A top aide to Democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer in Iowa has privately offered campaign contributions to local politicians in exchange for endorsing his White House bid, multiple people with direct knowledge of the conversations tell the AP. The overtures from Pat Murphy, a former state House speaker who is serving as a top adviser on Steyer's Iowa campaign, aren't illegal—though payments for endorsements would violate campaign finance laws if not disclosed. There's no evidence that any Iowans accepted the offer or received contributions from Steyer's campaign as compensation for their backing. But the proposals could revive criticism that the billionaire Steyer is trying to buy his way into the White House. Several state lawmakers and political candidates said they were surprised Steyer's campaign would think he could buy their support.
Tom Courtney, a former Democratic state senator from southeastern Iowa who's running for reelection to his old seat, said the offer "left a bad taste in my mouth." Murphy didn't respond to a request for comment. Alberto Lammers, Steyer's campaign press secretary, said that Murphy was not authorized to make the offers and that the campaign leadership outside of Iowa was unaware that he was doing so until the issue was raised by the AP. Iowa state Rep. Karin Derry said Murphy didn't explicitly offer a specific dollar amount, but made it clear Derry would receive financial support if she backed Steyer. "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," she said.
(Read more Tom Steyer