April 21, 2014

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.

Clovis endorsed by Citizens United and Eagle Forum; Braley endorsed by Elizabeth Warren

Sam Clovis

Sam Clovis

Citizens United — the conservative group that won the landmark 2010 U.S. Supreme Court case that allows corporations to finance campaign ads — has endorsed Sam Clovis, one of five Republicans running for the U.S. Senate. David Bossie is president of Citizens United.

“We believe Sam Clovis is really the only full-spectrum conservative in the race,” David Bossie, president of Citizens United, said during an interview with Radio Iowa.

The group’s “Victory Fund” donated $5,000 to the Clovis campaign.  Bossie said Citizens United will email its Iowa members and urge them to get involved in the Clovis campaign.

“Our hope is that between Eagle Forum yesterday endorsing Sam Clovis as the social conservative in the race and we’re endorsing him today and I know other big conservative organizations will be coming in for Sam in coming weeks, that we can provide him really a momentum to do well on primary day,” Bossie said.

The Eagle Forum was founded by conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly in 1972 and it gained national prominence for leading the fight against an Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

On Wednesday, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin endorsed Joni Ernst, another candidate competing for the Iowa GOP’s Senate nomination.

Congressman Bruce Braley, the only Democrat running for the U.S. Senate in 2014, has been endorsed today by Elizabeth Warren, the Massachusetts Senator who has become a leading voice for those who argue more must be done to reign in Wall Street excesses.  Warren praised Braley as a “prairie populist” and a “bold” progressive who is focused on economic fairness.

Warren’s endorsement comes as Braley’s campaign is dealing with the fall-out from disclosure of a video in which Braley describes Republican Chuck Grassley as a “farmer…who never went to law school” and who may lead the Senate Judiciary Committee if Democrats lose control of the Senate.

Senator Warren wrote in an email to supporters of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee that “right-wing Super PACs” like Citizens United will “say whatever they need to say and spend whatever they need to spend” to keep Braley out of the Senate.

Branstad says Braley’s quip about Grassley shows “arrogance”

Republican Governor Terry Branstad says Democratic Congressman Bruce Braley’s comments about Senator Chuck Grassley’s ability to lead the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee “will be a huge issue” in the fall campaign.

A video released yesterday shows Braley – who is running fo the U.S. Senate — telling trial lawyers at a January fundraiser in Texas that Grassley is “a farmer from Iowa who never went to law school.”

“I think it shows his arrogance, that he thinks that only a trial lawyer can be the chair of the Judiciary Committee,” Branstad told reporters Wednesday afternoon after being asked about the incident. “…I’m a lawyer by training, but I’ll tell you I think Senator Grassley has done a phenomenal job of representing this state.”

Branstad was in a private meeting yesterday with Grassley, Braley and the rest of the state’s congressional delegation in Washington, D.C. Branstad’s wife saw Braley follow Grassley into the hallway outside the meeting to personally apologize to Grassley.

“Grassley didn’t know anything about it until Braley came up to apologize to (Grassley) in the hallway,” Branstad said. “But that was unbelievable for a congressman from Iowa to say that about our outstanding senior senator.”

On Tuesday afternoon Braley issued a written apology to Grassley “and anyone” else he may have offended with his remark. Former Iowa Lieutenant Governor Patty Judge, a Democrat from Albia who once served as the state’s Secretary of Agriculture, said today that Braley made an “unfortunate” remark, but Branstad should have tended to his own business.

“Terry Branstad, who is embroiled in a scandal regarding secret deals made with his former employees, had the audacity to speak out on this issue rather than trying to address the issue in front of him,” Judge said.

Braley’s campaign on Wednesday released a series of supportive comments from farmers who back Braley’s bid for the Senate. Judge, a former nurse who farmed with her husband, said Braley’s campaign must now “work harder” at getting that message out to Iowans.

“The good news for Bruce is that he’s got a good record of supporting agriculture, supporting rural Iowa,” Judge says. “He’s been there when he needed to be there for us, all through his time in congress.”

