Former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, who’s backing former Veep Joe Biden in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, let loose on U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass, in a Washington Post op-ed, charging that her approach to campaign finance issues is “hypocritical.”
Rendell, who served two terms from 2002 to 2010, says he likes Warren and praised her work in setting up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Rendell adds in the Wednesday op-Ed that he likes Warren so much, in fact, that “when she ran for Senate in 2018, I co-chaired a couple of fundraisers for her and donated a combined $4,500 to her campaign.”
The intra-party squabble comes ahead of Thursday night’s Democratic debate, where Warren and Biden are set to square off publicly for the first time onstage.
Rendell acknowledges Warren’s pledge to supporters, shortly after declaring her White House bid, that she would take a pass on high-dollar fundraisers, writing that, “Warren has every right to make that pledge even if she had obtained significant contributions from donors in the past. Doing that didn’t make her a hypocrite.”
But, he adds, in two significant ways, it’s an accurate description: First, Warren transferred $10.4 million from her Senate re-election account to her presidential campaign coffers.
Citing reporting by the New York Times, Rendell says “more than $6 million came in contributions of $1,000 and up,” making it look like Warren is “trying to have it both ways,” by “[getting] the political upside from eschewing donations from higher-level donors and running a grass-roots campaign, while at the same time using money obtained from those donors in 2018.” The money, Rendell adds, “gave Warren a substantial head start” in building campaign staff and other key infrastructure.
Second, Rendell takes issue with Warren’s attack on Biden’s April campaign kickoff fundraiser, which “she criticized as ‘a swanky private fund-raiser for wealthy donors’ in an email to supporters the next day,” Rendell wrote.
Rendell says he helped organize the Philadelphia event, which included such high-wattage Democratic donors as Comcast executive David L. Cohen.
Rendell’s op-ed lit up social media, becoming a trending topic on Twitter, where it garnered more than a few reactions.
“It appears that Elizabeth Warren hurt Ed Rendell’s feelings by speaking ill of a system that guarantees a steady stream of important people coming to kiss Ed Rendell’s ass, is how I interpret this,” Post columnist Paul Waldman opined.
It appears that Elizabeth Warren hurt Ed Rendell's feelings by speaking ill of a system that guarantees a steady stream of important people coming to kiss Ed Rendell's ass, is how I interpret this:https://t.co/D7QZxEO1ae
— Paul Waldman (@paulwaldman1) September 12, 2019
CNN commentator Keith Boykin quipped: “Wait. Is this the same Ed Rendell who lectured me repeatedly on CNN this year that Democrats should avoid attacking each other?”
Wait. Is this the same Ed Rendell who lectured me repeatedly on CNN this year that Democrats should avoid attacking each other? pic.twitter.com/YAc0PAaLZC
— Keith Boykin (@keithboykin) September 12, 2019
Writing in the Post, Rendell charged that Warren’s attack on Biden was “extremely hypocritical because nearly 20 of us who attended the Biden fundraiser had also given her $2,000 or more in 2018 at closed-door fundraisers in ‘swanky’ locations.”
He adds that “Warren didn’t seem to have any trouble taking our money in 2018, but suddenly we were power brokers and influence peddlers in 2019. The year before, we were wonderful. I co-chaired one of the events for the senator and received a glowing, handwritten thank-you letter from her for my hard work.”
Rendell further takes Warren to task for the notion, “raised … in her criticism of the Biden fundraiser in April, that people who give the maximum allowable individual donation of $2,800 to a presidential candidate are doing so because they believe it will get them a federal job, win their business a federal contract or even gain special access.”
The real reason people max out at $2,800, Rendell argues, is because “they believe strongly that the candidate would make a great leader, or maybe they believe in the candidate’s values or policies on the important issues challenging the country.”
He also acknowledges that some donors could have “ulterior” motives, “but I’m confident that the crowd at the Biden fundraiser gave money to him for the same reason I did,” that Biden is best suited to lead.
If she had read Rendell’s attack, Warren did not make note of it on her campaign Twitter feed, instead focusing on her demands that corporate America pay its fair share.
My stance couldn’t be clearer: These executives and CEOs know the system has been rigged in their favor—and they’ve gotten away with it for a long time.
That stops when I’m president. https://t.co/MQXXxAS6UM
— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) September 12, 2019
Rendell, for his part, closed with an olive branch to his fellow Democrat:
“Despite my feelings, Elizabeth, if you’re reading this and you win the Democratic nomination, I will be happy to support you and will campaign for you with all my heart. And, by the way, Philadelphia has a lot more swanky restaurants that you haven’t seen yet,” he wrote.