September 1, 2014

Branstad ponders defamation suit against Democratic Governors (audio)

Republican Governor Terry Branstad says he may file a defamation lawsuit against the Democratic National Governors Association over 2010 campaign ads.

Back in 2010 Branstad was a four-term governor who had been out of office for 12 years. He faced a three-way Republican Primary in his quest for a fifth term as governor. The Democratic Governors Association formed a group called “Iowans for Responsible Government” and, during the GOP primary campaign, denounced Branstad’s 16-year taxing and spending record in radio and TV ads as well as pamphlets mailed to Iowa voters.

“I felt that I was the victim of a real slanderous campaign that was conducted by this ‘Iowans for Responsible Government’ which turned out to be a front group that was really the Democratic Governors Association,” Branstad told reporters this morning, “not disclosing who they were and trying to fool Iowan voters into thinking they were a bunch of conservatives when they were a bunch of liberal Democrats.”

AUDIO of Branstad’s remarks on this topic, made during his weekly news conference.

Branstad suggested last Friday’s decision by a jury in Sioux City is prompting him to think about a defamation suit against the Democratic Governors Association. The jury found the Iowa Democratic Party and a Democratic candidate for the senate were guilty of libel and slander against a Republican running for the senate. The jury awarded State Senator Rick Bertrand of Sioux City $231,000 in damages, which Governor Branstad suggests is unprecedented.

“I am excited about that, to tell you the truth, because this is the first time I’ve heard of a candidate or an office-holder actually winning a defamation lawsuit, so that’s pretty unusual,” Branstad said. “…But I think it’s encouraging and maybe it will make people think twice about making outlandish statements that amount to libel or slander.”

Senator Bertrand objected to a TV ad which claimed Bertrand’s company had been singled out by the FDA for the “marketing of dangerous drugs to children.” Bertrand, who used to work for a pharmaceutical company, told the jury he never sold the controversial pediatric drug that was mentioned in the ad.

Branstad suggested the Democratic Governors Association is guilty of the same kind of “outlandish” charges against him in 2010.

“I never thought about filing a slander suit. There may be grounds,” Branstad told reporters this morning, laughing. “And I don’t think the statue of limitation has run.”

According to a top official on Branstad’s 2010 campaign, the Democratic Governors Association spend “over $750,000″ on their “Iowans for Responsible Government” campaign, trying to knock Branstad out in the Republican primary before he would face Democratic Governor Chet Culver in November of 2010.

A spokesperson for the Democratic Governors Association was not immediately available for comment this morning.