April 18, 2014

American Picker now featured on lottery scratch ticket

New lottery ticket featuring Mike Wolfe.

New lottery ticket featuring Mike Wolfe.

The eastern Iowa man who turned his love of searching through dusty old barns and outbuildings for hidden treasures into a TV show is now featured on an Iowa Lottery scratch ticket.

Mike Wolfe of Le Claire, the creator and star of the History Channel show “American Pickers“, says officials from the Iowa Lottery and Iowa Tourism came up with the idea for the ticket. “We started talking about — oh gosh — almost two years, the idea of putting what I do into your hand as far as a treasure hunt. So, it’s a scratch ticket and you can win up to $50,000,” Wolfe says. The ticket features a picture of Wolfe and the logo from his two Antique Archeology stores in LeClaire and Nashville, Tennessee.

The $50,000 is the most cash you can win with the five-dollar ticket, but there’s also trips you can win to Le Claire, and a grand prize trip to Nashville. “When you go to Nashville, you can go to the Nashville store and also to the Grand Old Opry. And there’s also product you can win from 12 of my favorite businesses in Iowa,” Wolfe explains.

Wolfe says the show has already shown a lot of people more about the state, and the goal of the ticket is to bring even more attention. “There’s versions of our show in Australia and Italy and England and Canada, so all of those people are coming here to Iowa to our store. And they’re spending money in this great state with the restaurants and lodging and fuel,” according to Wolfe. “We get a lot of e-mail and people are saying ‘I cannot believe how beautiful Iowa is.’ Because we really started filming this show in Iowa.”

The show is about finding hidden treasures – and after five years on the air — the prospect of finding a treasure in an old Iowa barn isn’t so secret anymore. But Wolfe says there are still more things left to find, despite the increased attention. “It’s harder in some ways and easier in others.  I mean we have more information that we have to filter through. We literally get thousands of e-mails  and phone calls every month from people who want us to come and pick ‘em,” Wolfe says. “But one man’s junk is usually one man’s junk. So, you have to sift through all that — and once you filter all of that — then we decide which route we are gonna  take.”

Wolfe is executive producer of the American Pickers show and says as they start working on their sixth season, he wants to focus on some Iowa picks. “So, we’ve already started putting our feelers out about this season. It takes us about a year to film a season,” Wolfe says. Wolfe travels Iowa and the country with Davenport native Frank Fritz on the show. Fritz has his own store in Savannah, Illinois, just upriver from Clinton. He is not part of the ticket with Wolfe.

Wolfe says dealing with all the attention and recognition the show has gotten hasn’t become a problem. “The show resonates with so many people on so many different levels — and yeah people recognize us wherever we go now — heck we’ve been on the air for five years now you know. But I’ve always looked at it as business and I’ve looked at it as a blessing,” Wolfe says. “When people come up to me they tell me they love the show and they are like ‘you probably hear that all the time.’ I tell them I do hear that all the time, but I never get tired of hearing that, we work very hard.”

He says they are on the road about seven months out of the year and it is harder for him now because he has a two year old daughter back at home. The tickets are now on sale. You can find out more about the tickets, rules and prizes on the Iowa Lottery’s website: www.ialottery.com.

Congressman Braley attributes remarks about Senator Grassley to ‘different experiences in background’

Congressman Bruce Braley speaking to a group in Texas.

Congressman Bruce Braley speaking to a group in Texas. (file photo)

Iowa Congressman Bruce Braley, a Democrat from Waterloo, held his first conference call with reporters today since the release of a video where he made remarks about Iowa Republican Senator Chuck Grassley.

Braley told a group of Texas lawyers  at a fundraiser that if he isn’t elected to the U.S. Senate — Grassley, a farmer who never went to law school — would become chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He issued a written apology on the day the remarks were released, and also talked personally with Senator Grassley .

Braley, who is a lawyer, opened his conference call with a statement on the video. “Let me start by stating the obvious: I made a mistake. And good people who listen to my comments, people who I respect and admire were upset by what I said,” Braley said. “If my dad were still alive he’d probably be telling me not to get too big for my britches.  The reason the people who know me were upset was because these remarks don’t reflect who I am and where I come from.”

