Four immigration rights organizations have written to Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg to ask him to return any donations connected to the consulting firm McKinsey & Company, following a New York Times and Pro Publica report about how McKinsey helped Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) "accelerate the deportation process." Among the recommendations McKinsey offered were cuts to spending on food and medical care for migrants.
The letter, cosigned by Center for Popular Democracy Action, Make the Road Action, Progressive Leadership of Alliance of Nevada Action and United We Dream Action, called on Buttigieg, who worked at the prestigious consulting firm for three years, to return the donations, which total $53,000.
"We believe that all candidates for higher office – especially those who claim to stand with immigrants, like you – should immediately return any money from McKinsey & Company and its employees," the letter states.
Asked if he would return donations from McKinsey employees in light of the Times reporting, the South Bend mayor responded on Wednesday, "I don't believe that anybody involved in that (ICE) effort has had anything to do with our campaign. And, and so, you know, that's separate from anything related to us."
Buttigieg, who wrote in his memoir that he worked on North American grocery store pricing while at McKinsey, has been critical of his former employer on the trail. When asked Wednesday about Times report on McKinsey's work for ICE, he told reporters it was "disgusting" what McKinsey did. He told CNN that "seeing what certain people in that firm have decided to do is extremely frustrating and extremely disappointing."
"Pete has been frustrated and disappointed with some of the decisions McKinsey made since he stopped working there nearly a decade ago, and he has called the work they did with ICE 'disgusting.' Pete is a strong defender of immigrant rights and is appreciative of the important work these organizations do. As a campaign that lives our values, we will not accept contributions from anyone who was involved in that project," said Buttigieg campaign spokesman Sean Savett.
"We have combed through thousands of pages of documents that ProPublica obtained to ensure that we had never accepted a donation from any McKinsey employee who was named as being involved in this project, and if any were to donate to Pete, we would immediately return their donation," Savett continued.
According to the Times, McKinsey's contract with ICE ended in July 2018, but the firm has has two more contracts with Customs and Border Protection worth up to $10.4 million.
Buttigieg's silence about his own work for McKinsey is the subject of a New York Times Editorial Board column published Thursday evening. It argues that Buttigieg "owes voters a more complete account of his time at the company." Buttigieg, who has faced pressure to describe his work at McKinsey, is currently bound by a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) with McKinsey and can't disclose his clients.
A Buttigieg spokesperson said the campaign has asked the consulting firm if he can be released from his NDA and if the campaign can release his list of clients while working at the company. But McKinsey has not agreed to waive the NDA, the spokesperson said.
But the Times editorial argues that despite the NDA, it's up to Buttigieg to "find a way to give voters a more complete accounting of his time at the company" — and that those three years add up to 20% of the young candidate's post-college career.