Buttigieg debuted Washington ambitions through 2018 PAC donations

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South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg (Joshua Lott for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

The 2020 Democratic field gained another contender on Wednesday as South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg 
announced his candidacy. Buttigieg, at 37 years old, is the youngest candidate to announce thus far. He served eight years as mayor and was a lieutenant in the U.S. Naval Reserve and was deployed to Afghanistan. Buttigieg is seeking to become the first openly gay nominee of a major party.

Buttigieg developed an interest in Washington politics, having an unsuccessful run for Democratic National Committee chair in 2017. Before his presidential announcement, he worked to boost his party bonafides.

In June 2017, Buttigieg created a Carey committee, which is a hybrid super PAC and traditional PAC, named Hitting Home PAC. The PAC is described on its website as “dedicated to elevating the voices, concerns, and aspirations of Americans who no longer feel like they have a seat at the table in our political discourse.”

In its first two years of existence, the PAC fundraised well, bringing in more than $402,000. The largest individual donor was Christel DeHaan, the co-founder of Resort Condominiums International and the founder of education charity Christel House, who gave $50,000, according to Center for Responsive Politics data. The second-largest contribution — $45,000 — came from Cindy Simon Skjodt, a staunchly Democratic megadonor and an Obama appointee to United States Holocaust Memorial Council. In the 2018 cycle, Cindy Simon Skjodt was the 25th largest donor to outside spending groups, giving $5 million. Her sister Deborah was 17th, giving more than $6.7 million.

In terms of donations to candidates, the PAC shelled out $37,000, all of which went to Democratic candidates in the 2018 election cycle. Some 22 House candidates received contributions ranging from $500 to $2,000 each. Recipients ranged from Rep. Abby Finkenauer (D-Iowa) to Dan McCready in North Carolina to Rep. Sharice Davids (D-Kan.). The only Senate candidate to receive funds was former Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) who received $1,000 from the PAC on his way to losing reelection.

The PAC’s address is the same as the law offices of Perkins Coie, a D.C.-based law firm whose employees tend to give heavily to Democrats. Michael Schmuhl, who is listed on the most recent FEC filing as the treasurer of the PAC, appears to be the same Michael Schmuhl who was Buttigieg’s first campaign manager and chief-of-staff. Schmuhl was paid $24,700 by the PAC.

As a Carey committee, the group can accept unlimited donations if the money isn’t donated directly to candidates. However, it doesn’t appear that the committee made any independent expenditures in the 2018 cycle, meaning their unlimited donations were likely used to pay for other things like PAC administrative costs.

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