Dem donors swoon, and sometimes fight, over Pete Buttigieg

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WASHINGTON — Pete Buttigieg is suddenly the hottest ticket for Democratic donors in the 2020 presidential contest.

Entertainment moguls are fighting over that will host Hollywood fundraisers for the 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, Indiana. Democratic donors are showering him with praise. And he’s been over and over repeatedly selling out fundraisers over the U. S.

Whether the gay former military officer and Rhodes scholar will be able to capitalize on his improbable star turn and build out a campaign with stamina remains to be seen.

What exactly is indisputable, but is that donors are clamoring for more. That may help thaw a Democratic money game that’s been largely frozen during the early months of the primary, with many major financiers looking forward to the crowded field to thin.

“He absolutely should be part of the conversation. I want to see him in the top tier, ” said Susie Tompkins Buell, a high Hillary Clinton donor who recently held an event for Buttigieg at a Bay area yacht club despite previously announcing her support for Sen. Kamala Harris of California. “I’m very much supporting Kamala. I also am extremely impressed with Mayor Pete. ”

In the massive Democratic fundraising world of Hollywood, plans for an upcoming visit started a tug-of-war between major entertainment industry figures, including movie mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg, over who would arrive at host the next Buttigieg fundraiser. The dispute was described by two different people with direct knowledge of the problem who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive issue.

Buttigieg also counts among his supporters Laurie David, the producer of the Oscar-winning documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” who had been formerly married to “Curb Your Enthusiasm” star Larry David. Other prominent donors include “West Wing” star Bradley Whitford, “Deadpool” actor Ryan Reynolds and “This Is Us” actress Mandy Moore, whose Twitter feed is dominated by posts about Buttigieg.

“Los Angeles is excited to see and hear from Mayor Pete, ” said Marie Lloyd, a political consultant who works for some Hollywood megadonors, including Katzenberg. “I imagine he’ll have a fairly warm reception here. But it’s around him if that excitement remains. ”

On Tuesday, Buttigieg has been feted at a sold-out fundraiser held by Andrew Schapiro, a Chicago attorney who previously held a conference for Beto O’Rourke throughout the former Texas congressman’s run for Senate. Another Chicago fundraiser has been planned for May 16 that will be hosted by a number of former President Barack Obama’s top bundlers, including De Gray and John Atkinson, according to an invitation obtained by The Associated Press.

“From a fundraising point of view, it reminds me of early Obama: People are arriving at us and asking, ‘Can I participate? Can I come? ’” said Schapiro, who had been also Obama’s ambassador to the Czech Republic. “Most of the time when you’re carrying out a fundraiser, it’s the other way around, and you also have to work to get individuals to show up. ”

Many 2020 contenders up to now have been reticent to discuss their fundraising from big-dollar donors amid a fierce and ongoing intraparty debate on the role that big money plays in politics. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts went so far as to rule out attending major fundraisers and has alternatively said she’s going to rely on grassroots donors.

Buttigieg has taken another tack. His campaign has released a summary of major bundlers, a term used to spell it out donors who raise large sums of money for candidates by hosting events and urging their friends, family, acquaintances and colleagues to give. It’s a who’s who of Democratic donors, including members of the Pohlad family, who own the Minnesota Twins, filmmaker Jill Goldman and top Obama donors like hedge fund manager Orin Kramer. Also among his bundlers is Steven Elmendorf, a lobbyist whose recent customers include BP America, Facebook and the airlines industry, according to federal disclosures.

But Buttigieg shows an power to raise from the party’s grassroots base, too, getting about 64% of his first quarter fundraising haul from donors who gave less than $200, according to an analysis of Federal Election Commission records.

He’s also started to draw checks from donors who’ve given to other candidates, still another sign of the level of fascination with Buttigieg.

Among 2020 candidates, Buttigieg has received the next highest quantity of checks from donors that have given to multiple candidates, FEC data shows. Only Harris, who has been on the national political scene longer, has drawn more donors that have cut checks to multiple candidates, records show.

Buttigieg’s events aren’t limited to people able to fork out thousands of dollars. His campaign has been holding “grassroots fundraisers, ” with tickets that start at $25, in cities including New York and Washington, D. C.

Nyc Council Speaker Corey Johnson introduced Buttigieg at his first grassroots fundraiser in Chelsea last month. Johnson said Buttigieg’s staff and volunteers seemed as astonished as that he was at the turnout for the function, which was scheduled at 5 p. m. on a Friday.

Johnson expected 60 or 70 people. When he and Buttigieg walked upstairs to the event, they found the former dance club full of around 250.

“We had to wade our way through this enormous crowd, ” Johnson said. Later that night, Johnson posted a photo on Twitter and Instagram of himself and Buttigieg at the event and was immediately “bombarded” by people upset that they didn’t know about the big event and asking how they might attend the following one.

“There’s a real hunger to see him in New York, ” Johnson said.

Buttigieg sold-out another grassroots fundraiser at Brooklyn Bowl last week. Similar events are planned the following month in San francisco bay area and at The Abbey, a large and well-known gay nightclub in West Hollywood.

Buttigieg in addition has drawn plenty of attention from LGBT donors.

“He’s truly spoken in an exceedingly, very strong solution to the Democratic progressive donor base, ” said Rufus Gifford, Obama’s former finance director, who’s gay. “The fact that the latest candidate on the Democratic side is definitely an openly gay married man? It’s an incredible thing for me personally and my community. ”

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Burnett reported from Chicago. Associated Press writer Meghan Hoyer in Washington contributed for this report.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material might not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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