Culver & Co give Knapp the “Iowa Award”

Before Governor Chet Culver leaves office on January 14, he will bestow the “Iowa Award” on Bill Knapp, a long-time benefactor of Democratic political campaigns.  Knapp also donated the land for the Iowa Veterans Cemetery along Interstate-80.  Read Culver’s news release below:

Iowa Award will go to Bill Knapp

Longtime Des Moines Realtor and Iowa State Fair Supporter to be honored

DES MOINES – William C. “Bill” Knapp will be the recipient of the “Iowa Award” in a public ceremony in January, the Iowa Centennial Memorial Foundation Board announced Friday.
The Iowa Award represents the state’s highest citizen award, established in 1948 by Governor Robert D. Blue and the Iowa Legislature. The award’s purpose is “to encourage and recognize the outstanding service of Iowans in the fields of science, medicine, law, religion, social welfare, education, agriculture, industry, government, and other public service” and to recognize the “merit of their accomplishments in Iowa and throughout the United States.”

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Mayors, governors, senators — oh my!

This is a sort of Friday potpourri post, covering everything from the controversy swirling in Washington to the potential ’12ers who will be in Iowa soon. 

In case you missed it, short-time Governor Chet Culver and Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie have issued statements in support of President Obama’s deal with the GOP on taxes.  (Cownie endorsed Obama before the ’08 Caucuses.) The chair of the Iowa Democratic Party took a slightly different slant than her two Democratic counterparts.  And Congressman Bruce Braley is the only one of Iowa’s three Democratic congressmen to issue a written statement on the subject. Braley hints he’s dismayed by the deal, but doesn’t come right out and say it. You can read all of those statements below.

Issued 12.9.10 @ 12:08 p.m.: Braley statement on tax cut negotiations

Washington, DC – Congressman Bruce Braley (D-Iowa) released the following statement on the tax cut negotiations:

“As the tax cut package takes shape, I want to reiterate my support for a tax cut extension for every American family on incomes up to $250,000.  I continue to fight for an extension of unemployment benefits, especially during the holiday season.  I remain extremely concerned that extending Bush’s tax cuts to the wealthiest 2% of Americans will explode the deficit.” 

“I continue to fight to cut taxes for Iowa’s families and I am working to ensure our future generations are not saddled with extreme debt.  I look forward to reading the legislative language produced on the bill before making a final decision on these important issues.”

Issued 12.9.10 @ 3:05 p.m.: Mayor T.M Franklin Cownie’s Statement on President Obama’s Tax Cuts for Amerlca’s Middle Class

Des Moines Mayor Cownie issued the following statement in response to President obarna’s economic incentive package for America’s middle class families.

“I want to commend President Obama for his leadership in securing tax cuts for America’s middle class, extending unemployment benefits forthe nation’s jobless, and providing important tax incentives for small businesses to create jobs. Preventing tax rates for the middle class from rising on January 1 and the payroll tax reduction that will take effect next year will put hard earned dollars back into family budgets in Des Moines and all across thecountrv, While we know that the President did not want to extend these benefits to the nation’s wealth lest and therefore worsen the federal deficit, we also know that the perfect cannot be the enemy of the good. The nation and its middle class working families need relief now. President Obama has demonstrated his leadership by pulling together an economic package that the country desperately needs.”

Issued 12.9.10 @ 3:53 p.m.: Governor Culver: President Obama is Working to Help Middle Class

Governor also calls for package to include extension of ethanol tax credits

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Governor Chet Culver today said he supports President Obama’s efforts to extend unemployment insurance, tax cuts for working families and other tax incentives.

Culver, who is in Washington, D.C., as the chair of the National Governors’ Biofuels Coalition, is pushing to get an extension on ethanol tax credits. The Governor said he appreciates President Obama’s work.

“I am proud of the fact that the President is working for Iowa’s working families during these extraordinary times,” he said. “Without the extension, more than 8,000 Iowa families were going to lose their benefits during the holiday season.”

