Donor Shares Details of Pete Buttigieg’s Wine Cave Fundraiser

Still luxurious, but perhaps not quite as luxurious as previously believed

Pete Buttigieg
A new account of Pete Buttigieg's wine cave fundraiser suggests it was less luxurious than reported.
Gage Skidmore/Creative Commons

Earlier this month, Democratic presidential candidate and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg was the beneficiary of a fundraiser at HALL Rutherford in St. Helena, California. Buttigieg was criticized for the event by some of his fellow hopefuls for the Democratic presidential nomination, including Elizabeth Warren, who commented that “billionaires in wine caves should not pick the next president of the United States” at the most recent Democratic debate.

Discussion of the fundraiser since then has covered a lot of territory, from actress Jane Lynch weighing in on the debate to a discussion of whether the fundraiser hearkened back to Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut. And now, one of the fundraiser’s attendees has shared his story of what the experience was like.

Bill Wehrle wrote about the fundraiser for The Washington Post. (His bio there describes him as “a vice president of a health-care company [who] lives in San Francisco.”) The image of it that he summons up in his editorial is one that’s less alarming than some accounts — while still noting that the atmosphere was one of luxury.

Wehrle notes that the wine served was a bit less expensive than the $900 figure that’s been thrown around; he’s seen it sold for $185 per bottle — which, he admits, it still a lot. Wehrle calls that “far more than I’ve ever paid in my life for a bottle of wine, but not unusual for wine collector enthusiasts.” He also notes that the attendees included “a former flight attendant and a local city councilwoman,” the dean of a local community college and Wehrle’s partner, who’s a professor at another community college. 

Though he does note that, even if everyone there wasn’t a billionaire, they still had substantial resources to draw from. “Of the roughly 50 folks in attendance, plenty were people of means, and certainly all of us who were able to go to an event like that should consider themselves lucky,” he writes.

All told, his editorial makes for an interesting look behind the curtain at one high-profile fundraiser. But it also raises the question of how many fundraisers are taking place where there isn’t as much transparency — either from the hosts or candidates, or from attendees like Wehrle who are willing to discuss their experiences. 

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