Some donors to Pete Buttigieg’s presidential marketing campaign scored contracts from South Bend when he was mayor


Former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, U.S. President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee to be secretary of transportation, reacts to his nomination as Biden seems on throughout a information convention at Biden’s transition headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware, U.S., December 16, 2020.

Kevin Lemarque | Reuters

Pete Buttigieg, President-elect Joe Biden’s alternative for Transportation secretary and the previous mayor of South Bend, Indiana, obtained presidential marketing campaign donations from executives at firms that had public works contracts with the town whereas he led it.

A CNBC evaluation of dozens of the town’s infrastructure contracts throughout his second time period as mayor, from 2016 into 2020, reveals that underneath Buttigieg, a portion of the town’s spending went towards contractors who later turned donors to his marketing campaign for president, which he launched in 2019.

If he’s confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Buttigieg, as head of the Division of Transportation, could be liable for pushing ahead the incoming administration’s infrastructure proposals.

Buttigieg is 38 years previous and is taken into account a rising star within the nationwide Democratic Occasion. His position as Transportation secretary may enhance him if he seeks to run for increased workplace once more.

A number of of the contractors produced new roads, bridges and buildings for the town. South Bend’s most recent budget is over $350 million. The Division of Transportation can be going into the brand new 12 months with a finances of over $80 billion. Buttigieg proposed a $1 trillion infrastructure plan when he ran for president.

Information from the nonpartisan Heart for Responsive Politics reveals Buttigieg completed elevating almost $100 million throughout his presidential marketing campaign. About $2 million got here from donors in the actual property business.

A report by the Heart for Public Integrity and the progressive media outlet The Younger Turks reveals that Buttigieg received similar contributions from city contractors when he initially ran for mayor in 2011. In that case, potential contractors gave to his political group and so they then obtained monetary agreements from the town after submitting aggressive bids. These bids had been then authorized by the Board of Public Works.

The Buttigieg crew responds

After CNBC laid out many of the contracts and the following contributions to the Biden transition crew, a Buttigieg spokesperson despatched CNBC a prolonged response. The consultant declined to be named on this story.

The spokesperson stated Buttigieg wasn’t concerned within the tasks, whereas noting that the businesses had completed enterprise with the town earlier than Buttigieg was mayor. The spokesperson additionally stated the executives had a historical past of giving to different Democratic presidential campaigns, together with Biden’s, Hillary Clinton’s and Barack Obama’s. Some additionally gave to Republicans.

“Pete prevented getting concerned in who obtained these contracts for precisely this purpose. And I’d additionally level out that on Pete’s first day as mayor he established a Code of Ethics, and in 2018 signed a accountable bidder ordinance aimed to make sure taxpayers’ {dollars} had been spent effectively by accountable contractors,” the Buttigieg spokesperson stated.

The spokesperson famous that Buttigieg signed an govt order in 2012 that acknowledged a authorities worker, together with himself, is not going to knowingly solicit or settle for any presents or favors from an individual who has a enterprise relationship or seeks a enterprise relationship from any metropolis company.

“You hyperlink to contracts that had been authorized by the Board of Public Works, which meets in public, does its enterprise in public, and authorized these contracts by way of an open and clear procurement course of that goes by way of a bidding course of and — as I stated earlier than — has little involvement from the mayor,” the consultant stated.

CNBC laid out to the town of South Bend particulars about many of the contracts that had been authorized by the Board of Public Works and the executives who later contributed to Buttigieg’s marketing campaign for president. A spokesman defended the businesses.

“Every of those companies are well-respected and have a popularity domestically for delivering prime quality providers for the town and South Bend residents,” Caleb Bauer, the mayor’s workplace press secretary, instructed CNBC. “Every of those contracts additionally went by way of knowledgeable procurement course of that’s public and clear earlier than being authorized by the Board of Public Works, which is ruled by state legislation.”

Nonetheless, some Democrats anticipate that Republicans will make a giant deal out of the contributions Buttigieg obtained from contractors.

“He can be accused of conflicts of curiosity and if the Republicans maintain the Senate he’ll endure a really, very robust affirmation course of,” veteran Democratic strategist Hank Sheinkopf stated.

