Iowa delegation splits, 3-2, on health care bill

The three Democrats in Iowa’s congressional delegation — Bruce Braley of Waterloo, Dave Loebsack of Mount Vernon & Leonard Boswell of Des Moines — just voted for the senate bill.  The two Republicans in the congressional delegation — Tom Latham of Ames & Steve King of Kiron — voted against it.  Here’s the roll call on the 219-212 vote.

Four of the five congressmen from Iowa spoke with Radio Iowa this weekend about the vote.  Read the Radio Iowa story. Congressman Loebsack was the only one of the five who did not.  Loebsack’s spokeswoman said: “We are not planning on doing press calls.”

UPDATE:  Here are all the statements (after the jump) sent via email from members of congress, their challengers, the two political parties & other groups involved in the health care debate:

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Culver’s latest executive order

Governor Chet Culver, a Democrat, spoke to the Iowa State Building and Construction Trades Council convention this morning.  He used the occasion to sign an executive order which requires project-labor agreements on most large-scale, state-government-financed construction projects.  Think Hancher II in Iowa City.  Here’s the Radio Iowa story, complete with the audio of the 15-minute speech Culver delivered this morning.  There’s also audio there from the five-minute Question-and-Answer session Culver had with a handful of reporters after the speech. 

Here’s a transcript of Culver’s exchange with reporters:

William Petroski of The Des Moines Register: “How important is labor support going to be for your reelection campaign?”

Governor Culver: “I’m proud of the fact that I’m fighting every day for hard-working Iowa families.  I’m going to continue to do what I can as governor to support them and proud to get as much possible support as possible in my reelection.”

Petroski: “Is Iowa going to eliminate the Right-to-Work Law under your administration?”

Culver: “I don’t believe we’re going to do that.  I mean it’s, there’s a lot of exciting things on the table at the statehouse. It’s unclear now in terms of what particular steps we might take to help hard-working families, but I know that the Democratic Party is interested in fighting for those families and making some progress in terms of helping those families out, especially during these tough economic times.”

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UPDATED: Fong suspends campaign

UPDATE:  Republican gubernatorial candidate Christian Fong exited the race this morning.  Read the Radio Iowa story here.  Fong’s last blog post on his campaign website was interesting, in the context of today’s news, as he reflects on the people he spent a lot of time with over the past five months. 

So, here’s Fong’s last campaign blog post, dated November 30, 2009 and copied below:

Just past Thanksgiving, and I am 56 counties into my tour of Iowa.

County GOP fundraisers are a great way to do well by doing good.  Some competitors of mine skip these events.  On one hand, it’s hard to blame them.  It is much easier to sit down over a steak lunch in Des Moines and ask for a $5000 donation than to spend six hours on the road, speak 10 minutes, and roll quietly into the driveway past midnight.  But that’s just not the way to meet the activists of the party, understand what Iowans are concerned about, sense the subtle regional differences and (for what it is worth), learn to really nail the laugh lines in a stump speech.  The audiences are generally friendly, even the Democrat operative who consistently follows us around to videotape, hoping one of the candidates will make an embarrassing, sleep-deprived mistake.  The venues are nearly always cramped, with organizers scrambling to find extra chairs, thus reminding me that politics is, in a way, Iowa’s state sport.  The food?  Not surprisingly, it is consistently pork.

Since June, I have been joined by Rod Roberts, Bob Vander Plaats and Chris Rants at nearly every event.  We sometimes refer to ourselves as The Faithful Four.  We know each other’s stump speeches, applause lines, hand motions and respective willingness to stretch time limits.  Each has a great sense of humor – Rod telegraphs his punch lines with suddenly smiling eyes, Bob has a Dutch joke for nearly every topic and Chris’ keen sense of the ironic can be hilarious with his dry deliver.  We ask after each other’s families, and I suspect I am not the only one that keeps them in my prayers.  So as the fall speaking circuit ends, I thank those that put the work into these county fundraiser events and those that came to listen to the GOP candidates.  I’ll look forward to another pork chop next time!

Fong called into the Radio Iowa newsroom at about 11 o’clock this morning and I asked Fong if his decision to exit the race (and forego some pork chop dinner) was popular with the “non-voting age members of (his) household.” Fong has three young children.  He laughed.

