August 22, 2014

Joe Walsh of Eagles’ fame helping Braley raise cash

A man who’s been an Eagle since 1976 is offering a boost to Bruce Braley’s U.S. Senate campaign.

Joe Walsh is the lead guitarist who helped the Eagles craft their most famous album, Hotel California. Some of his iconic guitar riffs are featured in songs like “Life in the Fast Lane” and “Life’s Been Good”. The Eagles will be in Des Moines September 6 for a concert and an email sent out under Walsh’s name invites people to donate to Braley’s Senate campaign.

One of the contributors will get two tickets to the Eagles concert and a private meeting with Walsh and the rest of the band. Braley and his wife, Carolyn, met at an Eagles concert in the 1980s when they were both Iowa State University students.

EMILY’s List, Iowa Farm Bureau PAC announce endorsements

EMILY’s List today endorsed the Democrat who’s running for lieutenant governor of Iowa. EMILY’s List is a group that helps women candidates from the Democratic Party who support abortion rights.

EMILY’s List is publicly backing Monica Vernon, the lieutenant governor candidate who is the running mate of Jack Hatch, the Democratic candidate for governor. It means the Hatch-Vernon campaign will get a cash infusion from the group, along with contact information for the three million EMILY’s List backers in the country, who’ll be targeted with calls and email from the Hatch-Vernon campaign.

In a prepared statement, the president of EMILY’s List called Monica Vernon “an experienced problem solver, small business owner and public servant.” Vernon is a member of the Cedar Rapids City Council who ran for congress this spring, then signed on as Hatch’s running mate in June.

In other endorsement news this week, The Iowa Farm Bureau’s political action committee endorsed Republican Terry Branstad in the governor’s race and Republican Joni Ernst in the U.S. Senate race. In a prepared statement, a spokesman for the Farm Bureau said the group’s “Friend of Agriculture” designations are given to candidates who support “key priorities for agriculture” like renewable fuels and expanding trade opportunities abroad.

The Farm Bureau is also supporting three of the four Republicans running for Iowa congressional seats. Republican Congressman Steve King serves on the House Ag Committee and he was named a “Friend of Agriculture” by the group. Rod Blum, the Republican running in the first congressional district, and David Young, the Republican running in the third district, also got the Farm Bureau’s backing.

Last week the National Federation of Independent Business endorsed Blum and this week the group endorsed Ernst.


Hillary & Bill Clinton to headline Tom Harkin’s final Steak Fry

Bill and Hillary Clinton are the headliners for Senator Tom Harkin’s Steak Fry in September.

“This is the last one,” Harkin said recently, “my 37th and last.”

And it may wind up as the biggest ever. Harkin’s annual fall fundraiser has been a proving ground for presidential candidates of the past. This year’s September 14 event will mark Hillary Clinton’s first appearance in Iowa since her 2008 campaign and it will be seen by many in the Democratic Party as a first step for a 2016 campaign.

Hillary Clinton’s husband was the final speaker at the 2003 Harkin Steak Fry and over 10-thousand people turned out on a hillside in Indianola that year. It rained most of the day, but the sun came out just before the former president took the stage.

“I’ll never forget it,” Harkin said, laughing and shaking his head as he said: “Bill Clinton.”

Harkin ran for president in 1992, but he dropped out of the race in March and endorsed Bill Clinton. In 2008, Harkin did not endorse any of the candidates competing for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, but his wife, Ruth, campaigned extensively for Hillary Clinton.

In a prepared statement released today, Senator Harkin said Bill and Hillary Clinton are “close friends” who “have contributed so much good, inspiring leadership to this country.” Harkin talked about the upcoming Steak Fry during a Radio Iowa interview in late July.

“I hope we have a really good last Steak Fry and I think we will. There’s only one thing left to do: pray for good weather,” Harkin said, with a laugh.

This will be Bill Clinton’s fourth appearance at a Harkin Steak Fry. Hillary Clinton spoke at the event in 2007 along with the other Democratic presidential candidates running that year. A farm in rural Madison County was the site of the first-ever Harkin Steak Fry. In 1991, Harkin used the event to launch his own presidential campaign. The 2014 edition of the Harkin Steak Fry will be staged on the balloon field on the east side of Indianola.

Branstad and Hatch continue discussion on tax breaks

Governor Terry Branstad.

Governor Terry Branstad.

