CHARLESTON, S.C.— Senator Elizabeth Warren will stick with her ban on courting wealthy donors for her presidential campaign if she becomes the Democratic Party’s nominee, shifting her stance on a policy that she had suggested would apply only to the primary.
“When Elizabeth is the Democratic nominee for president, she’s not going to change a thing in how she runs her campaign,” Kristen Orthman, a spokeswoman for Warren, said Wednesday. “That means no PAC money. No federal lobbyist money. No special access or call time with rich donors or big-dollar fund-raisers to underwrite our campaign.”
But to assuage Democrats worried that a purist fund-raising stance could hobble the party’s war chest ahead of a battle royale with President Trump, Warren and her representatives said she will continue to attend fund-raising events for the Democratic National Committee, state parties, and down-ballot candidates.
“I’m not asking our state parties or our national party to unilaterally disarm,” Warren said after a campaign event at a community center here on Wednesday, echoing a warning she herself made about her fund-raising pledge when she first announced it. “I’m going to help them raise money.”
That could set up a tricky — and novel — balancing act if Warren continues her rise in the polls and becomes the nominee for a party that will be desperate to raise all it can to take on Trump.
As small-dollar donors become increasingly important to the Democratic Party, Warren’s ban on exclusive, high-dollar fund-raisers has become an integral part of her primary campaign. Her allies say it frees her up to campaign and keeps her from being beholden to special interests. But she said when she rolled it out earlier this year that “we will do what is necessary” to match Republican fund-raising in the general election, strongly suggesting the ban would apply only to the primary.
In an interview with CBS that aired Tuesday night, Warren changed her stance, saying she would “not be forced to make changes in how I raise money.”
“I’m not going to do the big-dollar fund-raisers — I’m just not going to do it,” Warren said. “The whole notion behind this campaign is that we can build this together. And that’s exactly what we’re doing.”
So far, Warren’s stance has not stopped her from pulling in big fund-raising hauls in the Democratic race. After a slow first quarter, she raised nearly $44 million from April through September.
Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont raised about an equal amount over the same period while also swearing off traditional fund-raising. Warren’s new position aligns her with a pledge Sanders had already taken for the general election.
Sarah Bryner, director of research at the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks campaign finance, said Warren’s general election position shouldn’t hurt her own campaign as much as it would candidates who already rely more on traditional fund-raising.
“A large portion of her money comes from small donors who wouldn’t be at such fund-raisers anyway,” Bryner said.
“So it seems like she’s kind of had proof of concept: This is working OK for me . . . This fits my image or the image I want people to construct of me. And so what do I have to lose?”
But Trump and the Republican National Committee raised $125 million over the last three months alone, and some Democrats immediately voiced concerns that Warren’s extended pledge could make it harder for the Democratic National Committee and state parties in battlegrounds like Michigan, Wisconsin, and Florida to raise enough money to take him on. Although individuals can donate up to $2,800 to a presidential candidate during a general election, big donors can give much more to the DNC and state party committees, and the nominee often plays a role in reeling those dollars in.
“Democrats are somewhat famous for bringing a knife to a gunfight,” said Rufus Gifford, a former finance director for the Democratic National Committee and for President Barack Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign.
“If you unnecessarily, truly unnecessarily, hamstring yourself and sort of adhere to a moral purity test that could cost you the election. It’s unforgivable.”
In her statement, Orthman said that Warren currently attends other Democratic fund-raisers and will keep doing so. She attended a DNC fund-raiser in August and will be at another next week that costs $100 to $50,000 to attend.
“When she is the nominee, she will continue to raise money and attend events that are open to the press to make sure the Democratic National Committee, state and local parties, and Democratic candidates everywhere have the resources not just to beat Donald Trump but also to win back Congress and state legislatures all across the country,” Orthman said.