Democratic presidential candidate and Montana governor Steve Bullock blasted the Democratic National Committee's debate requirements during an appearance on MSNBC Tuesday afternoon, saying "It's a rough day when Democrats are less inclusive than Republicans."
Bullock told MSNBC host Andrea Mitchell that while the donor and polling requirements were "well-intentioned," they allowed billionaire Tom Steyer to "buy a spot on the debate stage" while candidates like Bullock are left off.
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"Tom Steyer spent $130 million to get 130,000 donors," Bullock said. "We're getting to the point where we're spending money online as opposed to talking to voters."
"The Republican party all throughout the year 2015, had a one percent threshold. It's a rough day when Democrats are less inclusive than Republicans," he continued.
"Doesn't what Tom Steyer did negate the whole intent of the rules as they were constructed?" Mitchell asked. "Do you think there's any way to reach out to [DNC Chair] Tom Perez and get this changed, or do you feel you're not going to make the debate stage?"
"Well, I do hope folks will talk to the DNC. Because I think the intent was good, right, to show that we have grassroots support. But grassroots support and elections are about the people talking to people. Not billionaires being able to spend, you know, a whole lot of money to buy Facebook ads," Bullock responded.
"What we're doing is being much more exclusive or kicking people out unlike what even the Republican National Committee did," he continued. "It's not too late as we go through this to say let's make sure that it's been every other year, every other cycle. It's the early state voters who take a large field and sift it down."
Bullock referred to recent news that Steyer qualified for the donor portion of the third Democratic debate, which stipulates that candidates need a minimum of 130,000 individual donors to their campaign. Steyer also has three qualifying polls, one short of the required number.
I'm thrilled to announce that today we've reached the required 130,000 individual donors to appear in September's debate. Just one more qualifying poll stands between us and that stage!
Thanks to all who've contributed even $1 to this movement. We can't do this without you.
— Tom Steyer (@TomSteyer) August 13, 2019
Steyer's aggressive spending has become a target for criticism. From July 13 to Aug. 11, the New York billionaire's campaign spent $2.9 million on Facebook advertisements. This number was almost triple the next highest spending candidate, according to CNBC. Fellow candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) told MSNBC he was tired of "seeing billionaires trying to buy political power."
Nine candidates have qualified for the third debate, with Steyer right on the cusp.