Firms and contracts

In 2017, building firm Walsh & Kelly signed a contract with South Bend for over $600,000 for a job across the website of a future Courtyard Marriott resort. Two years later the corporate was awarded subsequent contracts by South Bend price simply over $2.4 million. The resort opened in 2018.

Walsh & Kelly’s president, Kevin Kelly, contributed $2,700 to Buttigieg’s marketing campaign for president, CRP knowledge says. That is almost the utmost contribution a person can legally give a marketing campaign.

Walsh & Kelly didn’t return calls in search of remark.

Arne Sorenson, Marriott’s CEO, gave $2,800, the max quantity, to Buttigieg’s marketing campaign, information present.

A Marriott spokeswoman defended Sorenson’s donation to Buttigieg’s political group.

“Arne Sorenson gave to Pete Buttigieg’s presidential marketing campaign personally as a result of his spouse and children had been impressed by his marketing campaign,” Elynsey Worth, a spokesman for the resort chain, instructed CNBC. “No matter was underway, round or involving the South Bend resorts would have been the accountability of our franchisees or homeowners, not Marriott.”

South Bend actual property improvement firm JSK Hospitality struck considered one of its largest offers in 2018, when a subsidiary of the agency purchased the previous School Soccer Corridor of Fame constructing within the metropolis for over $525,000, according to the South Bend Tribune. The CEO, A.J. Patel, gave $1,000 to the Buttigieg marketing campaign. The Courtyard Marriott is listed as a part of the agency’s resort portfolio.

CNBC was unable to go away a message in JSK Hospitality’s normal voice mailbox on Tuesday as a result of its voicemail was full. The identical was true for Patel’s line. As a substitute, CNBC left a message for the corporate’s chief monetary officer, who didn’t reply to a request for remark.

In 2017, the town got here to an settlement with Epoch Structure to assist construct a brand new South Bend fireplace station. The corporate agreed to over $280,000 in funds from the town for the challenge. The principal of the engineering and structure firm, Kyle Copelin, later gave $500 to the Buttigieg marketing campaign, information present.

Copelin didn’t reply to a request for remark.

In 2017, the town signed at the very least three contracts with Jones Petrie Rafinski, an structure and engineering agency with places of work in South Bend. The agency noticed over $200,000 in offers with the town that 12 months. Two years later, the corporate’s vp, David Rafinski, contributed $500 to Buttigieg’s marketing campaign for president. His firm additionally had different offers with South Bend all through 2019.

Rafinski instructed CNBC that he had no interplay with Buttigieg’s govt crew whereas his firm labored for South Bend.

“The Metropolis of South Bend has been a shopper of ours since Pete was in highschool,” Rafinski stated. “The work that we do is thru the Board of Public Works. We did not have any interplay with Pete with our work in any respect. It was all by way of the Board of Public Works.” Rafinski stated he gave to Buttigieg’s presidential marketing campaign as a result of he thought the previous mayor’s “compassion” was wanted in nationwide politics.

South Bend additionally got here to a consulting settlement in 2017 with Canada-based Stantec. The contract was price over $105,000. The settlement with the designing and engineering firm appeared to undergo their close by Chicago places of work. Later, Michael Toolis, who, in keeping with his LinkedIn, is a Stantec vp, gave $2,000 to Buttigieg’s presidential marketing campaign. Toolis was as soon as employed by VOA Associates, a Midwestern design agency that beforehand did work on the College of Notre Dame. VOA was acquired by Stantec in 2016.

“The corporate doesn’t allow political contributions to candidates on its behalf,” Stantec spokeswoman Laura Leopold stated in a one-line e mail in response to CNBC’s questions.

American Structurepoint, an engineering firm with headquarters in Indianapolis, obtained at the very least seven contracts in 2018 for over $300,000 to do consulting and different providers for South Bend. Greg Henneke, the senior govt vp, gave the Buttigieg presidential marketing campaign $2,700 a 12 months later.

Each Stantec and American Structurepoint had contracts with the town in 2019.

A spokeswoman for American Structurepoint didn’t reply to a request for remark.