July 23, 2014

Republicans ridicule Braley for complaining about chickens roaming on his vacation property

Republicans are criticizing Bruce Braley, the Democratic Party’s nominee for the U.S. Senate, for a neighborhood squabble over chickens. American Crossroads, the conservative group founded by George W. Bush’s top political aide, has produced an on-line video ridiculing Braley for complaining about chickens that were running loose on his vacation property.

Pauline Hampton lives at Holiday Lake, a vacation community near Braley’s hometown of Brooklyn and she bought the chickens last year. Braley’s wife, Carolyn, went to the neighborhood association’s meeting in May and complained about the chickens and the smell. Hampton, who is a mental health counselor, said she uses the chickens as “animal assisted therapy” for her clients.

“You know I could have resolved this issue face-to-face,” Hampton told Radio Iowa this week.

Hampton said she was unaware the neighborhood’s rules require property owners to keep their pets on their own property and she has put up a pen to keep the “therapeutic chickens” in her own yard. A Grinnell lawyer who works for the neighborhood association wrote an email posted on TheIowaRepublican.com indicating Bruce Braley had phoned him to talk about the chickens. Attorney Thomas Lacina, who has not responded to Radio Iowa’s phone calls this week, wrote that Braley wanted to “avoid a litigious situation,” but Braley, according to Lacina, “believes strongly that chickens are not pets.”

Hampton, the owner of the four hens, said the Braleys did not threaten legal action against her, but Hampton said Carolyn Braley did refuse her offer of eggs that had been laid by the chickens. William Nagle of Malcomb, who serves on the board of directors for the Holiday Lake Owners Association, told Radio Iowa he wishes the Braleys had handled the situation “like adults” rather than involve the neighborhood association.

“Really, I don’t know why it got to be such a big deal,” Nagle said. “…All we can do is enforce the covenant, which we did.”

The American Crossroads video accuses Braley of waging a “war on chicks” since his first campaign ad against Republican rival Joni Ernst featured a baby chick. The video also suggests the episode shows Braley isn’t a “true Iowan” who would “just talk to his neighbors” to resolve this kind of a dispute.

Jeff Giertz, a spokesman for Braley, issued a written statement.

“The wild claims made in this Karl Rove smear video are simply false,” Giertz said, “and it’s sad that the Ernst campaign and her special interest friends are trying to smear Bruce and his family just to distract from her extreme views, like privatizing Social Security, voucherizing Medicare, and opposing a federal minimum wage.”

Hampton, the chicken owner who lives next door to the Braley’s vacation home, is a registered Democrat. She won’t comment on whether she’ll vote for Braley or for Ernst.

“I am still mulling over my options at this point for both candidates,” Hampton told Radio Iowa on Tuesday, adding that her recent experience with the Braleys “would seem…kind of contradictory to what (Bruce Braley) represents.”

Other neighbors say they didn’t like Hampton’s chickens roaming around either, but they didn’t file a formal complaint with the Holiday Lake Owners’ Association.

Braley seeks country-of-origin labels for gas, diesel

Congressman Bruce Braley is trying again to pass legislation that would require “County of Origin Labels” on U.S. gas and diesel pumps. Braley, a Democrat from Waterloo who is running for the U.S. Senate, first introduced a bill in 2010 to accomplish that goal, but it never advanced. He’s re-introduced the measure again this year.

“Unfortunately Americans currently have no say in whether the money they’re paying at the pump goes to support unfriendly regimes around the world or is headed to Iowans producing ethanol,” Braley says.

Consumers also want to buy soybean-based biodiesel that’s made “in their neighborhood” according to Braley.

“If I buy a tomato at Fareway or Hy-Vee, I can look at the sticker and see where the tomato comes from. These labels gives consumers the knowledge and power to make their own decisions about where their products are from and where their hard-earned money is going,” Braley says. “I believe consumers should have the same power at the pump.”

Braley’s bill would require gas stations to post a label on each gas pump indicating where the fuel came from — whether it’s the U.S.A. or somewhere in the Middle East.

