Elizabeth Warren Takes on Democratic Rivals on Fundraising in Speech

(Bloomberg) -- Elizabeth Warren took an unusually aggressive stance against her moderate rivals for the Democratic nomination in a speech billed as an economic address on Thursday.

“We know that one Democratic candidate walked into a room of wealthy donors this year to promise that ‘nothing would fundamentally change’ if he’s president,” Warren said, referring to Joe Biden.

“We know that another calls the people who raise a quarter-million dollars for him his ‘National Investors Circle’ and he offers them regular phone calls and special access. When a candidate brags about how beholden he feels to a group of wealthy investors, our democracy is in serious trouble,” Warren said, referring to Pete Buttigieg.

For months, the Massachusetts senator refrained from directly criticizing her rivals in the race for the Democratic nomination. But Warren has seen her poll numbers slip both nationally and in the first two primary states. With the Iowa caucuses only a couple of months away, she’s taking on her rivals.

In her speech, Warren vowed to root out corruption in Washington and Wall Street and protect workers and unions but reiterated that she believes in markets with fair rules. That’s why millionaires and billionaires see her as a threat, she said.

“They believe that I’m the biggest threat to a corrupt system that has enriched them at everyone else’s expense. And they’re right.”

While Warren didn’t mention the other candidates by name, she referenced comments that Biden made to affluent donors at a campaign fundraiser in June, telling them that he wanted their support and -- perhaps unlike some other Democratic presidential candidates -- wouldn’t target their wealth.

“Truth of the matter is, you all know, you all know in your gut what has to be done,” Biden said. “We can disagree in the margins. But the truth of the matter is, it’s all within our wheelhouse and nobody has to be punished. No one’s standard of living would change. Nothing would fundamentally change,” he said.

Biden, however, has proposed tax changes including treating capital gains as income, capping deductions for the wealthy and raising the top individual tax rate.

Warren also took aim at Buttigieg, criticizing him for “blocking reporters from entering those fancy, closed-door” fundraisers. Under pressure from Warren, Buttigieg agreed on Monday to open his fundraisers.

Biden and Buttigieg and their surrogates raise money from Wall Street and Silicon Valley donors at posh fundraisers. Warren has eschewed such events in favor of small, mostly online donations, although she accepts $2,800 donations from individuals, the maximum a person can contribute.

In a veiled reference to Buttigieg and Biden, Warren accused “some candidates” of betting on a “naive hope that if Democrats adopt Republican critiques of progressive policies or make vague calls for unity that somehow the wealthy and well-connected will stand down.”

Buttigieg senior adviser Lis Smith responded Thursday afternoon by accusing Warren of pushing “the politics and divisiveness that is tearing this country apart,” while maintaining that Buttigieg “will heal our divides and rally Americans around big ideas” as president.

Biden fired back at Warren at a fundraiser in Palo Alto, California, though without mentioning her name, referring to her only as “one of my opponents.”

“If we can’t unify the country you all ought to go home now, because nothing’s going to happen except by executive order. And last time I knew it, a president is not allowed to say, ‘This is how I’m changing the tax structure, this is how I’m changing the environment,’” he said. “You need to actually get a consensus in the constitutional process. And we can unify the country.”

Warren also went after billionaire Michael Bloomberg, who entered the race for the Democratic nomination in late November, while she reiterated the necessity for a 2% wealth tax on fortunes over $50 million.

“It’s no secret that I’m not a fan of Michael Bloomberg trying to buy the Democratic presidential nomination,” Warren said. “A wealth tax on millionaires and billionaires isn’t about being punitive or denigrating success. It’s about laying the foundation for future successes.”

Bloomberg is the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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