Weekend wrap-up

A few political items from this past weekend are bloggable.  Below you may read items about the timing of Iowa’s Caucuses; the fundraising of Iowa’s two major political parties; a Sioux City Journal story about Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Vander Plaats’ tenure at Opportunities Unlimited and Bill Salier’s endorsement of Vander Plaats.

Iowa First?

DES MOINES, IA – Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Michael Kiernan, a member of the DNC’s Rules and Bylaws Committee, released the following statement after (Saturday) morning’s vote to retain the early states:
“Today, the Rules and Bylaws Committee took another important step in determining the schedule for the next presidential nominating process and it is one, I believe, that will help us ensure that Iowa is First-in-the-Nation once again.
“The Rules and Bylaws Committee voted this morning to retain our status along with that of New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina as early voting states for the 2012 presidential nominating process.
“I am pleased that the Rules and Bylaws Committee voted to retain the early voting states this morning.  Serving on the committee and representing Iowa’s interests is a huge responsibility and I am nothing but delighted at today’s votes.”

Party fundraising. 

Republicans say they have more cash on hand than do Democrats.  Democrats say they’re raised more money.  First, here’s what the Republicans had to say last Thursday.

State Finance Reports Reveal Iowa GOP Strength, Dem Weakness

DES MOINES – The Republican Party of Iowa today said the latest State of Iowa campaign finance reports indicate the Party and its candidates are competing head-to-head, and even out-pacing in many instances, majority Democrats and incumbents.

While the Iowa GOP has more cash-on-hand than its Iowa Democratic Party counterpart, the Party’s Executive Director Jim Anderson said the recent state campaign filings are encouraging for Republicans at all levels and in races as varied as Governor to Attorney General to control of the Iowa legislature.

Anderson first pointed to the Iowa GOP’s cash-on-hand advantage over the Iowa Democratic Party (IDP) in the May 19 state reports. The reports show the Iowa GOP filing with $214,997 cash-on-hand, while the IDP only has $170,555 on-hand. Further widening the gap is that state reports indicate the IDP incurred new debt last month by receiving a $100,000 bank loan that remains outstanding.

“Even accounting for many competitive Republican primaries that are competing for resources, there is no question that the resources, energy, and enthusiasm in this state are flowing to Republicans,” said Anderson, noting that nearly half of Governor Chet Culver’s financial support in 2010 came from a single source – a $750,000 check from the Washington, DC-based Democratic Governors Association.

“In the battle for control of the Iowa House, the momentum and resources are with Leader Kraig Paulsen and House Republicans, who dramatically outraised majority Democrats,” said Anderson.

In 2010 Iowa GOP State House candidates raised over $595,000 compared to only $415,000 for majority House Democrats. The cash-on-hand totals are even more striking as Iowa House Republicans have over $925,000 to spend while the Iowa House Democrats have just $591,000. 

The filings in the race for Attorney General provided another boost to Iowa GOP efforts to defeat longtime incumbent Democrat Tom Miller. Republican Brenna Findley blew away Miller’s fundraising in 2010, by dramatically out-raising the incumbent by posting receipts of $124,000 to Miller’s $15,000. The two candidates will enter the summer months on equal financial footing as Findley shows $95,000 cash-on-hand to Miller’s $105,000. 

“With Governor Culver relying almost exclusively on outside of Iowa interests to fund his sagging re-election efforts and overwhelming support flowing to legislative Republicans, the building blocks are in place for bringing Iowa the change it deserves this November,” concluded Anderson.

And here’s what the Democrats had to say on Friday.  (There’s a bunch of comparison data at the end of the IDP release.) 