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ITR idea: one president for UofI, ISU, UNI

Iowans for Tax Relief president Ed Failor, Junior, has been writing a series of opinion pieces over the past few weeks.  He’s floated ideas like privatizing the state’s prison system, getting rid of the Iowa Department of Economic Development and a five-percent, across-the-board cut in the salaries of employees in the executive branch of state government.

Today, Failor opines that it’s time to have one administration, not three, run the University of Iowa, Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa.  He’s not suggesting the Hawkeyes, Cyclones and Panthers play as one team on the football field or the basketball court.  He’s suggesting there be one president who will oversee all three institutions.  He’s suggesting Iowa be like Wisconsin (or to some extent, like Missouri).

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Another Branstad sign: a campaign manager

Former Governor Terry Branstad has a campaign manager, should he decide to run for a fifth term.   It’s Jeff Boeyink, a former Iowans for Tax Relief executive who has been serving as executive director of the Republican Party of Iowa for the past eight months.  UPDATE: I just spoke with Richard Schwarm, Branstad’s former law partner and the fellow heading up the “Terry Branstad 2010 Committee.”  Here’s a transcript of our conversation: 

Henderson:  “I don’t think a fellow would resign from his job if he didn’t think he was landing a sort-of full time gig.  Is this the signal here?

Schwarm:  “Well, the statement pretty much speaks for itself, but I think individuals could certainly draw the conclusion that you have.”

Henderson: “Why Jeff?”

Schwarm:  “Well, if the governor, if Governor Branstad decides he is going to run, part of what I and others were looking for were the best people to be involved in his campaign, along with other things.  Jeff is a great talent in Iowa, long experience, great individual, was very — is a great catch.  We visited with him and had no idea if he would take it and he has agreed to step into this role and we’re very pleased.”

Henderson:  “When you say ‘we’ and ‘we are’ — who do you mean?”

Schwarm: (Laugh) Terry Branstad 2010 Committee, the exploratory committee. (Laugh)

Henderson: “It seems odd that someone would sign on without having talked to Governor Branstad himself.  Has Governor Branstad signed off on this hire?”

Schwarm:  “Governor Branstad is aware of the hire.”

Henderson: “So, where are you in this process?  Is an announcement imminent or within 24, 48 hours?”

Schwarm:  “It’s not my role to give that information.”

Henderson: “Is there anything else our listeners need to know about this moment?”

Schwarm:  “I think that the statement needs to speak for itself.”

‘Tis hard for written statements to speak on the radio, as you may know.  Read the written statement Schwarm emailed this morning below.

Jeffrey Boeyink named to head Terry Branstad 2010 Committee

            Richard Schwarm today announced the hiring of Jeffrey Boeyink to lead the Terry Branstad 2010 Committee as it continues to explore a possible gubernatorial run by former Iowa Governor Terry Branstad.

            Schwarm said, “This is the next natural step in our exploratory process as we move from a volunteer effort to the acquisition of professional staff and financial resources to take Terry Branstad 2010 to the next level of effectiveness.”

            Boeyink has served as Executive Director of the Republican Party of Iowa (RPI) since last February and resigned yesterday to accept this new position.  Prior to joining RPI, Boeyink served as President of Iowans for Tax Relief where he worked for more than two decades.

            Schwarm also noted, “This appointment does not signal any change in Terry Branstad’s status as a potential gubernatorial candidate.   He continues in his role at Des Moines University and will make his plans known at a future date.”

UPDATE — a statement from the Iowa GOP: Chairman Strawn Comments on Executive Director’s Resignation

Des Moines, IA – Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Matt Strawn issued the following statement after the resignation of Executive Director Jeff Boeyink:

“I hope all Iowa Republicans join me in thanking Jeff for a job well done. The Iowa GOP is better off because of his service and tireless advocacy for principled, conservative government. I’m personally grateful for his wisdom and guidance and wish him well.”

Revenue Estimating Conference: Iowa taxes down $415 million

UPDATE:  Scroll to the bottom of this story to listen to an mp3 of the entire 23 minute meeting.

It is 12:55 p.m. on a Wednesday and people are slowly filling up the Supreme Court Chamber in the Iowa  Statehouse.  The ornate room has been converted into a meeting room and the Revenue Estimating Conference is scheduuled to meet at 1 p.m.  The three-member panel will set its official estimate of state tax collections for the current budgeting year.  It’s likely the governor will order an across-the-board cut afterwards, the depth of which will be determined by the estimate this three-member panel decides upon.

