Remember when Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was calling out the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates for taking contributions from billionaires?
It wasn’t that long ago. In fact, it was just, erm, last week, where the New York Democrat appeared at a rally for Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and said it was necessary for candidates “to not be funded by billionaires but to be funded by the people.”
What’s odd is that AOC herself is funded by a billionaire — one who was on the Democratic debate stage with Sanders last week.
According to the New York Post, Ocasio-Cortez received a donation to her 2018 congressional candidacy from Tom Steyer, the California billionaire who’s more or less bought his way onto the presidential debate rostrum.
The $2,700 donation was made on Aug. 29, 2018, and confirmed by Steyer’s campaign. Steyer announced he would run for president in July of this year, long after the donation was made.
The story actually begins with one of the only compulsively watchable moments in a three-hour Democratic debate last week, which was very much the opposite of watchable.
If you didn’t watch the debate, you probably remember the exchange by two words: “wine cave.” That’s the location where South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg hosted a fundraising event — a fact that Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren took plenty of advantage of.
“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. “Billionaires in wine caves should not pick the next president of the United States.”
“According to Forbes magazine, I’m literally the only person on this stage who’s not a millionaire or a billionaire,” Buttigieg said in response, adding that Warren shouldn’t be “issuing purity tests you yourself cannot pass.”
During a campaign stop with Sanders last Saturday in Los Angeles, Ocasio-Cortez used the “purity test” line to hit back at Buttigieg (and Warren by association, since she too has taken money from billionaire donors).
“For anyone who accuses us for instituting purity tests — it’s called having values,” Ocasio-Cortez said.
“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.”
.@AOC taking a shot at Buttigieg:
“For anyone who accuses of us of instituting purity tests, it’s called having values. It’s called giving a damn. It’s called having standards for your conduct, by not being funded by billionaires.” pic.twitter.com/866aLKIqte
— Ibrahim (@ibrahimpols) December 21, 2019
She added that “I go into work all the time and I hear people say, ‘What will my donors think?’ I hear that phrase. I hear and I see that billionaires get members of Congress on speed dial and waitresses don’t.”
Enter Steyer, who helped fund her campaign.
“Tom’s proud to support Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez, a champion for working families in the Bronx and all across our country,” a Steyer representative told the Post.
“She’s a leader in the fight to make the wealthy pay their fair share, provide a living wage for all workers, and pass a Green New Deal that combats climate change and helps reinvent the American economy.”
Ocasio-Cortez is pretty on-brand for Steyer, who’s made utter cluelessness about the environment, the economy and all that fun stuff in which presidents have a say a sort of trademark on the campaign trail and debate stage.
He’s managed to fuse the hopelessly unsustainable “solutions” found among young leftist insurgents like Ocasio-Cortez with folksy, “I’ve run a business, I know how this works, you can trust me on this” rhetoric. I don’t even know how you reconcile those — and, indeed, Steyer seems to be presenting them more as a Hegelian dialectic than two mutually compatible things — but AOC is very much what he wants Democratic voters to think about when they think about his campaign.
That doesn’t quite go both ways. Steyer isn’t exactly someone Ocasio-Cortez would bring along to rallies, even if she hadn’t already endorsed Sanders. And, to be fair, Steyer’s donation didn’t buy Ocasio-Cortez’s endorsement. A measly $2,700 isn’t going to do that — and, indeed, I can’t think of any amount of money that would induce a Democrat to immolate his or her career that way.
That’s not just because Steyer’s campaign was reported to be offering financial inducements to local officials in Iowa to endorse his campaign, mind you.
It’s that the Democratic body politic is positively allergic to billionaires this election cycle. You’ve even got some minor nabobs on the liberal side of things wondering whether billionaires should exist.
Perhaps Pete Buttigieg was right. Democrats shouldn’t be “issuing purity tests you yourself cannot pass.”
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.