Iowa evangelical leader denies asking for cash in exchange for Santorum endorsement

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Santorum's story on his discussion with Vander Plaats has shifted throughout the week, although he maintains that he promised no fundraising to the group.

“What he talked about was he needed money to promote the endorsement and that that would be important to do that,” Santorum told CNN last weekend. “There was never a direct ask for me to go out and raise money for it.”

But on Monday, Santorum told ABC News that he never discussed money at all with Vander Plaats.

“I don’t know about the discussions other campaigns had, but we did not, nor would we ever agree to raise a single penny for another entity. We’re focused on our own campaign and that’s where our resources will be spent," Santorum communications director Hogan Gidley told the network.

ABC cited multiple sources saying that Vander Plaats was soliciting as much as $1 million from Santorum and other candidates in exchange for the endorsement, and that the evangelical leader made a similar ask of Mitt Romney's campaign during the 2008 presidential cycle.

Vander Plaats denied the allegations in a statement Thursday.

“It is disheartening to learn about the misrepresentations and half-truths being circulated among the media and among fellow conservatives," Vander Plaats said. "I encourage all conservatives to show the utmost respect for each other as the voters of Iowa help determine the next presidential nominee.”

The evangelical group also denied that Vander Plaats asked Michele Bachmann to drop out of the race to consolidate support behind Santorum.

"The truth is that after much prayer and discernment, The Family Leader board members directed Bob to contact Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum to present the concept of merging in order to provide a solution to the fractured vote of caucus-going conservatives," the group said in a statement. "The board’s request is reflective of the broader caucus community. At no time did Mr. Vander Plaats make any specific demands in regard to who should merge with whom. The action to contact the campaigns was at the request of the board, not an action Vander Plaats initiated on his own."

Bachmann, asked about the incident during a call-in show on WHO-AM in Iowa, said that she was asked to merge, which meant that "somebody has to drop out."

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