“Right now there’s a 50 percent chance your next fill-up will be with gas produced outside the United States and we shouldn’t force America consumers to flip a coin when they’re at the pump,” Braley says. “America has a decision to make about its energy future.”

The “Renewable Fuels Standard” — a federal requirement dictating how much ethanol and biodiesel is produced each year — is the “best, long-term hope” for a stable supply of domestic fuel, according to Braley. Forty years ago the U.S. imported just 24 percent of the oil that was used to make gasoline. In 2012, 57 percent of the crude that was processed in U.S. refineries came from foreign sources.

Joni Ernst, Braley’s Republican opponent in Iowa’s U.S. Senate race, is on active duty with her Iowa National Guard unit for training exercises in Wisconsin.

NBC/Marist poll finds Braley/Ernst race deadlocked, Branstad leading Hatch by 15

Another poll shows Iowa’s U.S. Senate race is a dead heat.

Democrat Bruce Braley and Republican Joni Ernst each had the support of 43 percent of registered voters who were surveyed by the Marist College Institute of Public Opinion for NBC News. The two candidates still have work to do in introducing themselves to more Iowans. One-third of those surveyed said they are either unsure about the candidates or have never heard of them. Another 14 percent were undecided.

The poll found almost six out of 10 the Iowans surveyed gave Republican Governor Terry Branstad a positive job approval rating. Branstad led Democratic challenger Jack Hatch by 15 points in the poll.

Pollsters also pegged President Obama’s job approval rating in Iowa at 37 percent.

The poll’s margin of error is 2.5 percent. It was conducted from Monday, July 7th through the 13th, which was Sunday.

Ernst delivers response to president’s weekly address

U.S. Senate candidate Joni Ernst delivered the response to President Obama’s weekly address for her fellow Republicans this past Saturday.

“The problem in America today is that Washington is fully liberals who think that government is the solution to every problem,” Ernst said. “They think that nothing can be solved unless Washington is involved.”

Here is a link to the video of her remarks.

Ernst opened the nearly six-minute speech by discussing her military experience and she closed by stressing her farm roots.

“Growing up on that southwest Iowa farm, my family didn’t have much. My mother canned our food and made our clothes, teaching us the lessons of not spending what we don’t have.” Ernst said. “…Today, to get America back on track it’s going to teach each of us working together to advance real solutions to our problems, not more tired rhetoric.”

Ernst repeated her call for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution which would forbid deficit spending and require congress to pass balanced budgets.

“That is how we run our households and we should expect nothing less from Washington,” Ernst said.

Ernst faces Democratic Congressman Bruce Braley this fall in the contest for the U.S. Senate seat Democrat Tom Harkin has held for nearly three decades. Braley has been traveling the state since June, citing Ernst statements that “perhaps” younger workers and those just entering the workforce should be able to shift their Social Security taxes into personal accounts and manage their own retirement savings. During her national speech, Ernst said Republicans believe Social Security and Medicare should “be strengthened.”

“But we also believe, as do some of our friends in the Democratic Party, that these programs must be reformed,” Ernst said, “so America not only keeps its promise to today’s seniors, but is also able to guarantee a safety net is available for our children and grandchildren.”

Ernst is a lieutenant colonel and battalion commander in the Iowa National Guard. She’s currently on a two-week training mission in Wisconsin with her troops and she recorded the speech before going on active duty.

Grassley comments on latest Braley farmer video

Videotape has surfaced from the Fourth of July parade in Iowa Falls where Congressman Bruce Braley appears to say, twice, that he’s a farmer. Earlier this year, Braley, a Democrat from Cedar Falls and the party’s nominee for U.S. Senate, was criticized for comments he made at a Texas fundraiser which belittled farmer and Republican Senator Chuck Grassley.

This morning, Grassley was asked for a reaction to Braley’s weekend proclamation. “I suppose that the press will probably flush it out,” Grassley says, “and it needs to be flushed out.” In the video, a woman on the parade sidelines says, “We’re farmers,” as Braley passes. He replies, “So am I.” The woman then says, “But so is Grassley,” to which Braley repeats, “So am I.”