Braley’s statement was six minutes long and went into detail about his family background and the work he did at various jobs growing up. The first question by a reporter asked Braley to explain what he was thinking if he was not saying that being a farmer disqualified Grassley from chairing the committee.

“I respect Senator Grassley greatly and I don’t question his qualifications. We have differences on some issues and we have different experiences in background as well as many things in common,” Braley said in reply. ” And that’s why I took the time to personally reach out to Senator Grassley, because I wanted him to hear from me personally.  And I think that I made it very clear where I stood in my conversation with him.”

Braley was asked again to clarify what he meant.

“I was trying to convey that we have different life experiences and backgrounds,” Braley said.

Braley was then asked by Des Moines Register columnist Kathie Obradovich if he is concerned the issue has hurt his Senate campaign.

“I am much less concerned about the impact of my comments on my Senate campaign, Kathie, than I am on the impact of my comments on the people of Iowa. And that’s because it doesn’t reflect who I am and where I come from, and that’s why I apologized to Senator Grassley,” Braley replied.

Braley was asked to explain how his life experience was different from Grassley.

“Well, the experience that I have spending 23 years representing Iowans and trying to understand their stories and challenges so that I could be their voice and give them a chance at justice. That’s one of the significant differences that I was trying to explain,” Braley said.

Grassley is the senior U.S. Senator from Iowa, serving since 1981. Braley has borrowed a couple staples from Grassley’s past campaigns — visiting all of Iowa’s 99 counties and the using the phrase “Braley Works” in his campaign. Grassley has employed “Grassley Works” as a theme in past campaigns.

Braley also said in the video he has been fighting against tort reform for 30 years. He was asked if that statement would be a negative for him in his Senate campaign.

“As I said, I am much less worried about what will be a deficit for me in the campaign than with the reaction that the people I care about in Iowa are having to the words I spoke and that’s why I issued the apology to Senator Grassley and the apology to Iowa farmers and Iowans who may’ve been offended by what I said,” Braley said. “I continue to be somebody who believes in standing up for the ‘Bill of Rights’ and I think that is something that all Iowans share as a  common value.”

Braley has touted himself in his campaign as being someone who is bipartisan and was asked if his comments about Grassley countered that claim. Braley responded that he thinks his record speaks for itself that he has been bipartisan. Braley is the only Democrat running for Iowa’s open Senate seat in 2014.

Audio: Braley conference call. 17:00.

Progress Iowa targets conservative leader in comic book on bullying

A page from the Mighty Moxy comic book.

A page from the Mighty Moxy comic book. (click to enlarge)

A liberal advocacy group is using the leader of a conservative group in Iowa as its villain in what is called an anti-bullying comic book.  The “Mighty Moxy” comic book was developed by Progress Iowa executive director Matt Sinovic.

The comic book villain is modeled after Bob Vander Plaats, the president of The Family Leader. “We created Mighty Moxy to show that anyone can be a superhero by standing up to bullying, whether it exists in the classroom or outside the classroom. Unfortunately, many on the extreme right — Bob Vander Plaats is a prime example of this — but many on the extreme right use hateful rhetoric to do what we consider political bullying,” Sinovic said.

Sinovic unveiled the comic book at the annual Governors Conference on LGBTQ youth Tuesday. He said those who use “political bullying” do so to ostracize those they don’t agree with.

“So this comic, and using Bob Vander Plaats as the basis for our villain Bull Von Ploots, was designed to specifically help people stand up to that rhetoric,” Sinovic said.

Vander Plaats and The Family Leader have been at the forefront in the debate over gay marriage in Iowa. The group led a successful campaign to oust three Iowa Supreme Court judges after the high court threw out the state’s ban on gay marriage. Sinovic rejects the idea that targeting Vander Plaats as villain in a comic book because of his conservative beliefs is a form of bullying.

“We’ve heard that a lot and, frankly, that’s completely ridiculous,” Sinovic said during an interview with Radio Iowa. “Bullying is classically defined as an imbalance of power.”

Sinovic said since Vander Plaats’ group and others are larger, they are the bullies, and attacking him in the comic book is not bullying.

