In one of the most tense exchanges at the Democratic presidential debate Thursday night, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) sparred over fundraising practices, Buttigieg calling out Warren for "issuing purity tests" she cannot herself pass after she criticized him for catering to wealthy donors.
"So, the mayor just recently had a fundraiser that was held in a wine cave full of crystals and served $900-a-bottle wine. Think about who comes to that," Warren said, in reference to a private fundraiser that Buttigieg held Sunday in California's Napa Valley. The wine cave where the fundraiser took place boasts a chandelier with 1,500 Swarovski crystals and an onyx banquet table.
In contrast, Warren argued that her campaign "made the decision many years ago that rich people in smoke-filled rooms would not pick the next president of the United States." Then specifically addressing Buttigieg, she added: "Billionaires in wine caves should not pick the next president of the United States."
The remarks drew some isolated applause from the crowd.
But things were just getting started, as Buttigieg had evidently prepared for an attack such as this one.
"You know, according to Forbes magazine, I am the literally the only person on this stage who is not a millionaire or a billionaire," he jabbed at Warren.
"This is important — this is the problem with issuing purity tests you cannot yourself pass," he said to several incredulous yelps and even louder applause from the crowd.
"If I pledge never to be in the company of a progressive Democratic donor I couldn't be up here," he stated. "Senator, your net worth is 100 times mine."
Then Buttigieg, flexing his fundraising muscle, played out a scenario to help illustrate his point to Warren.
"Now supposing that you went home feeling the holiday spirit — I know this isn't likely but stay with me — and decided to go onto peteforamerica.com, and give the maximum allowable by law, $2,800. Would that pollute my campaign because it came from a wealthy person?" he asked.
"I would be glad to have that support," Buttigieg argued. "We need the support from everybody who is committed to helping us beat Donald Trump."
After Warren replied, saying, "I do not sell access to my time," Buttigieg took the opportunity to politely remind Warren that her campaign presently uses holdover funds from past campaigns to fund her current endeavor. Much of that money was donated by wealthy donors.
"Senator, your presidential campaign, right now, as we speak, is funded in part by money you transferred, having raised it at those exact same big-ticket fundraisers you now denounce," Buttigieg charged. "Did it corrupt you, senator?"
You can watch the full exchange, including some opening remarks made by Warren here.