Buttigieg turns to Silicon Valley to bolster campaign fundraising haul

Democratic presidential candidate and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg. (Photo: Robert Franklin/South Bend Tribune via AP)
Democratic presidential candidate and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg. (Photo: Robert Franklin/South Bend Tribune via AP)

On the heels of an impressive fundraising quarter, South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg is returning to Silicon Valley later this month to endear himself to the tech industry’s deep-pocketed donors.

According to an invitation reviewed by Yahoo News, Google policy adviser Jacob Helberg and PayPal investor Keith Rabois will host a reception for Buttigieg in San Francisco on July 24. Billed as an “evening reception and conversation,” the event will be co-hosted by Pay By Group CEO Camilo Acosta, angel investor Cyan Banister and former Facebook product manager Seth Rosenberg. Interested attendees can join as a “co-host,” by either shelling out $2,800 or raising $15,000, or can participate as a “champion” with a $1,000 donation.

A Buttigieg campaign aide who spoke on condition of anonymity said that high-ticket fundraisers are only a part of the mayor’s fundraising strategy. Coupled with the big-ticket events are grassroots-level fundraisers. Low ticket prices, the aide said, make Buttigieg accessible to every economic cross section of the electorate, not just ones with high credit limits. In keeping with trend, Buttigieg will host a San Francisco grassroots event on the July 24 as well, Yahoo News has learned.

“We take an ‘all of the above’ fundraising strategy from one dollar online donations, donations made through social media, all the way up to max contributions and having people raise money on our behalf,” the aide said.

“I think one of the more successful components of our strategy has been approaching stressing grassroots events. Not only do these raise significant resources, they also bring in new donors. Fifty-four percent of people at grassroots are brand new to the campaign — someone who might not know much about Pete can pay 25 dollars and get up close with Pete.”

That strategy paid off in the second quarter of 2019, with Buttigieg raking in $24.8 million in campaign donations.

Solidifying his bonds with Silicon Valley is a smart move for Buttigieg, said Democratic strategist Max Burns.

“Pete probably has a more familiar relationship with tech than other candidates, just due in part to the generational difference,” said Burns, a former Facebook employee. “In engaging with tech company executives, Pete is savvier and more issue-aware of the real policy problems the tech giants present. And I think he probably has more legitimacy in bringing them to the table for that same reason. In most cases, he's right around their age, and he doesn't seem as distant from them.”

As he has established himself as a top contender, Buttigieg has been regularly knocking at the door of the tech industry, much like his efforts to woo deep-pocketed Hollywood donors. In recent months, his campaign has sought to solidify Buttigieg’s support with the tech industry by onboarding former Square executive Swati Mylavarapu, who has ties to Obama administration alums.

A source with knowledge of Silicon Valley finds that Mylavarapu’s prior relationship with establishment Democrats could help steer some away from former Vice President Joe Biden, who has recently seen a drop off in Silicon Valley support.

“I know a lot of [Obama] administration officials who are looking to Pete as a Biden alternative,” said the source, adding that many in the industry are still looking for a friendly, moderate face.

Biden remains popular with executives at the highest level, the source said, whereas Buttigieg wins over the midlevel staff. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders are popular with the everyday tech employees, many of whom run increasingly left of center, the source said. Plus, as Recode reported, Buttigieg has stopped short of demonizing industry leaders in the ways that some of his more progressive rivals have.

“The individual employees and execs backing Pete are doing that knowing his position on the issue is in favor of empowering the FTC to more aggressively police/reverse tech mergers,” Burns said.


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