Earlier this week, while headlining a campaign rally for Sen. Bernie Sanders, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez took a swipe at South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, accusing the 2020 hopeful of being beholden to billionaires.
"For anyone who accuses us of instituting purity tests, it's called having values," Ocasio-Cortez told the crowd in Venice Beach, California. "It's called giving a damn. It's called having standards for your conduct, to not be funded by billionaires but to be funded by the people, which is different."
But what the freshman congresswoman, a rising star in the Democratic Party, neglected to disclose is that during her 2018 campaign, after she handed former Rep. Joe Crowley a shocking primary loss, she accepted a donation from Democratic presidential candidate and billionaire Tom Steyer.
According to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, Steyer gave Ocasio-Cortez $2,700 in August 2018. Worth $1.6 billion, Steyer has cast himself as a progressive outsider, whose top priorities include ending the influence of corporations in politics and addressing climate change. So far, he’s poured about $83 million into ad buys, the second-highest amount in the 2020 race and trailing only fellow billionaire Micahel Bloomberg.
Steyer donated to a slew of other Democratic candidates that year as well, including Rep. Maxine Waters, Rep. John Delaney and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema.
The long-simmering debate over big money in politics erupted during the sixth Democratic debate in Los Angeles last week, when Sen. Elizabeth Warren attacked Buttigieg for holding a fundraiser in a so-called wine cave in Napa Valley that was “full of crystals and served $900-a-bottle wine.”
“We made the decision many years ago that rich people in smoke-filled rooms would not pick the next president of the United States,” Warren said.
Buttigieg responded that he rejects purity tests and welcomes financial support and campaign help from whoever offers and insisted that it was necessary in order to defeat President Trump in November. Forty billionaires and their spouses have donated to Buttigieg's campaign, Forbes reported, based on an analysis of federal election filings. He's also received donations from 13 big-money donors, by far the most of any Democrat running for president.
In California, during the rally, Ocasio-Cortez told attendees that she’s seen the difference between lawmakers who are funded by billionaires, and those who are funded by small-dollar donors.
“I go into work all the time and I hear people saying, 'What will my donors think?'” she said. “I see that billionaires get members of Congress on speed dial and waitresses don't, okay? There's a difference.”