South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg will return thousands of dollars in contributions made to his presidential campaign after learning that the money came from a pair of Washington lawyers who defended Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh when he was accused of sexual misconduct during his Senate confirmation process last year.
“With nearly 700,000 donors, a contribution we would otherwise refuse sometimes gets through,” a spokesperson for the Buttigieg campaign told Salon in a statement which was also shared with The Guardian, who first broke the story. “We believe the women who have courageously spoken out about Brett Kavanaugh’s assault and misconduct, and we thank The Guardian for bringing this contribution to our attention. He should never have been put on the Supreme Court, and this campaign will not accept donations from those who played a role in making that happen. Accordingly, we will be returning this contribution and others from this firm.”
The Buttigieg campaign had received $7,200 from Alexandra Walsh (initially returning $3,150, because it had already exceeded legal limits) and $2,800 from Walsh’s law partner, Beth Wilkinson. According to The Guardian, they were not alone among Democratic presidential campaigns who recieved donations from partners at the law firm of Wilkinson Walsh Eskovitz, which represented Kavanaugh as he confronted sexual misconduct accusations from Dr. Christine Blasey Ford in his ultimately-successful effort to be appointed to the Supreme Court.
Wilkinson also reportedly donated $2,800 to the campaign of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York (who later dropped out), $2,800 to the campaign of Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado and $1,000 to the campaign of Sen. Kamala Harris of California. Neither the Harris and Bennet campaigns nor Gillibrand’s office returned requests for comment from The Guardian.
Buttigieg has emerged as a frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination in recent months. A recent Quinnipiac University poll found the South Bend mayor rising to second place nationally, up from 10 points in a survey taken in October to 16 points in the survey released on Wednesday. He is surpassed only by former Vice President Joe Biden, who rose slightly from 21 percent in October to 24 percent in November. The only other candidates to break the double digits were Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who plummeted from 28 percent in October to 14 percent in November, and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who fell slightly from 15 percent in October to 13 percent in November.
Buttigieg has also taken the lead in the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucus, where according to the RealClearPolitics polling average he is ahead by 5.7 percent, and is competitive with Sanders in the New Hampshire primary.
During his confirmation process last year, Kavanaugh was accused of having sexually assault by Ford, as well as having flashed his penis while a student at Yale University. Buttigieg, who has been an outspoken critic of Kavanaugh, said he would nominate a progressive like Justice Ruth Bader Ginbsurg if elected to the presidency.