(This story was updated at 6:06 p.m. with additional information)

Braley apologizes for “farmer” Grassley reference; GOP rivals rip Braley for remark

Congressman Bruce Braley speaking to a group in Texas.

Congressman Bruce Braley speaking to a group in Texas.

Democratic Congressman Bruce Braley has issued a blanket apology this afternoon for remarks he made about Republican Senator Chuck Grassley during a private fundraiser in Texas.

Braley is the only Democrat running for Iowa’s open U.S. Senate seat. A just-released video shows Braley talking to a group of trial lawyers at a fundraiser in Texas, telling the crowd that if Republicans take control of the U.S. Senate this November that Grassley is likely to become chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee — and Braley described Grassley as “a farmer from Iowa who never went to law school.”

Braley has issued a written apology, about three hours after the media was notified the video had been posted online.

“I apologize to Senator Grassley and anyone I may have offended. I respect Senator Grassley and enjoy our working relationship even though we disagree on some issues,” Braley said in the statement. “But there is a clear choice in this race between Mark Jacobs and my other opponents who support policies that are bad for Iowa farmers, and the work I’ve done hand in hand with Iowa farmers to grow Iowa’s farm economy and create good paying Iowa farm jobs.

“My parents both grew up on Iowa farms during the Great Depression.  It deeply influenced who they are and who I am, and gave me a profound appreciation for what farmers do for the world. One of my grandfathers was a charter member of the Iowa Farm Bureau. I grew up in rural Iowa, doing farm jobs and working a grain elevator. I have tremendous respect for Iowa farmers and appreciate how important they are to our state, and I’m grateful to have the support of hundreds of farmers across Iowa.”

A spokesperson for Grassley issued a written statement earlier this afternoon, citing Grassley’s committee work on behalf of whistleblowers and in uncovering the illegal gun trafficking operation that’s become known as “Fast and Furious.”

“By the logic expressed on this recording a trial lawyer shouldn’t be involved in policy making about agriculture, or energy, or health care. Sen. Grassley has served on the Judiciary Committee since he was first elected to the Senate, and he’s got a strong record on the committee,” Grassley’s spokesperson wrote. “..Alongside that, Sen. Grassley’s one of only two working family farmers in the United States Senate, where he brings Iowa common sense to work for ag, anti-trust, transportation, environmental, energy, trade, health care, communications, national security, and tax policy that works for all of America.”

Four of Braley’s potential GOP rivals issued written statements about Braley’s remarks, using words like “offensive”, “elitist” and “condescending”.

“Bruce Braley’s ignorant remarks are yet another reminder that he only aims to serve one group: trial lawyers nationwide; not Iowans,” Jacobs said. “To insinuate that someone like Chuck Grassley, who has served this state so honorably, is not fit to be a Committee Chair – because he is a just ‘a farmer from Iowa’ is offensive…I’ll take Senator Grassley’s commonsense over Bruce Braley’s expertise in suing people any day.”

Candidate Joni Ernst said Braley had insulted Grassley.

“Bruce Braley thinks the way to suck up to Texas trial lawyers is by bashing Iowa farmers. How out of touch with Iowa can you be? I call on Braley to immediately apologize to Senator Grassley, and every other farmer in Iowa,” Ernst said in a written statement. “…As an Iowa farm girl myself, I find it amusing that Braley thinks what Iowans need is yet another trial lawyer or outside Texas influences…what we need are simply more good old Iowa values.”

Candidate Matt Whitaker, like Braley, is a lawyer, but he criticized Braley for touting opposition to legislation that would limit damage awards in lawsuits.

“Bruce Braley apparently thinks he was sent to Washington to fight for tort reform,” Whitaker said of Braley’s remarks in Texas. “He is out of step with Iowans and his remarks about Senator Grassley are elitist and condescending. This fall, Iowans will have a choice. We can choose someone who will be a check on the last two years of the Obama administration or we can choose someone who thinks that Iowa farmers are a punch line.”

