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Pete Buttigieg agrees to more transparency on campaign money

South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) at the Democratic debate on Nov. 20. (Brendan Mcdermid/Reuters)

Presidential contender Pete Buttigieg announced Monday that he would open his fundraisers to journalists and disclose the names of people raising money for his campaign, the latest step in an ongoing skirmish over transparency with Democratic rival Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

Reporters will be allowed into Buttigieg’s large-dollar fundraising events starting Tuesday, and the South Bend, Ind., mayor will release a list of his “bundlers” — those who funnel large sums of money to campaigns — within a week, according to Buttigieg campaign manager Mike Schmuhl.

“From the start, Pete has said it is important for every candidate to be open and honest, and his actions have reflected that commitment,” Schmuhl said in a statement.

Also Monday, the campaign announced that McKinsey and Co., the consulting firm where Buttigieg used to work, would now allow him to disclose the identity of his clients from his stint there.

McKinsey said in a statement that confidentiality is important to the firm. “At the same time, we recognize the unique circumstances presented by a presidential campaign,” the firm said. “After receiving permission from the relevant clients, we have informed Mayor Buttigieg that he may disclose the identity of the clients he served while at McKinsey from 2007 to 2010.” Any confidential, proprietary or classified information still must be kept secret, it added.

The Buttigieg campaign promised a list of the client names “soon.”

Buttigieg in recent weeks has criticized Warren (D-Mass.) on issues of transparency, especially regarding her consulting work for large corporations, calling on her to release tax returns from the years she worked in the private sector.

Warren, who has typically avoided criticizing her Democratic opponents, nonetheless singled out Buttigieg by name last week, saying he should disclose his bundlers and “open up the doors” of his fundraisers. At other campaign events, she has continued to ding unspecified opponents “who have decided to finance their campaigns by doing closed-door fundraisers, sucking up to the corporate executives, the millionaires, the billionaires.”

Warren and others have also demanded Buttigieg release the names of his clients from his stint as a consultant at McKinsey, something Buttigieg has long said he could not do because he signed a nondisclosure agreement. It is not clear when he will release those names now that the firm has agreed to let him do so.

The back-and-forth between Buttigieg and Warren highlights the heightened sensitivity in today’s Democratic Party to any perceived ties between a candidate and big business or wealthy individuals, a mood that has prompted various candidates to eschew big donors and distance themselves from Wall Street.

The exchanges have prompted actions by both Warren and Buttigieg to show their transparency. The senator on Sunday provided information about how much she made from three decades of legal work, showing she earned nearly $2 million as a consultant for corporations and financial firms. Buttigieg on Friday released a “summary” of his work for ­McKinsey, though it contained few details.

Buttigieg had also previously disclosed his bundlers but stopped doing so for a brief period in the fall. His campaign confirmed Monday that it would retroactively disclose the names of those bundlers, as well as supporters who bundle contributions for him in the future.

Since at least October, reporters have been asking Buttigieg if he would open his high-dollar fundraisers to the press, as former vice president Joe Biden has opted to do. Buttigieg demurred until now, saying there were “a lot of considerations” that would have to go into doing so.

Federal candidates are not required to disclose the names of their donors or fundraisers. In previous cycles, however, some presidential contenders have released the names of their bundlers.

A coalition of advocacy groups has been urging the 2020 Democrats to do the same, with little success. Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), who dropped out of the presidential race last week, had released a list of top bundlers to her campaign that was updated regularly.

As of the end of September, Buttigieg had raised less than half of his campaign money from “small-dollar” donors who contributed less than $200, mostly online.

The South Bend mayor has enjoyed the support of well-connected Democratic donors, particularly those who supported Barack Obama’s presidential runs. Some of them have helped Buttigieg raise money by hosting private fundraisers or bundling money.

Michelle Ye Hee Lee contributed to this report.