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Under pressure, DCCC chief Bustos pulls out of fundraiser for Lipinski

Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., chair of the Democratic House political operation, withdraws from Lipinski funder after pushback from abortion-rights progressive Democrats.

Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., who is running for DCCC chair, talks to reporters Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2018.
Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., talks to reporters Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2018.
File photo by Lynn Sweet

WASHINGTON – Under pressure from progressives, Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., the chair of the House Democratic political operation, on Wednesday decided not to headline a fundraiser for the anti-abortion Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-Ill., facing abortion-rights challengers in the March Illinois primary.

Bustos, the chief of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, was the draw for a June 6 breakfast at the Chicago Cut Steakhouse, 300 N. LaSalle, with the tab running from $1,000 to $5,600, according to an invitation obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times.

A Lipinski spokesman said the fundraiser will still take place. Bustos withdrew as attacks on abortion rights are escalating, and Lipinski is one of the leading anti-abortion Democrats.

Democrat Marie Newman, who is in a second primary bid to oust Lipinski in the 3rd Congressional District, said in a statement, “Dan Lipinski is antithetical to the values that our community holds such as healthcare for all and making the economy work for everybody, and as Democrats, I’m glad to see leadership sticking to the core principles of our party.”

Landing Bustos was a coup for Lipinski, and a very public demonstration by Bustos of the DCCC commitment to support incumbents — a policy inflaming some progressives in the House Democratic freshman class who took on entrenched centrist incumbents in 2018 and won.

Bustos, intent on keeping the House Democratic in 2020, wants to use donor money to maintain the majority and not waste it on costly primary fights. Bustos pulled out as several GOP-controlled states, including Alabama and Georgia, recently imposed abortion restrictions.

Lipinski “asked me to attend a fundraiser for him several months ago, and I agreed to do so, but I’ve determined that I must cancel my participation in this event,” Bustos said in a statement.

”I’m proud to have a 100 percent pro-choice voting record and I’m deeply alarmed by the rapidly escalating attacks on women’s access to reproductive care in several states. Even though we may not agree with each other 100 percent of the time, it’s a fact that every dollar spent trying to defeat one of our Democratic incumbents is a dollar that we cannot spend defeating Republicans,” Bustos said.

Lipinski let Bustos off the hook, saying in a statement, after discussions with Bustos this week, it “became clear that her attendance at a fundraiser for me has become a distraction from her work as Chair of the DCCC.”

Lipinski, who backed Bustos for DCCC chair, added, “We both understand that her most important job right now is her work leading the DCCC. We agree that it is in the best interest of House Democrats that she does not attend the event.”

In 2018, Lipinski narrowly beat a challenge from Newman with the DCCC providing little support. Newman is running again with competition from attorney Abe Matthew and activist Rush Darwish.

Busto ordered the DCCC to boycott Democratic firms helping House challengers, further inflaming some in the progressive wing.