DES MOINES, IA – The Iowa Democratic Party announced another successful fundraising period, outraising the Republican Party of Iowa again. Iowa Democrats raised more than double what Republicans raised, according to the recently filed state and federal reports. 
“The numbers speak for themselves,” said Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Michael Kiernan.
The reports filed this week with the Iowa Elections and Campaign Disclosure Board and the Federal Election Commission reveal that the Iowa Democratic Party raised double what the Republican Party of Iowa raised, outraising them by over half a million dollars in the last fundraising period.
“Don’t buy into the Republicans’ spin. Democrats are united, and are excited. How else can you explain our fundraising success or why we still have a huge voter registration advantage?” asked Kiernan.
In addition to outraising the Republican Party of Iowa in both state and federal dollars, Iowa Democrats retain a 100,000 person voter registration advantage.
By the numbers:
Federal Money Raised– January 1, 2010 through April 30, 2010:
IDP Raised: $411,189.97
RPI Raised: $ 369,290.56
IDP COH: $243,970.89
RPI COH: $163,075.25
State Money Raised – January 1, 2010 through May 14, 2010:
IDP Raised: $788,140.29
RPI Raised: $232,489
IDP COH: $170,555.69
RPI COH: $214,997.44
Total Money Raised:
IDP Raised: $1,199,330.26
RPI Raised: $601,779.56
IDP COH: $414,526.58
RPI COH: $378,072.69

The Vander Plaats campaign

This Sioux City Journal story in Sunday’s editions of Lee Enterprises papers has the political sphere talking.   Here’s the first paragraph:

SIOUX CITY — The human services agency led at one time by 2010 Iowa gubernatorial candidate Bob Vander Plaats nearly closed its doors in the early 2000s in large part because he failed to produce adequate fundraising support after stepping down as CEO, according to a former board member and executive for Sioux City-based Opportunities Unlimited.

The Iowa Republican has a long thread of comments about this development here at the bottom of a story by Craig Robinson.  Former GOP gubernatorial candidate Chris Rants had raised this issue last September.  (Rants dropped out of the race in February. 

On Sunday afternoon, the Vander Plaats campaign announced an endorsement.

            WEST DES MOINES, Iowa — Bill Salier, a staunch pro-life, small-government conservative and co-founder of the group Everyday America, today announced his support for Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Vander Plaats.
            “Bob Vander Plaats is the only candidate in the governor’s race who stands for true conservative values,” Salier said during a Vander Plaats campaign rally at Crossroads Park. “He understands that our freedoms depend on the checks and balances that our Founding Fathers so wisely installed into our system of governance. He’ll be a governor who stands up for what is right and stands strong in defense of our rights.”
            A former Marine who completed his tour of duty in Somalia, Salier shook up the state’s political scene when his grassroots campaign for the GOP’s 2002 U.S. Senate nomination garnered 42 percent of the vote against then-Congressman Greg Ganske.  Salier served as the Iowa state chairman of then-Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo’s 2008 presidential campaign.  A graduate of Iowa State University, Salier and his wife Karla operate the family farm near Nora Springs.
            Salier co-founded Everyday America, a group that believes an educated voter is the key to a good government and great nation. Everyday America’s mission is to teach the voting public that “Constitution is the rulebook for government and voters must make politicians accountable to our rulebook.”
            “Bill Salier has proven that he will stand up for what he knows is right and work tirelessly to elect principled conservatives,” Vander Plaats said. “Bill answered the call of duty as a Marine in Somalia and put his life on the line for our country – and he answers the call of duty as an involved, informed and responsible citizen right here at home. He is a true conservative leader in Iowa who recognizes the big challenges facing our state and the need for a governor who will follow the rule of law and get this state going in the right direction again. I’m honored to receive his endorsement.”

The two shall replace the one

Representative Rod Roberts (R-Carroll) is busy these days running for governor, so his fellow Republicans in the Iowa House have elected two people to replace him in the hierarchy of House leadership.  Read the news release below.

(DES MOINES)—Today House Republicans elected Reps. Erik Helland (R-Johnston) and Renee Schulte (R-Cedar Rapids) Assistant Minority Leaders in the Iowa House.

As Assistant Leaders, Helland and Schulte will work with the leadership team to set the agenda for the House Republican caucus.  Working directly with the Minority Leader and Whip, they will relay information to fellow members, while also serving as a point-person on key legislative issues. 

