Sen. Elizabeth Warren said she will continue to swear off high-dollar campaign fundraisers in the general election if she becomes the Democratic presidential nominee — extending her personal ban on the events beyond the primary and reversing an earlier statement that she could do high-dollar fundraisers in 2020 to avoid “unilateral disarmament” against President Donald Trump and the GOP.
“When Elizabeth is the Democratic nominee for president, she’s not going to change a thing in how she runs her campaign,” campaign spokesperson Kristen Orthman said in a statement Tuesday, which Warren later amplified in a Twitter thread. “That means no PAC money. No federal lobbyist money. No special access or call time with rich donors or big dollar fundraisers to underwrite our campaign.”
Warren first told told CBS News of her general election pledge, saying she's "not going to do the big-dollar fundraisers. I'm just not going to do it," in an interview posted Tuesday night.
That broad statement worried some Democrats, as the party’s presidential nominee is traditionally a big fundraiser for other candidates and Democratic committees. But in a Wednesday statement, Orthman clarified that Warren's pledge would only apply to her presidential campaign, not to raising money for the Democratic Party or other candidates.
“She currently attends events to raise money for the Democratic National Committee, state and local parties, and Democratic candidates,” Orthman wrote. “When she is the nominee, she will continue to raise money and attend events that are open to the press to make sure the Democratic National Committee, state and local parties, and Democratic candidates everywhere have the resources not just to beat Donald Trump but also to win back Congress and state legislatures all across the country.”
Warren’s chief strategist, Joe Rospars, also chimed in via Twitter, saying Warren would "run her campaign on 100% grassroots donations" but also "do whatever it takes to help the national, state, and local Democratic Party committees."
Warren joins Sen. Bernie Sanders as the only candidates to pledge to swear off closed-door, high-dollar fundraisers for their campaigns if they make it to the general election. In recent weeks, the Sanders campaign had drawn contrast with Warren for swearing off such events just for the primary.
“Bernie is proud to be the only candidate running to defeat Donald Trump who is 100 percent funded by grassroots donations – both in the primary and in the general,” campaign manager Faiz Shakir said earlier this month.
The Sanders campaign did not immediately respond to inquiries about whether he would participate in the types of fundraisers Orthman described.
Warren’s pledge to not change the way she’s raising money in the general election also raises questions about the future of Democrats' presidential-focused super PAC, Priorities USA, which has already been making investments in the 2020 batteground states and running ads. In her original pledge published in February, Warren wrote that there would be “no auditioning billionaires to run a super PAC for me, and no dark-money groups devoted to supporting this campaign.”
In response to questions about its future if Warren is the nominee, Priorities USA chairman Guy Cecil responded on Twitter: “Full speed ahead for @prioritiesUSA….We're already up & running ads holding Trump accountable in key states & will be through November next year.”
Priorities USA believes that because they are not a candidate-specific organization so Warren’s previous pledge does not apply to them.
Warren’s promise at the outset of her campaign to not hold traditional closed-door fundraisers with the wealthy drew skepticism from many party strategists. But her campaign has defied the doubters to become a fundraising juggernaut. She raised $24.6 million this last quarter, trailing only Sanders among the Democratic primary contenders and significantly outpacing the candidates who held traditional fundraisers.
“Look, for me this is pretty straightforward,” Warren told CBS News. “Either you think democracy works and electing a president is all about going behind closed doors with bazillionaires and corporate executives and lobbyists and scooping up as much money as possible...Or you think it’s about a grass-roots, let’s build this from the ground up.”