OTTUMWA, Iowa – Carol Moseley Braun's (search) support for former presidential rival Howard Dean (search) goes beyond an endorsement -- she will travel to early primary states as a surrogate on the Dean campaign's tab.
The campaign said Friday that it has budgeted about $20,000 a month to cover Braun's expenses and offered to hire one of her campaign staffers as a traveling aide, according to Dean campaign manager Joe Trippi.
Braun is not being added to the Dean campaign payroll and there was no arrangement to pay her campaign debt of more than $200,000.
The move is legal under campaign finance rules, but both Dean and Braun faced questions about whether it amounted to a quid pro quo in which the former Vermont governor received a well-timed, high-profile endorsement while Braun, whose candidacy never generated widespread enthusiasm and cash, got some financial help.
Loretta Kane, communications director for Braun, dismissed that notion, saying, "The reason that she endorsed him is because of their shared views and her belief that he is the best person to lead the country in the right direction."
Dean had told reporters Thursday, when Braun dropped out of the race and endorsed him, that she did not sign on because of any agreement to pay her debt.
"That's not legal and we're not going to do that because it's not legal," Dean said.
Trippi said he told the Braun campaign that at the end of the race, all the candidates would come together behind the nominee and help raise money to cover all their campaign debts.
"Someday there is going to be a big unity dinner and we're all going to retire each other's debt," he said.
The Dean campaign cannot donate more than $1,000 to Braun's campaign under campaign finance laws. Dean could ask his supporters to donate on her behalf or headline her fund-raisers, but Dean spokesman Jay Carson said the Dean campaign is too busy trying to win in Iowa, New Hampshire and other early states to raise money for Braun now.
Trippi said after Braun withdrew from the race and endorsed Dean Thursday, she met with his campaign staff and told them she could keep up her schedule of campaigning three to four days a week. Trippi said she was spending about $16,000 a month on travel, and they budgeted $20,000 to cover the increased cost of traveling with a larger campaign with advance staff.
Trippi said Braun will visit New Hampshire, South Carolina, Michigan and other early states in the Democratic contest.
Dean is in a tight race in Iowa, which holds its caucus on Monday. Recent polls show he is in a statistical dead heat with Missouri Rep. Dick Gephardt (search), Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry (search) and North Carolina Sen. John Edwards (search).
A Research 2000 poll released Thursday showed Dean at 22 percent, Kerry at 21 percent, Gephardt at 18 percent and Edwards at 18 percent, within the margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points. The undecided vote was at 13 percent, with other candidates in single digits.
The same poll a week ago found Dean (29 percent) and Gephardt (25 percent) battling for the lead with Kerry in third place at 18 percent and Edwards at 8 percent.