The two candidates for governor continued their back and forth over tax breaks today. Republican Governor Terry Branstad was asked about the criticism of the state’s tax deal with a fertilizer company by Democratic challenger Jack Hatch.

Branstad says Hatch, a state senator and real estate developer, is being critical of the deal while at the same time refusing to release his income tax information. “I think Iowans have a right to know that information, and I think it’s interesting that with only investing 12-hundred dollars he has made seven million,” Branstad says. “And that while he rails against tax credits that have created jobs in southeast Iowa, he has made millions in tax credits.”

Branstad says he has released 24 years of his own tax returns, while Hatch’s campaign released one year and had promised to release four more. “But then when Senator Hatch found out about it he said ‘No’ and he refuses to this day. I think Iowans deserve to know how much money that he made and how much taxes he paid and the kind of tax credits he was able to get,” Branstad says.

Branstad says Hatch and his fellow Democrats in the Senate have wrongly attacked his economic development director Debbie Durham over the deal. “So Jack Hatch thinks he is a better professional developer than Debbie Durham and that he is better the count officials in Lee County,” Branstad days. “I submit that Debbie Durham — who has a tremendous track record of being a tremendous economic developer in Sioux City and now for the state of Iowa – has helped grow the economy, reduced the unemployment rate in the state by about 30-percent, brought all kinds of good jobs to all parts of the state, knows a lot more about this than Jack Hatch. “This has broad-based bipartisan support in southeast Iowa. Maybe Democrats in the Senate don’t think it is important, but the people who live there and the farmers of Iowa think this is, and it’s making a difference. It makes more sense to have nitrogen fertilizer produced in Iowa than overseas,” Branstad says.

Jack Hatch.

Jack Hatch.

Hatch held a meeting with reporters shortly after Branstad’s weekly news conference. Hatch says Branstad and the Republican Governors Association have been trying to make a political issue out of his business practices.

But Hatch says a review by the Des Moines Register shows he has done everything right when it comes to getting tax credits while working the Iowa Senate. “And they are then just trying to intentionally to provide a false and misleading profile of me to that is contrary to what we all believe is required or should be tolerated in a Democratic election,” Hatch says.

Hatch says it has been a precedent to release just one year of tax returns once you announce you are running for governor. He was asked why he is against releasing more tax returns. “Well I think you’ve seen what happens with full disclosure of my business and they still are going to be attacking, making false statements,” Hatch says. “Why would I want to give them more? That’s just going to give them another wave of attacks that are false and misleading and incomplete. And that’s why we are not going to do it.”

Hatch says releasing his tax returns won’t stop the Republican attacks on his use of tax credits. “Why give a robber a combination to another safe and you really think he’s not going to take any money?,” Hatch asks. Hatch also addressed the governor’s claim that Hatch and fellow Democrats are against the economic development brought to southeast Iowa with the new fertilizer plant. “The issue with Orascom has never been about whether we should have a fertilizer plant. It was always about the negotiated agreement that governor Branstad and his team put together. And that has always been the issue,” Hatch says. “And I think they went way over the top and gave them an unbelievable deal and really gave them too much.”

Hatch says he is a better negotiator than the governor’s economic development director and would not have given Orascom such a good deal to build the fertilizer plant. The two will get to talk more about the issue at their next debate which is scheduled for Burlington on September 15th. Governor Branstad says he specifically chose the southeast Iowa location for the debate because of the discussion over the deal for the fertilizer plant in the area.


Harkin’s ‘to do’ list for remainder of senate term

Senator Tom Harkin. (file photo)

Senator Tom Harkin. (file photo)

Senator Tom Harkin has a “wish list” of legislation he hopes to get through congress and to the president’s desk before he retires.

“Probably more than I’ll ever get done,” Harkin says, “but I’ve always had more on my plate than I could do at one time.”

Harkin is not seeking reelection and his current term will end in early January when his replacement is sworn in. For over a year Harkin has been pressing for a vote in the senate on a bill that would raise the federal minimum wage.

“We’ll have that on the floor again in September,” Harkin says.

Another bill on Harkin’s wish list is called the “Strong Start for America’s Children Act” and it seeks to increase access to early childhood education, particularly for low- and moderate-income families. A bill Harkin helped craft that’s already passed the senate on a 96 to two vote would set new standards for federally-financed child care and after school programs for low income families. Harkin’s hoping the House passes that bill before year’s end or it will die.

