who donated $500; Colleen Kavanaugh, the wife of Gerry Kavanaugh, who ran multiple reelection campaigns for Senator Ted Kennedy and worked on John Edwards’ 2004 presidential campaign, donated $500; Robert Barber, Obama fundraiser turned controversial Ambassador to Iceland, donated $250; Theodore Johnston, who worked for Obama’s Super PAC Priorities USA, donated $250.
Other donors $100 or less:
-Becca Sharp: Obama ’08 campaign
-Christopher Kirchhoff: former senior adviser to President Obama Counselor, John Podesta
-Chris Sautter: producer of candidate Obama’s first television ad
-David Burd: an attorney who worked on Obama’s transition team and then in the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
-Kate Chapek: served as national women’s vote director for President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign
-David Burd: an attorney who worked on Obama’s transition team
-Jody Kelman: served on Obama’s Technology, Innovation, and Government Reform transition team (served with Buttigieg at McKinsey)
-Joanna Belanger: fundraiser for Center for American Progress
-Eric Lesser: special adviser to Obama senior adviser David Axelrod
-Chris Matthiesen: lobbyist who began his career working for Nancy Pelosi
-Christopher Wheat: served as Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s chief sustainability officer
“He was being groomed for a run at the White House by the Democratic party before he even became the mayor,” South Bend activist Jesse Davis, who has long served as a thorn in Mayor Buttigieg’s side, told Status Coup. “The Mayor’s position was just a stepping stone and he was building a resume for the White House run.”
On why Buttigieg, in particular, was the apple of Obama-era D.C. insiders’ eyes, Davis said Buttigieg’s failed run for Indiana state treasurer put him on the radar of the power elite in D.C. Beyond that, former Indiana Governor and South Bend Mayor Joe Kergan had spread Buttigieg’s name east to the corridors of Capitol Hill.
Fast forward nearly a decade, three former Obama officials recently endorsed Buttigieg; former Obama ambassadors and fundraisers are also supporting him.
For Obama’s part, he hasn’t endorsed a candidate but has allowed his former Vice President, Joe Biden, to feature Obama in his television and digital ads.
Buttigieg is currently in first place in Iowa and second in New Hampshire, according to Real Clear Politics’ average of polls. Senator Bernie Sanders’ campaign openly criticized Buttigieg on Tuesday for a swanky fundraiser he held in a “wine cave” in Napa Valley.
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