A top aide to Democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer in Iowa privately offered campaign contributions to local politicians in exchange for endorsing his White House bid, according to multiple people with direct knowledge of the conversations.
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….
Experts say a campaign could violate campaign finance laws if they don’t disclose payments for endorsements.
“It’s legal if you disclose a payment for an endorsement on your campaign finance report,” said Adav Noti, a former Federal Election Commission attorney who now works for the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center in Washington. But, he added, “It would be unlawful if you don’t disclose it, or you disclose it but try to hide who the recipient is, or try to hide what that purpose was.”
A trio of former Ron Paul aides faced legal trouble in 2016 over similar issues during the 2012 Iowa Republican caucus campaign. Campaign chairman Jesse Benton, campaign manager John Tate and deputy campaign manager Dimitri Kesari were convicted in 2016 of charges related to arranging and concealing payments for then-Iowa state Sen. Kent Sorenson, who switched his support from Michele Bachmann to Paul just six days before the Iowa caucuses. Sorenson served 15 months in jail for his role in the scheme.