Grassley farms with one of his sons on several hundred acres in northeast Iowa, near New Hartford. “When you’re a candidate, you have to be very transparent, very accurate, because everything will come back to bite you,” Grassley says. “I thought his profession was being a lawyer.”

Braley’s campaign spokesman Jeff Giertz issued this statement: “Bruce was walking in a noisy parade celebrating July 4th and was responding to a comment he heard as ‘we’re for farmers’ by agreeing, ‘so am I,’ and Bruce’s actions back up his words. Joni Ernst, on the other hand, opposed the Farm Bill and is ‘philosophically opposed’ to the job-creating Renewable Fuel Standard while Bruce fought for three years to pass a new Farm Bill and has fought to protect the Renewable Fuel Standard.”

Braley issued an apology in March for remarks made at the private event in Texas. He was videotaped, telling a group of trial lawyers that if Republicans take control of the U.S. Senate this November that Grassley is likely to become chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Braley described Grassley as “a farmer from Iowa who never went to law school.”


Congressman Braley introduces bill to delay Social Security services cuts

Iowa Congressman Bruce Braley introduced legislation Wednesday that would delay cuts to services provided at Social Security Administration (SSA) field offices. Beginning in August, the Social Security Administration will no longer issue Social Security number printouts in its field offices.

In October, the field offices will stop providing benefit verification letters. “Making unwarranted and expensive service cuts to these offices moves us closer to permanently shuttering them, leaving Iowa seniors with no where to go,” Braley told Iowa reporters in a conference call.

Braley, a Democrat from Waterloo, said seniors rely on the verification letters for a variety of services and would only be able to request the information online or over the phone. “The Senate Special Committee on Aging recently issued a report regarding these service cuts,” Braley said. “After reading the report, there’s every indication that these service cuts would have an especially harsh impact on Iowa seniors who are likely to lack Internet access and face long holding times when seeking information over the telephone.”

Braley also noted the report indicates the service cuts will not save any money. His bill would simply prevent the cuts from happening for another year. “During that time, I’m going to demand that the Social Security Administration illustrate how seniors will maintain reasonable access to those services and how taxpayers are going to save money by making this change,” Braley said.

Last year, 11 million Americans used SSA offices to request information, according to Braley. There are 19 SSA field offices in Iowa. In 2013, over 450,000 Iowa seniors received Social Security benefits. Braley is running for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Tom Harkin. His opponent in November’s general election is Republican Joni Ernst.


Democrats talk about campaign at weekend convention

Candidates at the Iowa Democratic Convention sought to rally a crowd of 400 delegates with a day-long string of speeches Saturday at their state convention. Congressman Bruce Braley is seeking the U.S. Senate seat held by Tom Harkin as the fellow Democrat retires.

Braley faces Republican nominee, state senator Joni Ernst. “Campaigns like life, have a lot of ups and downs. This is going to be a tough race between now and November 4th. But if this race is about Iowa values — we’re going to win,” Braley says. In the latest poll by Quinnipiac University poll, Braley led Ernst by four percentage points — compared to March — when Braley held a 13-percentage point lead.

Over the course of eight hours, Iowa’s entire Democratic ticket introduced themselves in a string of 16 speeches, with short breaks for party business. Des Moines developer and state senator Jack Hatch said his campaign for governor would focus on 4 points: education, the environment, energy independence, and raising the minimum wage.

“We’re going to make sure that the Iowa Senate remains democratic, that we can make sure that the Iowa House is going to become democratic,” Hatch says, “and that we’re going to have a state government that respects workers and treat everyone the same.”

Hatch also introduced his running mate, Cedar Rapids City Councilwoman Monica Vernon. “When fewer than 50 percent of Iowans say our current governor doesn’t deserve to be reelected, that is really bad news for someone who’s been in office for 20 years,” Vernon says. But Hatch has an uphill battle against Branstad as the recent Quinnipiac University poll shows Branstad continues to lead Hatch.