South Bend Cronyism: Top Donors Won Big Under Mayor Pete

Biden transportation secretary awarded campaign donors tens of millions in infrastructure contracts

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February 23, 2022

Top donors to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg won big money contracts from South Bend, Ind., when Buttigieg was mayor of the city, according to a Daily Mail report.

Buttigieg's mayoral campaign committees received more than $250,000 from 2011 to 2019 from donors who were awarded a total of $33 million in infrastructure contracts from the city, the report found. Buttigieg was mayor of South Bend from 2012 until 2020, when he ran a failed campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Executives for one Indiana engineering firm, American Structurepoint, gave $35,850 to the mayor's campaigns. Over the course of several years, the company received $790,177 in city contracts from South Bend.

In 2012, two months after meeting with representatives of American Structurepoint, Buttigieg appointed a former executive of the firm to lead South Bend's Department of Public Works. In the following years, the department has directed hundreds of thousands of dollars to the company.

In two cases, according to the Daily Mail, Buttigieg received donations from companies the same day they got contracts from the city.

Other contractors gifted Buttigieg hundreds of dollars' worth of alcohol, cigars, and golf trips.

While Buttigieg was mayor, 23 companies that donated to him were awarded city contracts.

Government watchdogs told the Daily Mail they were alarmed by South Bend's record of awarding companies who supported the mayor.

"I'm stunned if it is true that South Bend Indiana doesn't have laws on the books that prohibit this," Scott Greytak of Transparency International told the outlet. "At the federal level, this would be entirely illegal. A federal contractor cannot make a contribution to a candidate, because of the obvious conflict of interest."

Others expressed concern that Buttigieg's record as mayor indicates he might reward supporters through his discretionary budget control as head of the Transportation Department.

"This really doesn't bode well for the secretary of transportation when he has access to almost $1.2 trillion in infrastructure money," said David Williams, president of Taxpayers Protection Alliance.