The Governor also is urging Congress to include in the final tax package the ethanol tax credits.

“This is critically important for creating new jobs in Iowa,” Culver said. “The ethanol industry is a growth industry that promises good-paying jobs for Iowans now and into the future.”

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McCarthy: shoulda waited, Chet

State Representative Kevin McCarthy, the Des Moines Democrat who has been House Majority Leader and was just elected by his peers to serve as House Minority Leader in the next General Assembly, is one of two guests on this weekend’s edition of “Iowa Press” on Iowa Public Television.  The other guest is Doug Gross, a Des Moines lawyer who has been a long-time confidant of Governor-elect Terry Branstad.  Gross once served as Branstad’s chief of staff.  (In case you’re new to all this, Branstad served four terms as governor, took 12 years off, and just got himself elected to a fifth term.)

During the first portion of the show. the two men talked about the impact of this year’s judicial retention election and what judicial retention elections in Iowa may look like in the future. 

“It won’t be the same.  It could be, actually, worse,” Gross said when comparing the 2010 judicial retention election with the one looming in 2012.  “…The only way to neutralize that caldron is you’ve got to allow the people an opportunity to vote on the amendment (to the state constitution which would ban gay marriage).  This is like a pressure cooker without a release valve.”

Governor Culver has said if the state’s Judicial Nominating Commission presents him with a list of names to fill the three vacancies on the Iowa Supreme Court, he won’t hestitate to appoint new justices.   Fellow Democrat McCarthy cautioned against that.

“It’s my guess that the commission won’t have the process done in such a way that would allow (Culver) to appoint, so it’s probably a moot point, but it is something he should not do because there’s always appearances and then there’s reality  The appearance would be such that the will of the people will be subverted,” McCarthy said on the show. “…The voters spoke and I think it would be a mistake to try to do something that looks like it would be against what just happened in the election.”

Justice David Wiggins is the next member of the Iowa Supreme Court to face a retention vote.  His name will be on the ballot in 2012.  Wiggins spoke tonight at a forum in Des Moines, reading from notes as he delivered a 7-minute opening statement.  Wiggins talked about his new role as chair of the Judicial Nominating Commission.  The senior justice on the court who is NOT the chief justice serves as chair of the Judicial Nominating Commission.  The senior judge who’s currently in that role is Mark Cady, but the court today announced he’ll be the interim chief justice in January.  

Back to this weekend’s Iowa Press episode now.  McCarthy and Gross also discussed the pay deal Culver struck with AFSCME.  McCarthy said Culver “should have waited” and handed off the negotiations to his successor.

Culver strikes deal with AFSCME; GOP reacts

Not-for-much-longer-Governor Chet Culver has struck a deal with AFSCME, the union which represents the largest share of executive branch workers.   It would give those roughly 21,000 workers a two percent boost in their base pay on July 1.

Republicans aren’t happy.  They point to the so-called “step” increases which allow workers who have not risen to the top of their pay grade to, perhaps, get a raise of up to 15 percent.

House Speaker-elect Kraig Paulsen of Hiawatha talked about the deal at the beginning of this weekend’s edition of Iowa Press on IPTV

AFSCME state president Danny Homan talked with Radio Iowa this afternoon.  Read what Homan and Paulsen had to say here.

Rod Boshart of The Cedar Rapids Gazette has this story about today’s developments (and mention of another state workers’ union which has struck a deal with Culver).  Gazette columnist Todd Dorman blogged these observations.

Jason Clayworth of The Des Moines Register has this wrap-up of the storyRegister columnist Kathie Obradovich was at the Iowa Press taping and has written a blog post about Paulsen’s comments.