“When you have someone like Bob Vander Plaats, like (Des Moines radio talk show host) Jan Mickelson, Rush Limbaugh who (have) big audiences and can get their message out and they use that sort of megaphone to ostracize and to demonize people they disagree with — that is bullying. What we are doing is standing up to and holding those bullies accountable,” Sinovic said.

He was asked if it would be bullying if The Family Leader created a comic book featuring him as a villain because of his support of gay rights. Sinovic laughed and said: “So far they haven’t done that.”

Sinovic said The Family Leader and others say they stand for freedom, then draw a line designating who should have the freedom.

“But only freedom and only equality for people they want to have it. That is simply unacceptable,” Sinovec said. “And for us to deny rights to any group of people, and for them to use the language that they use only encourages further bullying, further stereotyping, further discrimination.”

Sinovic, who is using the comic book to raise funds for Progress Iowa, said people who donate $12 will get a copy of the comic book and another book will be provided to the Iowa Safe Schools group.

Radio Iowa contacted The Family Leader for a response, but a spokesman for the group deferred to the governor. The Governor’s office issued this statement:

“Gov. Branstad believes we ought to treat everyone with dignity and respect. Bullying, whether it be in the form of a comic book, social media or verbal communication, has no place in Iowa.”

Comic book page used with permission of Progress Iowa.

Suspect in shooting of Maquoketa police officer found dead

A man accused of shooting a police officer early this morning in the eastern Iowa town of Maquoketa is dead. The suspect, 30-year-old Aaron Edward Scott of Wyoming (Iowa), was found dead in his rolled-over pickup in Clinton County around 3:30 a.m.

Maquoketa Police Chief Brad Koranda says a sergeant with his department exchanged gunfire with Scott shortly before 3 a.m. The sergeant’s name has not been released. “He’s doing fine,” Koranda said of the sergeant. “He was released from the hospital. He was shot in the left forearm.”

The sergeant was shot in the arm shortly after stepping out of his vehicle. “He was checking out a vehicle that was parked in the wrong direction…and it was kind of a gun fight that started pretty much immediately,” Koranda said. Scott, armed with a rifle, fled the scene after the shooting.

Other officers chased his pickup, but lost the vehicle in the area of Elwood in Clinton County. The pickup was then discovered, rolled on its top, by an Iowa State Patrol trooper and a Clinton County Sheriff’s deputy. It’s unclear if Scott was hit by gunfire and if so, if those injuries contributed to the crash.

“We don’t what caused the accident, if it was something he did or anything…we don’t know,” Koranda said.

Koranda says they may never know why Scott fired at the officer. An autopsy for Scott has been scheduled for Wednesday at the State Medical Examiner’s office in Ankeny. Scott’s prior criminal history involved two drunken driving arrests.


“Sing Me to Heaven” group lobbies legislators for state funding

Jennifer Mehlert & Diane McIntosh of La Porte City with Rep. Kressig.

Jennifer Mehlert & Diane McIntosh of La Porte City with Rep. Kressig.

A small group of Iowans involved in the “Sing Me to Heaven” Foundation is asking legislators to pass a bill that would set aside $100,000 in state tax money to help low-income families who have to bury a child. Jennifer Mehlert of La Porte City started the non-profit group after her daughter died in early 2010.

“I was 27 years old at the time and I had to plan a funeral…and the funeral bill was over $9,000,” she said during a statehouse news conference. “It was comparable to an adult’s, so I began to think about it and I decided something needed to happen so, with the support of my mom, we started Sing Me to Heaven.”

The bill would funnel the state money to Mehlert’s non-profit group for grants of up to $2,000 each to help pay for the funeral of a child in a family who’s receiving government assistance or who can prove financial need. Mehlert’s group has thus far raised $60,000 on its own and helped 42 families in 17 Iowa counties pay for the funerals of their children.

“With this one-time request of funds, we’re looking to potentially help at a bare minimum of 50 families…to take their time to grieve rather than having…to worry about downsizing, selling its vehicle or even looking at the possibility of bankruptcy,” says John McDermott, a member of the Sing Me to Heaven board of directors. “It provides them the opportunity to grieve properly.”

