A top campaign aide for billionaire Tom Steyer, one of the many Democratic Party’s presidential hopefuls, reportedly offered local politicians in Iowa campaign funds in exchange for their endorsement of Steyer, according to a report Thursday from The Associated Press.
Per the AP report, in making the offers, Pat Murphy — the former speaker of Iowa House of Representatives and current aide to Steyer — is not breaking laws. However, it noted that payments for endorsements would violate campaign finance laws were they left undisclosed.
New Jersey Sen. Corey Booker, another Democratic presidential candidate, tweeted in response to Thursday’s news.
“This ain’t it,” Booker said.
One offer reportedly “left a bad taste in [the] mouth” of former Iowa State Sen. Tom Courtney, who is currently running for his previously held Iowa Senate seat, AP reported. Courtney would not confirm that the offer came from Murphy, although the AP reported that several local campaigns — who requested to speak anonymously — confirmed that the Steyer campaign’s offer did come from Murphy.
State Rep. Karin Derry told the AP that she was never offered a specific dollar amount by the campaign, though the implication of such a transaction was present.
“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,” Derry said.
Murphy equated the concern over his actions to a “miscommunication.”
“As a former legislator, I know how tricky the endorsement process can be for folks in Iowa,” Murphy said. “It was never my intention to make my former colleagues uncomfortable, and I apologize for any miscommunication on my part.”
Alberto Lammers, Steyer’s campaign press secretary, told The Associated Press that the campaign was unaware that Murphy was making the offers until they were told about it by the news wire service. He also said that Murphy had not been authorized to make such promises.
Lammers said that the presidential hopeful had not made any personal contributions to any local races in Iowa and would not for the rest of the year. He added that any previous endorsements the candidate had received were because of his campaign message.
As The Associated Press noted, Murphy’s reported attempts didn’t seem to make much of a difference in the Hawkeye state, and only one Iowan had so far endorsed Steyer’s bid for the presidency.
According to polling aggregate RealClearPolitics, Steyer polls in seventh place in Iowa, with 2.8 percent of support. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren is reportedly leading the race in the state, with 21.8 percent of support.