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Steyer aide apologizes after report he offered money for endorsements in Iowa

A top Tom Steyer aide apologized Thursday after a report said he allegedly offered money in exchange for endorsements of his boss from Iowa politicians.

Aide Pat Murphy, the former speaker of the Iowa House, apologized “for any miscommunication on my part” in a statement provided by the Steyer campaign to CNN, after The Associated Press reported the alleged financial offers.

“As a former legislator, I know how tricky the endorsement process can be for folks in Iowa,” Murphy said in the statement. “It was never my intention to make my former colleagues uncomfortable, and I apologize for any miscommunication on my part.”

Steyer’s campaign said the billionaire Democratic candidate did not make any individual contributions to political candidates in Iowa this year and will not be making any.

“The endorsements he receives are earned because of Tom’s campaign message, his decade-long work taking on big corporations who put profits over people, and his work registering and organizing voters across the country to support progressive causes,” the campaign said in a statement provided to CNN.

“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,” the statement continues.

Steyer’s campaign press secretary, Alberto Lammers, told AP that Murphy was not authorized to make the alleged offers and that campaign leaders outside of Iowa were unaware of the actions until they were raised by the news outlet.

The alleged financial offers by Murphy would not be illegal, but payments for endorsements would violate campaign finance laws if they are not disclosed, AP reported. There is no evidence that any Iowans accepted the alleged offers or received contributions from Steyer’s campaign in exchange for their support.

Tom Courtney, a former Democratic Iowa state senator, told AP he received an offer from Steyer’s campaign and it “left a bad taste in my mouth.” Courtney declined to name Murphy as the Steyer aide who made the offer, The Associated Press reports.

Iowa state Rep. Karin Derry told The Associated Press that Murphy did not explicitly offer a specific dollar amount, but made it clear she would receive financial support if she supported Steyer.

“It was presented more as, he has provided financial support to other down-ballot candidates who’ve endorsed him, and could do the same for you,” Derry told The Associated Press.

CNN has reached out to Courtney and Derry for comment.

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, a fellow 2020 Democratic presidential candidate who has repeatedly knocked Steyer over spending his personal fortune on his campaign, again attacked the billionaire on Thursday.

“First he buys his way onto the debate stage and now Tom Steyer’s trying to buy endorsements. These repeated efforts to undermine our democratic process are unacceptable,” Bullock said in a statement. “Tom Steyer’s campaign is built on writing the biggest checks, not on building genuine grassroots support — and proves why it’s so important to get Big Money out of our elections.”

New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, another 2020 rival, was more succinct in his criticism of Steyer.

“This ain’t it,” Booker tweeted, along with a link to the AP story about the alleged offers.

This is a breaking story and will be updated.

CNN