Larry Schwienebart of Baxter said it’s “not right” that needy families face the financial stress of a funeral when a child dies.  He’s at the statehouse, urging legislators to pass the bill.

“I’ve been through the Vietnam conflict and that was hell,” an emotional Schwienebart said. “But losing a granddaughter who was like a daughter to us was the worst thing I’ve ever faced in my life and you don’t understand it until you’ve been there and I wouldn’t wish this on anyone.”

Representative Bob Kressig, a Democrat from Cedar Falls, is the main sponsor of the bill that would set aside state money to pay for the funerals of low-income children.

“It is real,” Kressig said. “It is happening and families are suffering.”

The bill has not yet been considered by a subcommittee in the Iowa House and there’s no meeting scheduled.

Senator Grassley says EPA head going overboard in regulating waters

Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley is accusing the head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency of overstepping her authority in trying to more closely regulate Iowa’s waterways. EPA administrator Gina McCarthy issued a proposal last week that outlines which rivers, streams and wetlands would be federally-protected by the Clean Water Act.

Grassley, a Republican, says the proposed changes go too far. “She’s assuming jurisdiction over waterways that may not even have water in them,” Grassley says. “So, if they don’t have water in them, how are you going to get a boat of a certain size in them? You’re not even going to get a canoe in them and she’s claiming jurisdiction over riverbeds that you might not even be able to get a canoe into.”

Critics of the EPA proposal include officials with the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, who fear tighter federal regulation of waterways will hurt farmers and the ag industry. Grassley agrees. “This is a nonconstitutional act as far as I’m concerned,” Grassley says. “I bet if it ever gets to the Supreme Court, they’ll say so, because we’ve had some Supreme Court decisions in recent years curbing the power in this area, more the Corps of Engineers, but this is where you get EPA involved in it as well.”

Grassley says McCarthy, who was nominated to the EPA post by President Obama just over a year ago, is getting her marching orders from the White House.

“It’s just a perfect example of the president of the United States saying, ‘I’ve got a pen and a phone and if congress won’t, I will,’” Grassley says. “That’s very authoritarian, very dictatorial, very unconstitutional.”

In a statement, Grassley says: “Changes to this federal rule may open a can of worms for farmers.” He’s concerned farm ponds, drainage ditches, culverts, dams and dry creek beds could soon fall under the EPA.


App created by lawyers helps those stopped for drunk driving

oh-crap-app-logoA pair of attorneys from central Iowa are getting a lot of attention for creating a phone app that gives motorists advice in the event they’re pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving. Bob Rehkemper and Matt Lindholm, both of West Des Moines, are the minds behind the “Oh Crap App!” and Rehkemper says it includes an “emergency button” for the driver to click if they’re stopped by a cop. “First of all, it activates the phone’s voice recorder, so that any communication with law enforcement is documented and saved,” Rehkemper says.

The “Oh Crap!” button also automatically sends an email to a chosen friend or family member, an attorney, and a bail bondsman. Rehkemper estimates that 95-percent of people are unaware of their rights, or what they should or shouldn’t do, when stopped by police. “A lot of people have misconceptions…and don’t have a very good grasp on those rights,” Rehkemper says.

The app has another function, which Rehkemper says is designed to educate people about their basic DUI rights. He says the first thing a motorist should do is “be polite and respectful” with the law officer. “Secondarily, most people don’t know that the field sobriety test — the eye test, the walk and turn, the one leg stand — they don’t have to submit to those,” Rehkemper says. “There is no requirement under the law that they do those. They do have the option of saying, ‘no thank you.’”

As of last week, more than 2,500 people had downloaded the free app. It also includes a blood-alcohol content (BAC) “calculator” — allowing an individual to determine if they might be over the legal limit to drive. Rehkemper says he and Lindholm do not condone drinking and driving. “It gets looked at by some people as, ‘oh, you’re condoning and you’re helping it happen,’ but when you look at the actual app and the information it provides, it’s primarily designed to educate the public on their legal rights, to clear up any ambiguity on what they do have to do and what they don’t have to do. That helps law enforcement and that also helps the individual facing that situation,” Rehkemper says.

The app is available for both iPhones and Android devices.