Candidate Sam Clovis also used the term “elitist” to describe the tone of Braley’s remarks.

“Maybe if Braley did a fraction of the town halls in Iowa that Chuck Grassley does, he’d know better how Iowans feel about condescending politicians,” Clovis said in a written statement. “…Bruce Braley prefers to side with trial lawyers over the economic and moral well-being of America.  Bruce Braley’s votes in the U.S. House prove that he will stand for laws that are unjust and wrong for Iowans.”

Braley warns Grassley, “a farmer…who never went to law school,” could be next Senate Judiciary chair (VIDEO)

Congressman Bruce Braley speaking to a group in Texas.

Congressman Bruce Braley speaking to a group in Texas.

A video has just been released showing Congressman Bruce Braley telling a group in Texas that if a Republican wins Iowa’s senate race this November, the next chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee is likely to be Republican Senator Chuck Grassley.

“A farmer from Iowa who never went to law school, never practiced law, serving as the next chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee because if Democrats lose the majority, Chuck Grassley will be the next chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee,” Braley said.

Braley, who is a lawyer, is the only Democrat running for Iowa’s open U.S. Senate seat. A group that’s been tracking Braley posted the video online today, saying it was recorded while Braley spoke to a group of trial lawyers in Texas.

“If you help me win this race, you may have someone with your background, your experience, your voice — someone who’s been literally fighting tort reform for 30 years in a visible and public way — on the Senate Judiciary Committee,” Braley told the crowd.

A spokesperson for Senator Grassley issued a written statement this afternoon.

“By the logic expressed on this recording a trial lawyer shouldn’t be involved in policy making about agriculture, or energy, or health care,” the spokesperson said.  “Senator Grassley has served on the Judiciary Committee since he was first elected to the Senate, and he’s got a strong record on the committee…Alongside that, Senator Grassley’s one of only two working family farmers in the United States Senate, where he brings Iowa common sense to work for ag, anti-trust, transportation, environmental, energy, trade, health care, communications, national security, and tax policy that works for all of America.”

Mark Jacobs — one of the five Republicans hoping to win the GOP Primary in June for the chance to face Braley in November — issued a written statement about the video before the video was released to the public. Jacobs called Braley’s comments “offensive” and Jacobs said he’d take “Grassley’s commonsense over Bruce Braley’s expertise in suing people any day.”

Joni Ernst, another US Senate candidate, said Braley owes Grassley an apology.

“Bruce Braley thinks the way to suck up to Texas trial lawyers is by bashing Iowa farmers. How out of touch with Iowa can you be?” Ernst said in a written statement. “I call on Braley to immediately apologize to Senator Grassley, and every other farmer in Iowa.”

GOP candidates say “Bruce Braley’s ObamaCare” to be deciding issue of 2014

The Republicans vying for their party’s U.S. Senate nomination in Iowa all consider “ObamaCare” to be the GOP’s strongest weapon against Congressman Bruce Braley, the only Democrat running for Iowa’s U.S. Senate seat this year, but Braley is still touting the Affordable Care Act.

President Obama issued a statement Sunday to mark the fourth anniversary of the health care law, dismissing what he called the “outdated obsession” of critics to get rid of the Affordable Care Act. Republican Senate candidate Joni Ernst has a different name for the law.

“Bruce Braley’s ObamaCare,” Ernst says on the campaign trail.

Candidate Sam Clovis often says ObamaCare will be “ugly” for Braley.

“He was the last person to speak on the floor of the House before the Affordable Care Act was passed,” Clovis said during a forum last week. “…He has a lot of things to answer for.”

Candidate Mark Jacobs of West Des Moines said ObamaCare has created a “morass” for businesses.

“When you go through the pages and pages and pages of regulation to define what is a full-time employee to determine if you are subject to the rules or not, it’s next to impossible for anybody to possibly understand that,” Jacobs said last week during a National Federation of Independent Business forum.

