Pat Murphy, a former Iowa state House speaker and Tom Steyer campaign aide, privately offered multiple local politicians campaign contributions in exchange for White House endorsements.
Murphy’s cash-for-endorsement scheme, which would be legal if it had been made public, has been used previously in Iowa — in 2015, several Ron Paul aides were indicted for paying off former Iowa state senator Kent Sorenson in exchange for an endorsement of Paul’s 2012 presidential bid.
Steyer, a billionaire, has already funneled $46 million of his own money into advertising for his campaign, which made headlines this week when the South Carolina Post and Courier reported that a staffer had stolen campaign data from Kamala Harris.
The Associated Press first broke the story involving Murphy, who did not respond to a request for comment. Several Iowa politicians described the situation as a quid pro quo.
“It was presented more as, he has provided financial support to other downballot candidates who’ve endorsed him, and could do the same for you,” state representative Karin Derry said.
“Tom, I know you’re running for Senate. I’m working for Tom Steyer,” Iowa Democrat Tom Courtney recalled hearing. “Now you know how this works . . . he said, ‘you help them, and they’ll help you.’”
Steyer’s press secretary Alberto Lammers told the AP that Murphy was not authorized to make the offers and that the campaign leadership outside of Iowa was unaware that he was doing so.
“Our campaign policy is clear that we will not engage in this kind of activity, and anyone who does is not speaking for the campaign or does not know our policy,” Lammers said.