Warren swears off high-dollar fundraisers in potential general election
Previously, Warren had said she would not hold high-dollar fundraisers in the primary but could adjust later on to compete with Trump.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren said she will continue to swear off high-dollar campaign fundraisers in the general election if she becomes the Democratic presidential nominee, extending her self-imposed ban on the events beyond the primary and reversing an earlier statement.
“When Elizabeth is the Democratic nominee for president, she’s not going to change a thing in how she runs her campaign,” campaign spokeswoman Kristen Orthman said in a statement Tuesday, which Warren later amplified in a Twitter thread. “That means no PAC money. No federal lobbyist money. No special access or call time with rich donors or big dollar fundraisers to underwrite our campaign.”
Warren had said earlier this year that she could do high-dollar fundraisers as the Democratic nominee in 2020 after swearing them off in the primary, to avoid “unilateral disarmament” against President Donald Trump and the GOP.
Warren first told told CBS News of her general election pledge, saying she's "not going to do the big-dollar fundraisers. I'm just not going to do it."
That broad statement worried some Democrats, as the party’s presidential nominee traditionally has been a big fundraiser for other candidates and Democratic committees. But in a Wednesday statement, Orthman clarified that Warren's pledge would apply only to her presidential campaign, not to raising money for the Democratic Party or other candidates.
“She currently attends events to raise money for the Democratic National Committee, state and local parties, and Democratic candidates,” Orthman wrote. “When she is the nominee, she will continue to raise money and attend events that are open to the press to make sure the Democratic National Committee, state and local parties, and Democratic candidates everywhere have the resources not just to beat Donald Trump but also to win back Congress and state legislatures all across the country.”
Warren’s chief strategist, Joe Rospars, also chimed in via Twitter, writing Warren would "run her campaign on 100% grassroots donations" but also "do whatever it takes to help the national, state, and local Democratic Party committees."
Warren's campaign did not respond to an inquiry about whether she would enter into joint fundraising agreements with the DNC and state parties. During the general election, presidential nominees often headline fundraisers at which donors can write single large checks to fund the national committee, state parties and the candidate simultaneously.
Warren and Sen. Bernie Sanders are the only candidates who have pledged to swear off closed-door, high-dollar fundraisers for their campaigns if they make it to the general election. In recent weeks, the Sanders campaign had drawn a contrast with Warren for swearing off such events just for the primary.
“Bernie is proud to be the only candidate running to defeat Donald Trump who is 100 percent funded by grassroots donations – both in the primary and in the general,” campaign manager Faiz Shakir said earlier this month.
The Sanders campaign did not immediately respond to inquiries about whether he would participate in the types of fundraisers Orthman described.
Some Democrats said Warren's move was reckless and would unilaterally put her and other Democrats at a disadvantage in November 2020. Henry Muñoz, the former finance chairman of the DNC who hasn’t endorsed a candidate but co-hosted a fundraiser for former Vice President Joe Biden, told POLITICO, "We should not be in any way limiting the ideas around a finance and funding structure at this point."
Muñoz added, “I want to believe that our next nominee will in a very thoughtful manner think through the very important relationship that exists between their campaign, the DNC, the state parties, and the local parties. We need a nominee that understands there will be almost unlimited amounts of dark money fighting us."
Muñoz and other Democrats pointed to the combined total of $125 million Trump and the RNC collected in the third quarter of the year as part of the reason why Democrats shouldn't try to play purity politics on raising money.
Warren’s pledge to not change the way she’s raising money in the general election also raises questions about the future of Democrats' presidential-focused super PAC, Priorities USA, which has already been making investments in the 2020 battleground states and running ads. In her original pledge published in February, Warren wrote that there would be “no auditioning billionaires to run a super PAC for me, and no dark-money groups devoted to supporting this campaign.”
In response to questions about its future if Warren is nominated, Priorities USA chairman Guy Cecil responded on Twitter: “Full speed ahead for @prioritiesUSA….We're already up & running ads holding Trump accountable in key states & will be through November next year.”
Priorities USA believes that because it is not a candidate-specific organization, Warren’s previous pledge does not apply to it.
Warren’s promise at the outset of her campaign to not hold traditional closed-door fundraisers with the wealthy drew skepticism from many party strategists. But her campaign has defied the doubters to become a fundraising juggernaut. She raised $24.6 million this past quarter, trailing only Sanders among the Democratic primary contenders and significantly outpacing the candidates who held traditional fundraisers.
“Look, for me, this is pretty straightforward,” Warren told CBS News. “Either you think democracy works and electing a president is all about going behind closed doors with bazillionaires and corporate executives and lobbyists and scooping up as much money as possible... or you think it’s about a grass-roots, let’s build this from the ground up.”