At 1:47 p.m. this afternoon, I asked Angel Albert in Governor Culver’s office if the governor had a prepared statement to issue on the contract talks.   At 1:57 p.m. she replied:

We do not. We are waiting to release a statement once the union members vote on the agreement. Because this is not final and now back to the union for approval, we do not want to issue a statement…

An hour later, at 2:52 p.m., Culver issued a statement:

Governor Culver Issues Statement on AFSCME Agreement

DES MOINES – Governor Chet Culver issued the following statement regarding the State’s acceptance of a new two-year agreement with American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 61:

“Like all hardworking Iowans, state employees have struggled through a historic recession. They agreed to take unpaid furloughs and suspension of employer deferred compensation contributions in Fiscal Year 2010 so the State could better adjust to economic conditions and lower revenues. These people are on the front lines of delivering vital services and information to the people of Iowa and deserve to be paid in accordance with their qualifications and efforts.”

Branstad’s communications director had issued a statement an hour and a half earlier, at about 1:30 p.m. this afternoon:

Culver’s backroom deal on salaries is reckless and irresponsible

Agreement leaves taxpayers on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars in salary increases
(URBANDALE) – The transition team of Gov.-elect Terry Branstad today released the following statement from chief of staff Jeff Boeyink, in response to the new agreement between Gov. Culver and the unions.

The contract would put Iowa taxpayers on the hook for $103.5 million the first year alone, and hundreds of millions in subsequent fiscal years.

Boeyink’s statement is as follows:

“Taxpayers are the losers in this backroom deal.

“Governor Culver’s decision to rush through a collective bargaining deal with state employee unions before he leaves office is reckless and irresponsible. This will cost Iowa taxpayers $103.5 million the first year alone, and hundreds of millions in subsequent fiscal years.
“At a time 113,000 Iowans are out of work and thousands more are seeing significant pay reductions, it is the wrong time to ask taxpayers to pick up the enormous cost of these pay raises.
“Iowans elected Terry Branstad on a promise to reduce the size of Iowa’s budget and Governor Culver has taken the unprecedented step of effectively removing to voice of the taxpayers from this process.
“This is unaffordable, and we will review all of our options.”

January 4, 2011 special election for Reynolds’ seat

Governor Chet Culver has set the date for a special election in southern Iowa to fill a vacancy in the state senate.

Governor Culver Sets Date for Special Election

Election will fill vacated seat in the 48th Senatorial District

DES MOINES – Governor Chet Culver today announced that the special election to fill a seat vacated in the Iowa State Senate will be held Jan. 4, 2011. The seat was vacated when Lt. Governor-elect Kim Reynolds resigned the post last week.

The 48th district in south central Iowa includes Clarke, Decatur, Taylor, Adams, Montgomery and Ringgold counties, as well as portions of Union County. The text of the proclamation directing the special election is below.

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Reynolds resigns from Iowa Senate

Lieutenant Governor-elect Kim Reynolds of Osceola is a state senator, too, until today.  She’s just resigned, allowing outgoing Governor Chet Culver to set the date of a special election to fill her seat in the senate.  Reynolds could have held the post until January when she’s to be sworn in as lieutenant governor, but has decided against that scenario.

Reynolds resigns from state Senate seat

Lieutenant Governor-elect thanks constituents for opportunity, pledges to work hard as state’s new lieutenant governor
(URBANDALE) – Lt. Gov.-elect Kim Reynolds today resigned from her seat in the Iowa Senate in order to focus solely on assisting Gov. Branstad’s transition team.

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24 hours after the polls close

Here’s a review of some of the stuff that’s happened in the 24 hours since the polls closed in Iowa on the 2010 election:

Ben Lange, the Republican candidate in Iowa’s first congressional district, conceded this morning and posted a statement on his campaign website

“This morning I reached out to Congressman Braley to congratulate him on his victory. I wish him the best as he goes back to Washington to represent us in Congress.  It’s a difficult job, and these are difficult times.  It’s my hope that our campaign has brought to light new solutions to confront our greatest challenges.