“Reps. Helland and Schulte are valued assets to our caucus in the House,” said House Republican Leader Kraig Paulsen (R-Hiawatha).  “They are both dedicated representatives who bring a great deal of insight to our leadership team.”

Both Helland and Schulte were elected to the Iowa House in 2008. 

Tomorrow’s the deadline

Candidates who want to place their names on the June 8 ballot for the Democratic and Repubilcan Party primaries have until 5 p.m, Friday, March 19, 2010 to submit the required number of petition signatures to the Secretary of State.  The Secretary of State’s office is keeping an updated list online.

By the close of business today, three Republicans who want to be Iowa’s next governor have filed the necessary number of petition signatures.  Bob Vander Plaats submitted his documents on March 1, the first day the Secretary of State’s office started accepting the petitions.  Terry Brantad submitted his documents earlier this week.  Rod Roberts submitted his documents today.

Governor Chet Culver, a Democrat, presented his nominating petitions on Monday.  Jonathan Narcisse, a Des Moines newspaper publisher who is a registered Democrat, has said he’ll submit petitions and place his name on the Democratic primary ballot to face off againt Culver in June.  UPDATE:  Narcisse says he’s not running nowNarcisse has one more day to get those petitions filed.  The top of his campaign website asks supporters for help on the project:

Need All Petitions ASAP!
Please return all nominating petitions with as many signatures as you can get ASAP…we need to organize and count the signatures.

Narcisse, by the way, already has said he’ll put his name on the General Election ballot, running as an independent candidate for governor.

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The numbers are in and…

Revenue Estimating Conference members, from left to right, David Underwood, Richard Oshlo and Holly Lyons

Revenue Estimating Conference members, from left to right, David Underwood, Richard Oshlo and Holly Lyons

The three-member State Revenue Estimating Council met early this afternoon. Their estimate of state tax collections in fiscal year 2010 was reduced by about $900,000.   (Fiscal year 2010 began July 1, 2009 and concludes June 30, 2010.)  Their estimate of state tax collections in fiscal year 2011 increased by over $30 million.  (For you insiders, it’s up $33.1 million from the December, 2009 estimate.)  Here’s a pdf if you like to read lots of numbers.

“I hope we’re wrong, but we wanted to err on the conservative side,” Legislative Services Agency director Holly Lyons said to conclude the meeting.

These estimates are used by lawmakers to build the state budget plan.  UPDATE: Lawmakers and the governor have issued statements.  Read them below, in the order they were received by yours truly.

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Tempers flare in gun debate

UPDATE at 5:30 p.m.:  Debate is over.  Read the Radio Iowa story. Below is a mid-afternoon blog post about the debate.

At this hour the Iowa House is in the midst of a debate about guns.  Representative Matt Windschitl, a Republican from Missouri Valley, is a former Marine and he is also a trained gunsmith.  He works in the family business in Missouri Valley, the Double Barrell Shooters Supply.

Windschitl has offered a new plan as an alternative to a bill that would take guns away from people who’ve been convicted of dometic violence.  Instead, Windschitl proposes a state tax credit for domestic abuse victims who buy a new gun.  And he also wants to create a new state fund that would provide self-defense training to domestic abuse victims, including the technique of shooting “to wound” rather than shooting to kill.  That new state fund would be financed by a new $500  fine assessed to those who are convicted of domestic assault.

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Legislators don’t follow Culver’s casino lead

Here’s the Radio Iowa story.   None of the legislative leaders from either party are following Governor Culver’s lead today on the issue of gambling.  Shortly before nine o’clock, Culver said the Racing & Gaming Commission should approve casino licenses for Fort Dodge, Ottumwa, Tama & Larchwood.

Shortly after 10:30 a.m., Democratic legislative leaders said they’d leave it up to the commission to make the decision.  “If we get to the place where the legislature’s going to decide how many and where the licenses are going to be, I think that’s a very messy place,” said Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal (D-Council Bluffs). 

