Big Money And Backstabbing Have Become Part Of The Iowa Game : It's All Politics The hyperfocus on Iowa as the first presidential nominating contest has meant more money — and sometimes leaving allegiances behind — for consultants, who can make up to $10,000 a month.
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Big Money And Backstabbing Have Become Part Of The Iowa Game

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Big Money And Backstabbing Have Become Part Of The Iowa Game

Big Money And Backstabbing Have Become Part Of The Iowa Game

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

With so many presidential debates, there are a lot of holes to fill in Iowa right now. The homegrown political talent who worked those campaigns is stretched thin. That means campaigns are competing to snatch up as many staffers and influential supporters as possible. Iowa Public Radio's Clay Masters reports.

CLAY MASTERS, BYLINE: Joe Shannahan knows firsthand how tough the market is for experienced political operatives in Iowa these days.

JOE SHANNAHAN: Well, this year, it's difficult to find staff because there are so many campaigns.

MASTERS: He's a partner with LS2Group in Des Moines, a public relations firm that often hires former campaign workers from both parties. Shannahan himself used to work for the Iowa Democratic Party. He says the good operatives are extremely valuable.

SHANNAHAN: I think anybody who's willing to actually go do the work, get on the phone, go see people and convince them to support your candidate - that's what candidates are looking for.

MASTERS: It's not just campaign workers who are in high demand. Presidential candidates try to lock down as many endorsements from local politicians as possible. It can get dramatic. Rewind to just days before the 2010 caucuses. Then state senator Kent Sorenson, a Republican, stood in support of Texas congressman Ron Paul.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

KENT SORENSON: Tonight's a little tough for me. I've been serving as Michele Bachmann's state chair over the last year. And while Michele has fought tremendously for my conservative values, I believe we're at a turning point in this campaign.

MASTERS: Sorenson had deep ties to conservative communities that are important in GOP politics - the state's evangelical leaders and home school activists.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SORENSON: We're going to take Ron Paul all the way to the White House 2012.

(APPLAUSE)

MASTERS: In separate investigations, both the FBI and Iowa Senate found Sorenson and the Ron Paul campaign violated the law. Three Ron Paul staffers were indicted last month for concealing payments of $73,000 to Sorenson in exchange for his support. Sorensen pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing. Even when there are not undercover payments, there are perfectly legal defections.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SAM CLOVIS: I want you all to know that today is my first official day as the national co-chairman and senior policy adviser to the Trump for President Campaign.

(APPLAUSE)

MASTERS: That's Sam Clovis speaking at a recent Donald Trump campaign event in Dubuque. Clovis is a former conservative talk show host, and until last month, he was the chairman for former Texas governor Rick Perry's Iowa campaign. But he parted ways when Perry started having financial trouble. Perry recently dropped out of the race. Craig Robinson, editor of theiowarepublican.com, says people should think about how such defections make Iowa's political culture look to the rest of the country. He says there are people who endorse three candidates in eight months.

CRAIG ROBINSON: I just think it diminishes your endorsement when you're - you seem so apt to jump around and not stick with a candidate from start to finish.

MASTERS: Robinson worked on the unsuccessful Steve Forbes campaign back in 2000 and says you don't have to be a part of a winning team to benefit from the caucuses.

ROBINSON: If you want to make an endorsement and be a mover and shaker, then I think you should really stay with the one who brought you, just kind of like the high school prom or something, you know? Make sure you go home with the one that you took there.

MASTERS: Robinson says the amount of money a campaign has or how much time they've spent in the state is more important than who's supporting who. After all, the Iowa caucuses are all about just getting people to turn out on a cold February night. For NPR News, I'm Clay Masters in Des Moines.

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