As blogged about yesterday, the three members of the panel are Legislative Services Agency director Holly Lyons; Department of Management director Dick Oshlo (the governor’s representative on the panel) and David Underwood, who recently retired from a firm in Mason City where he served as chief financial officer.

At 12:58 p.m., the governor’s staff sent out an advisory via email.  The governor will hold a news conference at 3 p.m. this afternoon to “react” to the decision made by the Revenue Estimating Conference.

Each seat is now full.  Phil Roeder, the governor’s deputy chief of staff, is standing in the back of the room, within arm’s length of a seated Chris Rants, one of the Republican candidates for governor.

The meeting opened with Oshlo being elected chairman of the panel and minutes of the March 20, 2009 meeting were approved by voice vote. 

“Obviously these are difficult economic times for the stsate and based on recent events….we have to review the current numbers and see if there are any revisions,” Oshlo said. 

Lyons said there is a “significant and severe recession not just for Iowa but for all states.  Since last year there’s been a loss of 50,000 jobs…unemployment is slowing, but likely to remain high….November of 2008 was the last month we saw true, positive revenue growth….Consumer confidence remains uncertain.”

Lyons quoted a report suggesting holiday sales will be one percent lower than last year.

Lyons said federal economic stimulus money was being spent in Iowa, but “the good news is that we haven’t felt the effects of the stimulus and the I-JOBS spending yet.”

Suggesting the next nuggett came from “the misery loves company department,” Lyons cited National Conference of State Legislatures data, indicating:  “state governments will face severe budget problems for 12-24 months after the recession ends.”

Underwood said “all of us” had been surprised by the “depth of job loss” in Iowa.  “None of the national forecasts came even close to the 50,000 level for Iowa…The impact to Iowa’s revenue…is probably somewhere in the $80 to $100 million range.”

“…Corporate profits continue to be an issue…I think that’s going to be a reality for us…profits are going to be down.”

Oshlo began speaking, focusing on corporate tax payments, saying the decline in September “was alarming.”  He is a low talker and people in the back of the room, including yours truly, cannot hear all of what he is saying.

Underwood takes the floor again.  He’s preparing to “resolve” the differences in estimates from the legislative and executive branches.  “It’s probably somewhere in the midst of these two,” he adds.

Lyons makes a motion, to reduce the personal income tax refund estimate in Oshlo’s estimate (the governor’s numbers) by about $32 million.  That’s the first reduction (with more to come) and it passes.  It means the TOTAL reduction is in the neighborhood of $414.9 million according to the math-proficient Lynn Campbell of who is sitting to my left.  We’ll double-check with the mumbling people up front after the meeting concludes.  (UPDATE:  It was, indeed, $414.9 million.  That represents a reduction of a little more than seven percent.)

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Fong goes up on radio

Republican gubernatorial candidate Christian Fong wins the race to be the first to air campaign ads.  See his campaign's announcement below.  (No word on how extensive, expensive the ad buy is.)

(Cedar Rapids, IA)  The campaign of Iowa gubernatorial candidate and Cedar Rapids businessman Christian Fong (R) announced today it has started a statewide radio advertising campaign.
The advertisement, titled, “Iowa Dream” focuses on introducing Christian and outlining his story for Iowa Republicans.

“Our fundraising has been strong enough; it’s allowed us the luxury of starting our paid media campaign earlier than we had initially anticipated.  Christian has a unique story that sets him apart in this crowded Republican field and this advertisement allows us to introduce him to Republicans across the state,” said Marlys Popma, Fong campaign manager.

Here is the transcript of the advertisement, “Iowa Dream”:

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Grassley a target

U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-New Hartford, Iowa) is at the center of the health care debate in the nation's capitol and he'll find himself at the center of debate tomorrow when he begins his series of town hall meetings in Iowa. Grassley says he welcomes "all points of view."

The folks who organized the "Tea Party" in Des Moines this past spring are encouraging their folks to turn out tomorrow in Adel for Grassley's appearance there.

Iowans for Tax Relief sent out an email alert yesterday, urging ITR members to give Grassley a piece of their mind, too.  There were five exclamation points in the opening paragraph!

ALERT!!! Senator Charles Grassley has been working with Democrats on a health care reform package. Moving toward a single-payer health care system is not a good idea! Government cannot and should not make decisions about your health care. It should be between you, your family, and the doctor you have personally chosen. Help protect this freedom by getting involved!