Shortly after 11 a.m., Republican legislative leaders said they’d leave it up to the commission to make the decision.  “I’m actually most surprised he’d wade into the board’s decision,” said House Minority Leader Kraig Paulsen (R-Hiawatha).

UPDATE:  One of the three Republican gubernatorial candidates issued a statement in reaction.  Read it below.

BURLINGTON – Gov. Chet Culver’s call today for the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission to approve casino licenses for four more communities is fueled by “his desperation to win another term and his own compulsion to grow state government,” Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Vander Plaats said today.

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House leaders on Iowa Press

This weekend’s “Iowa Press” on Iowa Public Television features House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (D-Des Moines) and House Minority Leader Kraig Paulsen (R-Hiawatha).  (Show video isn’t posted online yet; the show airs at 7:30 p.m. tonight.)

First questions out of the box were about the state government reorganization plan that cleared the Senate Thursday.  Here’s a Radio Iowa story.  After the show during a Q&A with two reporters who watched the taping, McCarthy shot down the idea of legalizing Internet gambling.

“That would be the biggest expansion of gambling in the state’s history,” McCarthy said.  McCarthy suggested it would be like opening a casino in every house in Iowa that has a computer.  “We’re not going to do that,” he said.

Toward the end of the program, the two men talked about the upcoming election.  “I would guess that, unless something dramatic changes, on November 2 of this year the most dangerous place in America is going to be is to be between a Republican and a polling station,” Paulsen said.

McCarthy cited a recent Des Moines Register Iowa Poll. McCarthy said while that poll found great angst about federal deficits and federal debt, it also found those surveyed thought “local elected officials were doing o.k.”

The numbers game

If you don’t spend a lot of time paying attention to the budget committee process at the legislature, I’ll start with a primer.  If you do, skip past this backgrounder.  There is a House Appropriations Committee made up of 25 representatives and a Senate Appropriations Committee made up of 25 senators.  Then, there are seven appropriations subcommittees.  Each of those subcommittees is made up of five senators and nine representatives.  It is in those subcommittees that budgets for state agencies and other government operations are first developed.  For the subcommittee to agree on or “pass” a plan, at least three of the senators and five of the representatives must support it. If you’re doing the math at home — or in your office — that’s the way you ensure the budget outline that’s been developed by the subcommittee has the support of a majority of senate members and a majority of house members on the panel.  

After the budget subcommittees approve a budget plan, then an Appropriations Committee in the House or Senate has to review the document and give the budget draft its approval before the full House or Senate can debate the plan.  (Here’s a list of the committtees and subcommittees in the Iowa General Assembly.)

This morning Democratic legislative leaders announced what they call their “budget targets” — the amount of money each of those seven respective budget subcommittees should allocate/spend in the area of state government over which they have jurisdiction in the budget-writing process.  Read the press release from Democrats below, followed by reaction from House Republicans.

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Gay marriage drama at statehouse

This morning Republicans (and two Democrats) in the legislature are attempting a sort of end-run to try to keep a resolution “alive” that eventually would set up a statewide vote on a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage in Iowa.  A legislative deadline looms this Friday. Policy measures like this resolution must win approval from a House or Senate committee this week.  Policy proposals which fail to make it out of committee this week are no longer eligible for debate.  The deadline does not apply to bills that deal with money matters. 

Shortly before 9 a.m. in the Iowa Senate, a “discharge petition” signed by all 18 Republicans and Senator Tom Hancock, a Democrat from Epworth, was presented to try to bring the resolution out of committee.  But 26 signatures are required on the document before a resolution (or a bill) can be brought out of committee and become eligible for debate in the full, 50-member senate, so that attempt with just 19 signatures failed.

Things are slightly more dramatic in the Iowa House.  There’s a House Rule which stipulates that 51 House members can vote to bring a bill out of committee, making it eligibl for House debate. The House convened at 9;22 a.m.  After a prayer and the Pledge, House Minority Leader Kraig Paulsen (R-Hiawatha) invoked a “Call of the House.”  This means all 100 members are “compelled” to be inside the House chamber.  (It’s a move designed to force all 100 members to be there for a subsequent vote to try to bring the resolution out of committee.)