Our grassroots campaign came a long way since January and I’m proud of the campaign we waged. We drew our line in the sand and we stood our ground against long odds without ever compromising our principles. We worked tirelessly to restore the American Dream, and I’m so proud of what we accomplished in such a short period of time.

Governor-elect Terry Branstad held a news conference at about midnight, right after he’d deliverd his victory speech to supporters in West Des Moines.  Branstad told reporters Governor Chet Culver should not appoint three new justices to the Iowa Supreme Court to replace the ones who were kicked off the bench in Tuesday’s voting.

Governor Culver called into the Radio Iowa newsroom this afternoon, discussing the campaign and his future.  Culver also responded to Branstad:

…Culver’s not ruling out choosing three new justices for the court.

“We’ll see,” Culver says. “And if Terry Branstad and I don’t agree, it won’t be the first time.”

Voter turnout in Iowa for Tuesday’s election was 52 percent.  Secretary of State Michael Mauro talked with Radio Iowa today about the numbers, and about his own race.

…The Democrat from Des Moines narrowly lost to Republican Matt Schultz, a lawyer who currently serves on the Council Bluffs City Council. “I’m feeling disappointed, but life goes on,” Mauro told Radio Iowa. “I know I gave it my best shot.” 

Gay marriage & gambling:  while voters decided to eject three of the justices who signed onto the 2009 Iowa Supreme Court opinion which paved the way for same-sex marriage in Iowa, voters approved gambling referendums in 17 counties by large margins.

The Branstad transition:  Branstad’s campaign is transforming into a transition team.  See details in the news release issued this morning:

Branstad announces key transition team and administration appointments
Roederer, Boeyink, and Albrecht to assume key roles

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Culver issues statement on judicial retention

What will Governor Culver do now that voters have kicked three justices off the Iowa Supreme Court?  Read the tea leaves below:

Governor Culver Issues Statement on Iowa Supreme Court Judicial Appointments

DES MOINES – Governor Chet Culver today issued the following statement regarding the appointment of Iowa Supreme Court Justices, necessitated by yesterday’s vote against retention of Justices Ternus, Streit and Baker:

“I am reviewing the matter carefully to ensure the judicial selection process that is utilized now is consistent with the Iowa Constitution, with Iowa law, and with past practices used in the course of both Democratic and Republican administrations in instances when multiple vacancies in our appellate courts have been created simultaneously.”

T-Paw’s Marg Bar

Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty is campaigning with Iowa Republicans this afternoon.  Pawlenty attended events in Osceola and Winterset earlier this afternoon with the GOP candidates on the statewide ticket.  At this hour he’s campaigning with Kent Sorenson, a state representative who is running for the state senate.

During a Q&A with reporters, Pawlenty was asked by a WHO-TV reporter what his plans are after his term as governor is over.

“I’m going to open a margarita bar in Florida and play some Kenny Chesney music,” Pawlenty joked. “What do you think?  It’d be all right?”  Chesney has songs with names like “Tequila Loves Me” and “Mexican Beer” — and an album named “No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problem” with a song “On the Coast of Somewhere Beautiful”.

UPDATE:  Pawlenty also commented on the judicial retention elections in Iowa.  Read more about it in the Radio Iowa story here.  Kathie Obradovich of The Des Moines Register blogged about it and Jason Clayworth of The DMR also wrote about it, focusing on what Pawlenty had to say about Iowa Governor Chet Culver (possibly) appointing justices to replace ousted justices.

The audit of film office is out; more charges filed

The office of State Auditor Dave Vaudt has this afternoon released its audit of the state film office.  Vaudt, who was in Cedar Rapids this morning for a GOP get-out-the-vote rally, spoke with Radio Iowa reporter Dar Danielson by phone early this afternoon about the audit.

Donn Stanley, Governor Chet Culver’s campaign manager, issued a written statement:

The Auditor’s report confirms that the quick and decisive action that Governor Culver took more than a year ago was the right thing to do.

