The wine cave stop was part of a Buttigieg swing through some of Silicon Valley’s wealthiest families. At a fundraiser the next day, the hosts included Netflix chief Reed Hastings, the sister of Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, and the wives of a Google co-founder and former Google CEO, Recode reported. Other events were hosted by an Asana co-founder and a member of the prominent Buell family.
Why on earth did this become a prominent campaign issue?
Because that’s the kind of thing that happens in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary.
News of the wine cave fundraiser became immediate catnip for Buttigieg’s top left-flank opponents, Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). Painting the event as emblematic of Buttigieg cowing to wealthy donors, Sanders’ campaign wrote in an email to supporters, “I am not entirely sure what happens when people pay huge sums of money to have dinner with a candidate at a wine cave with ‘1,500 Swarovski crystals,’ but I would guess they are not talking about standing up to the greed of the billionaire class.”
The striking visual of a wine cave fundraiser propelled the topic throughout a busy week in politics. On Thursday, longtime Sanders aide Jeff Weaver wore a T-shirt labeled “PetesWineCave.com,” which directs to a Sanders contribution page. And wine caves wound their way into some of the feistiest moments of the debate, where Warren, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and businessman Andrew Yang all referenced it disparagingly.
Beyond wine, what are the broader stakes?
Sanders and Warren have both sworn off all high-dollar fundraisers in their campaigns. Their messaging portrays wealthy political donors as anathema to their populist economic agendas and necessary change in the country. Buttigieg, who has drawn most of the left’s ire in recent weeks — despite the fact that Joe Biden is still leading the polls — is a favorite foil. And wine caves provided only the latest salvo in an ongoing debate over how to fund and run campaigns.
In the middle of the debate, the Warren campaign blasted out a statement that pointed to the wine cave as an electability issue for Buttigieg: “A Democratic nominee running on a defense of billionaires and lavish fundraisers in crystal wine caves, and in defense of the corrupt system that wealthy donors fuel, is a terrible risk for Democrats and very likely going to lose.”
Buttigieg, Biden and other establishment candidates see it differently. They argue that Democrats shouldn’t be turning away anyone who wants to take down President Donald Trump. They say they aren’t beholden to wealthy donors. And they note that Warren, for one, accepted such donations in her Senate campaign — some of which she transferred to her presidential campaign account.
Buttigieg also cast access to wealthy donors as something of a necessary evil for candidates who aren’t rich themselves. “I’m literally the only person on this stage who’s not a millionaire or a billionaire,” he said to Warren at the debate. “If I pledge never to be in the company of a progressive Democratic donor, I couldn’t be up here. Senator, your net worth is 100 times mine.”
Still, Buttigieg and Biden have been largely on the defensive. The mayor announced earlier this month that he would disclose the names of top campaign bundlers, and Biden followed suit before the debate Thursday.
The fracture is part of a broader tension between Buttigieg and Warren in particular in recent weeks, which has featured both candidates attacking each other for their past corporate clients, hypocrisy and approach to wealth policies.
How did folks off the debate stage respond?
The teetotaling Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), who is running for president but didn’t make this debate, said, “If I had a cave in my house, I’d fill it with something better than wine” — perhaps sci-fi movies instead, according to Iowa Starting Line.
Winery owner and California Gov. Gavin Newsom, on the other hand, took some umbrage at the denigration of wine caves. “It’s how I started. It’s a point of pride, it’s one of America’s great exports,” he said, according to HuffPost’s Igor Bobic. “I don’t know that it’s helpful to have those kinds of debates.”
What is the temperature in a wine cave?
Somewhere around 55°F, according to Eater.