Buttigieg Struggles to Square Transparency With Nondisclosure Agreement

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(Today, the mayor himself calls for the tapes’ release, though their fate is tied up in court, with the police officers heard on the recordings fighting disclosure.)

In the case of Mr. Buttigieg’s McKinsey clients, he may be similarly at risk of offering an overly legalistic defense of nondisclosure, while misjudging the deep suspicions that liberal voters harbor for corporate influence on politics.

Mr. Buttigieg’s appeal to many voters is his rejection of a lucrative private-sector career to enter public service; part of his good government credo has long been greater transparency in the city he runs. He first ran for municipal office in 2011 promising a breakthrough in the city’s transparency. In many ways he delivered. The city now uploads online data on police use of force and complaints against officers, vacant and abandoned properties, and many details of city spending. In 2017 the mayor and his staff celebrated fulfilling 10,000 requests under Indiana’s open records law.

Another transparency effort, a $1.5 million purchase of body cameras for police officers, ended up at the center of a political crisis for the mayor this summer. A white officer failed to activate his camera during an encounter in which he fatally shot a black man in downtown South Bend, sending the city, and Mr. Buttigieg’s campaign, into turmoil. Mr. Buttigieg suspended campaigning to face angry and anguished residents. The narrative of distrust of the police was projected on the national stage.

Mr. Buttigieg has emerged as perhaps the most polarizing figure among Democratic insiders.

He is the subject of the most open contempt among his rivals, a feeling that often extends to their supporters.

Kim Miller, a Warren backer who works for the teachers union in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, said Monday after a Warren event at the University of Iowa that Mr. Buttigieg’s resume — Harvard, McKinsey, Navy veteran, small-town mayor — was not sufficient to make him the Democratic standard-bearer.

“What qualifies him to even run? It’s pretty presumptuous,” Mr. Miller said. “It’s amazing that he’s taken off. Iowans are weird.”

Sydney Ember reported from Mt. Vernon; Reid J. Epstein reported from Washington; Trip Gabriel reported from South Bend, Ind. Jonathan Martin contributed reporting from Iowa City.

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