There’s confusion in the Governor’s office as to whether Governor Tom Vilsack asked Iowa taxpayers to foot the bill for a recent trip to California. Vilsack went to California in early October to appear at a rally on behalf of then-California Governor Gray Davis. Vilsack’s public schedule indicated the purpose of the trip was to attend the rally. But yesterday morning, Vilsack said he did some other things while he was in California — things he considers official state business, promoting the state — and he wasn’t sure whether the tab was covered by the Democratic Governors Association or whether he was asking Iowa taxpayers to pay. Vilsack says the rally for Davis was “peripheral” to three other appointments he had. But then last night, Vilsack’s communications director said the Governor’s airfare and hotel room in California were paid for by the Democratic Governors Association, not Iowa taxpayers. W-H-O T-V in Des Moines has reported that Vilsack’s travel expenses are significantly higher than former Governor Terry Branstad’s. Vilsack is lashing out. Vilsack says he “will not be muzzled” in his efforts to try to promote the state. Vilsack accuses the station of engaging in an “old political trick.” Vilsack says he’s had a chance to travel the country and “it’s paying dividends for the state” by attracting business expansion and bringing in more federal tax dollars to Iowa. Former aides to Branstad indicate Branstad did not charge the state for his travel to Republican Governors Association events. And former State Auditor Richard Johnson drew up a special formula to ensure Branstad used campaign funds to cover any campaign trips Branstad took in the plane the state owned at the time.
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