Harkin sits on a senate appropriations committee that drafts the budget for the National Institutes of Health and he wants to boost federal spending on biomedical research.

Finally, one of Harkin’s highest priorities as he winds down his poltical career is not federal legislation, but it requires senate action nonetheless. Harkin’s among those pressing for a vote in the senate to ratify an international treaty on the rights of persons with disabilities.

“So that we begin working with other countries around the world to have them expand opportunities and accessibility for people with disabilities,” Harkin says.

Harkin was joined at a July news conference by Republican Senator John McCain and former Kansas Senator Bob Dole to publicly lobby for a senate vote on the United Nations treaty that bans discrimination against people with disabilities. Dole, the former Senate Majority Leader who was the Republican Party’s nominee for president in 1996, appeared on the senate floor in a wheelchair in December of 2012 when senators first voted on the treaty, but 37 Republicans voted no, so it failed. Harkin, a Democrat, was a co-sponsor of the 1994 Americans with Disabilities Act, which served as the model for the U.N. treaty.

Third District Congressional candidates speak at the fair

The two major party candidates running for Iowa’s third district congressional seat gave short speeches at The Des Moines Register’s “Soapbox” this week. David Young is the Republican seeking the seat now held by the retiring Congressman Tom Latham.

Young emphasizes his work the past 6 years as Senator Chuck Grassley’s chief of staff. “So I’ve seen what works and what doesn’t work and you know a lot of it doesn’t work,” Young said. “But I’ve seen what can be done and how to get it done.”

Staci Appel is the Democrat running in the third district, which covers southwest Iowa and includes the cities of Des Moines and Council Bluffs. Appel emphasizes that she might break the glass ceiling in Iowa politics. “Wouldn’t it be nice to have a woman’s voice in congress that represents the state of Iowa?” Appel said, to cheers from the crowd on the fairgrounds.

Appel is one of two women from Iowa seeking seats in the U.S. House this election. Mariannette Miller-Meeks of Ottumwa is running against Democratic Congressman Dave Loebsack of Iowa City, the third time the two have faced one another on the ballot.

Iowa voters have never sent a woman to serve in the U.S. House. Iowa is one of six states which have never had a female elected to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives. Those other states are Alaksa, Delaware, Mississippi, North Dakota and Vermont.


Lawmaker appeals Iowa Supreme Court ruling in defamation case

A Woodbury County state Senator is appealing a ruling from the Iowa Supreme Court that threw out a judgment in his favor in a defamation case. Republican Rick Bertrand sued after the Democrat party ran an ad that said the pharmaceutical company Bertrand worked for sold sleeping pills to children.

The Iowa Supreme Court concluded the evidence failed to establish actual malice toward Bertrand and threw out a $231,000 award. Jeana Goosmann is representing Bertrand. “The Iowa Supreme Court applied an unreasonably high standard for defamation and liable in a political action case. And it’s really important to him that truth of information be front and center in balance with the First Amendment and the U.S. Constitution,” Goosmann says.

Bertrand had confronted his opponent, Democrat Rick Mullin at a forum and asked him to stop running the ad. The Iowa Supreme Court ruling says Bertrand also used the forum and the subsequent filing the defamation lawsuit to score political points and seize the public moment as a means to achieve a political advantage.

Goosmann says they disagree. “Rick Bertrand in this case is really on the side of right. The jury did find that there was defamation, there were lies being purposely told about him in the campaign, and we think it should be up to a jury to make that decision,” Goosmann says. “We thought it was interesting that the Iowa Supreme Court did not the venue, that he did decide to file a lawsuit. But in the United States, that is your venue. If you have a wrong, you are supposed to take it to the judicial system. For them to insinuate that using the judicial system is a political stunt when he won the election and went all the way — I believe over a year-and-a-half later — to a jury that found he was in the right, just seems in the opposite to us. People should be encouraged to go to our courts when they’ve been wronged.”

The justices have the option of hearing the case or letting the Iowa ruling stand. “We think we have a fairly good chance that the United States Supreme Court will look at this issue,” Goosmann says. “The court has the chance in this case to set the standard as far as what is the standard for libel and defamation in politics and make it a very clear standard — especially when we are dealing with defamation by implication.” Goosmann says some of the justices have given an indication recently that this is a subject they are interested in taking up.