Don’t think of this as a multi-billionaire attempting to buy a major-party nomination. Think of this as building partnerships through aid — and self-interested quid pro quos. The Associated Press reported earlier today that an aide to Tom Steyer has repeatedly attempted to arrange donations from Steyer’s campaign to local and statewide candidates in Iowa, but only in exchange for endorsements for his presidential campaign:
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, 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.
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, told The Associated Press the financial offer “left a bad taste in my mouth.”
It’s not strictly illegal, but would Team Steyer have complied with the reporting that such arrangements would necessitate? They would have been forced to list those expenditures as campaign costs for the specific purpose of landing those endorsements, eventually opening themselves up for considerable ridicule. Otherwise, Steyer could have faced potential prosecution for FEC violations, as well as paying some steep fines out of his own pocket.