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Culver budget unveiling

Governor Chet Culver, a Democrat, held a 23-minute news conference this afternoon to unveil his state budget outline.  Click here to listen to that news conference and read the Radio Iowa story.  The entire file Culver presented to lawmakers is also available at that link.

Democratic leaders in the legislature issued a joint statement shortly after Culver concluded his remarks to reporters.  (It seems less than a full endorsement, eh?)  Read it below:


Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, House Speaker Pat Murphy, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Senate President Jack Kibbie:

“It’s important to remember that everything the Legislature is doing this session is under the cloud of a lingering national recession. Just as middle-class Iowans, small businesses and other employers have been hit hard by the recession, the state of Iowa is continuing to tighten its belt.
The plan outlined today by Governor Culver responds to the concerns of middle-class Iowans who want a responsible state budget that doesn’t raise taxes but focuses our limited resources on creating good-paying jobs, maintaining quality schools and ensuring quality health care for more Iowans.

The Legislature will examine the plan closely in the weeks ahead and we look forward to working with Governor Culver to approve a plan that will help middle class families.”

The top two Republican leaders in the legislature issued separate statements.  Senate GOP Leader Paul McKinley’s came first. (Note the headline is just three words shorter than the quote itself.)  Read McKinley’s brief statement below:

McKinley Comments on Release of Governor’s Proposed Budget
Three years of fiscal mismanagement and higher taxes have put Iowa in a serious fiscal predicament

DES MOINES, IA  – Senate Republican Leader Paul McKinley (R-Chariton) today released the following statement regarding the release of Governor Culver’s proposed budget for FY2011:

“Senate Republicans are not interested in supporting a state budget that merely shifts the tax burden onto property taxes.”

House GOP Leader Kraig Paulsen’s statement came a minute later:

Paulsen Releases Statement on Governor’s Budget Proposal

(DES MOINES)—Today House Republican Leader Kraig Paulsen (R-Hiawatha) released the following statement on Gov. Chet Culver’s recent budget proposal:

“The governor’s budget spends more money than it takes in and will increase the burden on property taxpayers.  Once again, decisions in Des Moines are going to drive up property taxes across the state.  It’s irresponsible and will be costly for Iowans. 

 “House Republicans will dive into budgets, ask tough questions, and identify savings and government waste while being responsible with taxpayers’ money.”

The only statewide elected official to issue a statement was Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey, a Republican. Northey’s statement counters Culver’s assertion that the budget plan he outlined would not lead to state worker layoffs.  Read Northey’s statement below:

A statement by Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey regarding the budget proposal released by Iowa Governor Chet Culver follows here:

“The Governor’s proposal would mean that it is 1994 for the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship once again.  The Governor’s proposed $16.8 million general fund appropriation is the same level of funding the Department received in 1994.  Unfortunately, costs have increased significantly since 1994 and spending for the rest of state government has grown 48 percent in that time.

“Due to built in increases that the Department has no control over, we are actually looking at $3.29 million budget gap that needs to be filled.  These built in increases include two previously negotiated salary increases, increased health insurance costs, replacing one-time funding sources that we were directed by the Legislature to use in the current fiscal year, and replacing the savings that resulted from the five furlough days taken by AFSCME covered employees.

“In addition, the Governor’s proposal to reduce the Environmental First funding the Department receives by $1.87 million will not only impact the number of conservation projects we will be able to assist farmers with, but will mean a $187,000 cut to fund the staff that are on the ground helping farmers design those practices.

“The Department has already experienced 5 layoffs and has 44 open positions, which is over 10 percent of our workforce.  If the Governor’s proposal is implemented we will need to reduce staffing by approximately another 50 positions.”

(Where have I heard that “it’s like 1994 again” phrase before?  Anybody?  Anybody?)