Candidate Matt Whitaker predicts “ObamaCare” will be this fall’s deciding issue.

“It is not going to be a campaign about the Republican nominee,” Whitaker said recently. “This is going to be a campaign about Bruce Braley and his record that is bad for Iowa.”

Braley isn’t backing away from the law.

“I think Democrats need to do a better job of telling the stories of the people whose lives have been positively changed by the Affordable Care Act and I think that’s the message I’ll be talking about as I travel around Iowa,” Braley said last Thursday.

Braley held 17 town hall meetings in the months before and after passage of the Affordable Care Act, often telling audiences about his nephew who survived liver cancer when he was two.

“His parents…had the best insurance you could get in Iowa and they were prevented at that time from changing jobs because he would have been prevented from getting reimbursement because of his pre-existing condition,” Braley said late last week. “His parent no longer have to worry about that and, in fact, have been able to change their jobs and know that their son is going to be able to continue to receive care even with his pre-existing condition.”

Fifty-two percent of the Iowans surveyed in December by Quinnipiac University said they were less likely to support a candidate who supports the Affordable Care Act. A Quinnipiac poll taken in early March found Braley leading potential Republican challengers in head-to-head match-ups by between nine and 13 percentage points.

Candidates disagree over need for religious conscience law (AUDIO)

Four of the Republican candidates for the U.S. Senate pledged tonight during a forum in Des Moines that they would reduce government regulations and vote to repeal “ObamaCare” if they’re elected. But the candidates differed on whether there’s a need for a law giving small business owners the right to refuse to serve same-sex couples.

Arizona’s Republican governor recently vetoed a bill that would have carved out a religious exemption for business owners who, for instance, don’t want to be involved in gay weddings. Candidate Mark Jacobs of West Des Moines, a retired business executive, said religious organizations should “100 percent” have that right to refuse to participate in gay weddings.

“But I think for people that choose to enter the field of commerce in businesses, I think we have to make sure that we have an environment that those businesses are open to law-abiding citizens and I’m very concerned about the discriminatory nature that could creep into that if we start to open that door,” Jacobs said.

Sam Clovis of Hinton, an economics professor, said Arizona’s governor should have signed that bill into law.

“This, to me, is one of the most fundamental questions that we will have to wrestle with as a society,” Clovis said. “…At no other time in history — and I’m the oldest one sitting on this stage, I’ll tell you — I have never seen in my life the assault on religious liberty that we see today.”

Matt Whitaker of Ankeny, a former federal prosecutor, said the federal government is guilty of encroaching on religious freedoms in a number of cases, but he said there’s no need for a law granting businesses a religious exemption.

“As a Christian, I practice my Christian religion and I don’t want to get in the way of others whether you’re Muslim or whether you’re Jewish or some other denomination from you practicing your religion,” Whitaker said, “but I don’t think we need a federal law to enforce that right because it’s already evidenced in the First Amendment to our Constitution.”

Joni Ernst of Red Oak, a state senator, said it’s a complicated issue that has to be sorted through.

“We want to ensure that we’re not discriminating, but then on the other hand we’re not forcing those (business owners) to do something that disagrees with what they believe as a religion,” Ernst said.

All four candidates expressed concerns about the so-called “common core” education standards that supporters say will lead to a better-educated workforce. The candidates said curriculum decisions should be made at the state and local level.  The group fielded a question about the minimum wage and each criticized the plan backed by President Obama and Iowa Senator Tom Harkin that would raise the national rate to $10.10 per hour.

Harkin, a Democrat, announced in January of 2013 that he would not seek re-election and Bruce Braley, an eastern Iowa congressman, is the only Democratic candidate in the race to fill Harkin’s seat. The four candidates who appeared at tonight’s forum are competing for the GOP’s 2014 U.S. Senate nomination.

The forum was sponsored by the National Federation of Independent Business.

NFIBForum mp3 runs 1 hour, 18 minutes