“I was assigned to months-long stints on ‘teams’ of typically three or four people working on a study for a client. The bulk of my work on these teams consisted of doing mathematical analysis, conducting research, and preparing presentations,” Buttigieg wrote. “I never worked on a project inconsistent with my values, and if asked to do so, I would have left the firm rather than participate.”
While he did not disclose names of private companies, Buttigieg outlined seven projects to which he was assigned during his tenure. He said he analyzed cost-saving options in administration and overhead costs for “a non-profit health insurance provider.” He said he analyzed the effects of price cuts on items for a grocery store chain, and he examined opportunities to sell more energy-efficient products for a “consumer goods retail chain” in another project.
Buttigieg also said he worked on a project co-sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Energy and others to analyze ways to fight climate change with energy efficiency, and that he also worked separately with an environmental nonprofit to research renewable energy opportunities. Finally, Buttigieg — who served in Afghanistan with the U.S. Naval Reserve — said he worked for a “U.S. Government department in a project focused on increasing employment and entrepreneurship in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
The disclosure comes as Buttigieg has risen in Iowa polls, leading to increased scrutiny on his record. His association with McKinsey and Co. has drawn criticism from voters and fellow candidates who say his time there signals an affinity for corporate America at a time when the Democratic Party is trying to diminish the role of corporations in politics. McKinsey, one of the nation’s largest and most lucrative consulting firms, has a reputation for secrecy. This week, the New York Times and ProPublica published a report detailing the firm’s consulting work for ICE.
“I believe transparency is particularly important under the present circumstances in our country, which is one of the reasons why I have released all tax returns from my time in the private sector and since,” Buttigieg wrote. “I am today reiterating my request that McKinsey release me from this agreement, and I again make clear that I authorize them to release the full list of clients I was assigned to serve. This company must recognize the importance of transparency in the exceptional case of a former employee becoming a competitive candidate for the U.S. presidency.”
Buttigieg’s reference to releasing his tax returns was one of several jabs he has thrown at the transparency of his fellow candidates, particularly Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D.-Mass.). The 37-year-old has suggested Warren needs to release her tax returns from her time practicing law in the private sector. Warren has argued Buttigieg should open his fundraisers to the press — something he said Friday he doesn’t like to do out of respect for the privacy of the hosts of private fundraisers, but that he wouldn’t rule out opening them up in the future.
“We can keep having that conversation. I’m open to it. I just think it’s interesting when someone suddenly decides it’s important after doing it a different way for a long time,” said Buttigieg, taking a not-so-veiled shot at Warren’s Senate fundraising campaigns, which included big-dollar fundraisers.
The need for Buttigieg to distance himself from McKinsey’s secretive corporate reputation and address his closed-door fundraisers goes beyond being able to counter attacks from his opponents. In the past few days, voters have been confronting Buttigieg with similar questions about who is funding his campaign and what Buttigieg is telling them, as well as his time in corporate America. Friday morning in New Hampshire, a voter asked him about his time at McKinsey. Friday evening at Grinnell College, Buttigieg addressed demonstrators who carried signs, one of which read “Wall Street Pete.”
“I remember when they said the same thing about Obama and then he set up the [Consumer Financial Protection Bureau] and put Elizabeth Warren in charge of it and delivered some of the toughest regulations on Wall Street ever since,” Buttigieg said. Warren, who pushed for the creation of the CFPB, was never put in charge of the agency after its creation.
An hour or so after Buttigieg released the summary, it was clear that some still hoped he would go further. At an event moderated by mayors in Waterloo, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot pressed Buttigieg to break his nondisclosure agreement, saying that McKinsey likely would not release him from it, so he should take matters into his own hands.
“You should break the NDA,” Lightfoot told him on a stage in front of a few hundred people.
“I’m going to give them a chance to do the right thing,” said Buttigieg, who said later he needs to collect “some advice” on what the consequences would be for breaking the agreement. He reiterated the hope that his former employer would not put him in “an untenable situation” by refusing to release him from the agreement and forcing him to choose between going against his word and limiting his ability to be transparent.
“I am urging my former employer to do the right thing,” Buttigieg said. “And resolve it in the cleanest way it can be.”