“As soon as he found out about the problems at the Iowa Film Office, Governor Culver took immediate action.  As the report acknowledges, the Governor ended the program immediately, fired the head of the Iowa Film Office, and replaced the management at the Iowa Department of Economic Development with strong new leaders.  The Governor also asked the Auditor, Attorney General, Department of Revenue, and the new leadership at IDED to review the program.  And over the last year, IDED acted quickly to protect taxpayers by implementing new safeguards within the Department.

“By acting immediately, instead of waiting for the Auditor to issue this report, the Governor saved taxpayers potentially hundreds of millions of dollars in exposure through this program.  Apparently the Auditor agrees with the steps we have taken since the recommendations in this audit have already been implemented, and then some.

“The only downside about this audit is that it took so long to be issued.  This is one more example of how Dave Vaudt has used his office for political purposes.  When Terry Branstad is in a free-fall in the polls, Vaudt issues this report in a failed attempt to distract and embarrass the Culver Administration one week before the election.

“This audit proves that Chet Culver did the right thing by ending the Iowa Film Tax Credit Program.  This is not going to distract the Governor from continuing to fight to create good jobs, give our children more opportunities, and move Iowa forward.”

Shortly before three o’clock this afternoon, the campaign of Republican gubernatorial candidate Terry Branstad issued a statement:

(URBANDALE) – In response to the state audit showing $26 million in taxpayer funded film tax credits were improperly spent by Chet Culver’s Iowa Film Office, Governor Branstad 2010 campaign manager Jeff Boeyink says this latest episode is another in long line of reasons Iowa needs to return to open, honest government once again:

“This unfortunately is what we have come to expect from the Culver Administration.  The failure to provide adequate oversight to this program is costing Iowa taxpayers tens of millions of dollars.  Chet Culver’s four year history of mismanagement of Iowa government has put Iowa on the wrong path, and with a state budget that is unsustainable.  Terry Branstad is the proven leader and effective manager we need to put the state on a new path for honest, open and stable government.”

UPDATE:  at 4:31 p.m. Attorney General Tom Miller issued a statement, revealing more charges have been filed.

Statement on Film Program Audit
(DES MOINES, Iowa)  Attorney General Tom Miller is reviewing the audit report issued this afternoon by Auditor David Vaudt.

Since Governor Chet Culver suspended the Film, Television and Video Production Program (Film Program) on September 18, 2009, Miller and his office, in conjunction with other state agencies, have spent countless hours investigating the Film Office case.

The Attorney General has filed criminal charges against four defendants, including Wendy Weiner, Matthias Saunders, Tom Wheeler, and Zach LeBeau.  Prosecutors have since reached a plea agreement with Mr. LeBeau.  In exchange for his cooperation, the state has withdrawn criminal charges against him.

Because of the Attorney General’s work to revoke 73 registered film projects, the state’s potential liability has been substantially reduced it by approximately $225 million. Miller’s office is also carefully reviewing submissions of expenses by other film projects to determine whether they are verified and substantiated before determining whether they qualify for film tax credits.

Today, based on information released in the audit, Miller’s office filed a lawsuit in Polk County District Court against the five principal individuals and four entities involved in producing or pursuing 15 movie projects, including “The Scientist.”  The civil lawsuit alleges that the defendants conspired to defraud the state out of film tax credits.  The suit seeks a minimum of $5.5 million in damages.  In addition, the lawsuit seeks attorney fee costs, unspecified punitive damages and forfeiture of any property and proceeds related to the defendants’ films.

In reviewing the new state audit report, Miller will carefully review its findings and will pursue any additional appropriate actions and remedies, both civil and criminal, in connection with the Film Program.  New criminal charges are likely. 

“This has been an exhaustive process, and we’re working hard to make sure that not one penny is spent on tax credits unnecessarily,” Miller said.  “We will use the courts to challenge and recover any unjustified or ill-gotten state money,” Miller added.  “We’re also holding those accountable in criminal court, and we expect to pursue more criminal charges and seek justice.”