This Wednesday, August 12, Senator Charles Grassley is hosting four town hall meetings to hear from his constituents. I encourage your participation at one of these town hall meetings to respectfully and politely share your concerns about a single-payer health care system. Americans want health care reform to address problems; not reform which continues to erode away our freedoms…

(ITR provided Grassley's public schedule for Wednesday. Here's a link to Grassley's "Iowa Events" schedule which features all his public events, not just tomorrow's.)

Ed Failor, Jr.
President, Iowans for Tax Relief

Parsing Iowans for Tax Relief fundraising, Part II

Ed Failor, Junior, of Iowans for Tax Relief called this afternoon about this blog post noting contributions to the Iowans for Tax Relief PAC were down in 2009 compared to 2007 (2009 and 2007 are both "off years" meaning there's no election in November, thus it's comparing similar donation periods).  Contributions to the Iowans for Tax Relief PAC were down 43 percent from 2007 to 2009. 

Failor suggested I had failed to point out there had been a leadership change at the organization in the recent past. Jeff Boeyink, the current executive director of the Republican Party of Iowa, had been ITR's president in 2007. Failor is now the president of Iowans for Tax Relief. Eric Branstad also joined ITR's team last November as an "organizational" fundraiser. 

Failor also suggested I should have pointed out the economic conditions in 2009 are far worse than they were in 2007 and he suggested I look at the contribution reports for several other organizations which have PACs — and which raised less in 2009 than they had in 2007.

Justice for All — the Iowa Trial Lawyers PAC — saw its fundraising decline 20 percent in 2009 compared to '07 and the Realtors PAC saw a 22 percent decline.  The Iowa Industry Political Action Committee — the Iowa Association of Business and Industry's PAC — saw a slight increase in contributions, as did the PAC for the Iowa chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business, although Failor notes the total contributions for the NFIB were "really small" as it raised $3531.00 in 2009 compared to the $2460 is raised in 2007. 

Failor also suggested I look at the contribution records for the Associated General Contractors of Iowa PAC.  According to a document emailed by Katie Koberg, a vice president at Iowans for Tax Relief, the Associated General Contractors of Iowa PAC reported receiving $24,551.92 in cash contributions in the first six months of this year compared to $26.704 in cash contributions in 2007, so there was a slight decline.  The group, however, has fundraising events for its PAC as well. In 2007, the Associated General Contractors of Iowa PAC raised $237,700 from events in the first half of 2007, whereas they raised much less — $163,300 — at a January 15, 2009 fundraiser, the only event listed on the AGC's report Koberg provided.

Parsing Iowans for Tax Relief fundraising

The PAC (Political Action Committee) run by Iowans for Tax Relief recently filed its fundraising data for the first six months of the year with the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board (all PACs are required to do so). The Iowans for Tax Relief report caught my attention because Iowans for Tax Relief president Ed Failor, Junior, said a public hearing "meltdown" at the statehouse had proven to be a fundraising bonanza for his organization. 

However, earlier today in a telephone conversation Failor said it was the organization's non-profit — a 501(c)(4) – that benefitted, as it finances ITR's lobbying at the statehouse.  There was no real effort, according to Failor, to mine donations for the organizations PAC at the same time.  PAC donations, of course, are distributed to candidates who are friendly to the group's cause. 

The public hearing was held Tuesday, March 31, 2009.  According to the records ITR submitted, the Iowans for Tax Relief PAC received the following during the reporting period:

  • In the week following the public hearing, the PAC received $380 in donations.

  • In the period after the public hearing — from April 1, 2009 to June 30, 2009 — the group raised about $13,000. 

  • In the period from April 1, 2009 to June 30, 2009, David and Jean Stanley contributed $5300.

  • In the first six months of 2009, the Iowans for Tax Relief PAC received $32,535.33 in contributions.

  • In the first six months of 2007 (a good comparison since '07 and '09 are both "off" years — meaning neither is an election year), the Iowans for Tax Relief PAC received $57,281.74 in contributions.

"Was, in fact, our fundraising down a litte?  Yeah, a little bit," Failor said this morning via phone, adding their "main push" for PAC contributions comes after Labor Day.  "During the legislative session we focus on raising money for our 501(c)(4)…I'm not concerned at this moment."  There is no public reporting requirement for 501(c)(4) organizations.