July 26, 2014

RGA chair defends tone of ads running against Hatch

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (left), and Iowa Governor Terry Branstad.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (left), and Iowa Governor Terry Branstad.

The chairman of the Republican Governors Association is defending the ads his group is running against Jack Hatch, the Democrat who’s running for governor. A reporter asked New Jersey Governor Chris Christie about the tone of the ads during a news conference yesterday in Marion, Iowa.

“We have an obligation to let the people know about the record of Governor Branstad’s opponent. He’s probably the only one who thinks its negative,” Christie said. “It’s truthful and, you know, If he’s unhappy with his record, he should have done something about it before he developed it.”

Hatch’s campaign manager uses the words “misleading” and “false” to describe the ads, which suggest Hatch may have conflicts of interest in his work as a property developer and long-time service as a state senator. Christie brushes the complaints aside.

“My job as chairman of the RGA is to make sure that the people of Iowa and any other state where we participate have a complete picture of these picture of these candidates,” Christie told reporters, “and we will do what we need to do to make sure they have a complete picture.”

Hatch’s campaign manager says Christie’s using “New Jersey-style politics” in the ads to help “bail out another legally and ethically challenged career politician.” Branstad and Christie campaigned together yesterday. Tickets to a private fundraiser in the morning for the Republican Governors Association cost $25,000 each.

Chris Christie: ‘I don’t care about being loved. I care about being respected.’ (AUDIO)

Chris Christie

Chris Christie

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie described himself as one of the GOP’s “national leaders” this afternoon and many of the more than 200 Republicans who swarmed a cafe in Marion to meet Christie describe him as their favorite for the 2016 presidential race.

Karen Molacek of Cedar Rapids served as a local leader in Lamar Alexander’s presidential campaigns in 1996 and 2000, but she’s been “sitting on the sidelines” ever since. She’s ready to step back into campaign mode if Christie runs for president in 2016.

“He says what he means and he’s not beating around the bush and we need some straight talking,” Molacek said even before Christie arrived.

Kathy Potts of Cedar Rapids is another fan who came early to get a table as she waited for Christie to arrive.

“I love Chris Christie,” Potts said. “I really like him. I like his personality and I hope he runs for president.”

Tracy Zirkelbach of Center Junction likes Christie’s style.

“You know exactly where you stand with him,” Zirkelbach said, shortly after shaking Christie’s hand as the New Jersey governor made the rounds in the restaurant.

Zirkelbach’s husband, Jon, said Christie’s star power is good for the GOP.

“We don’t have a lot of that,” said Jon Zirkelbach, who praised Christie’s handling of Hurricane Sandy.

Quinn Meyer is a college student from Dubuque who volunteered for Mitt Romney in 2012. He’s ready to volunteer for a Chris Christie Iowa Caucus campaign.

“This is going to be a big one for especially the Republicans,” Meyer said. “I really like Christie and I think he’s got a pretty good chance to be the Republican front-runner.”

Jan Airy of rural Marion “absolutely” wants Christie to run for president in 2016.

“I think he’s honest,” Airy said.

During a news conference in the cafe’s parking lot, Christie told reporters voters are looking for a truth teller rather than a candidate who fits into the ideological box of conservative, moderate or liberal.

“What I think happens is that people get to know you and make a judgment on you,” Christie said. “They don’t necessarily put you in any box. The box they put you in, ultimately, is ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and all the rest of the boxes really are meaningless.”

Joni Scotter is a well-known Republican volunteer in the Linn County area and while she’s a Christie fan, she isn’t ready to pick a presidential candidate yet.

“I think a lot of these people are just coming to take a peek at him,” Scotter said.

The vice chairman of the Democratic National Committee came to Iowa Thursday to take a swipe at Christie.

“It’s clear that Governor Christie has come here to try to revive (the) sagging presidential aspirations of his,” said DNC vice chair R.T. Ryback, who is the mayor of Minneapolis.

Ryback said Christie’s political clout has diminished because of the “bridgegate” scandal in New Jersey. Legislative investigators say now-fired Christie aides orchestrated major traffic tie ups as political retribution aimed at a local mayor. A Marist College poll conducted last week for NBC News found a third of registered voters in Iowa have a negative view of Christie. Christie said he’ll take that.

“Every time I come here to Iowa I get a great sense of affection and respect from the folks here, but that doesn’t mean that you’re going to be universally loved and if you want to be universally loved in this business, then you’re the absolute poster boy for being ineffective,” Christie said during this afternoon’s news conference. “I don’t care about being loved. I care about being respected.”

Christie did three fundraisers in Iowa today — a high-dollar morning event for the Republican Governors Association, a noon-time event for Republican candidates for the Iowa House and a stop in Davenport tonight to raise money for Iowa Governor Terry Branstad’s reelection. The stop at MJ’s Restaurant in Marion in the afternoon was a hand-shaking and picture-taking event, followed by the news conference.

AUDIO of news conference, 16:00

Gov. Christie says, for voters, trust issues trump ideological labels

Chris Christie

Chris Christie

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie says voters pick their candidates based on trust issues rather than ideology.

Christie shook hands with more than 200 curious Iowans who turned out to greet the potential Republican presidential candidate at a restaurant in Marion this afternoon, then Christie held a brief news conference in a parking lot. The final question: Are you conservative enough to win Iowa?

“They don’t go in there and say: ‘Are you conservative enough or are you liberal enough? Are you moderate enough?’ That’s not what people say,” Christie said. “They say: ‘Do I trust him? Can I count on him to tell me the truth? Is he somebody who can actually be a competant steward of our country’s future?’ That’s that way people judge, I think, who they’re going to vote for for president, for governor or for any other job.”

Christie is campaigning today alongside Iowa Governor Terry Branstad and started the day at a private fundraiser where according to a published report one of the people who paid 25-thousand dollars to hear Christie asked the New Jersey governor how he’ll recover from “bridgegate” — the intentional traffic jam one of Christie’s former aides ordered as political retribution against a local mayor. Reporters didn’t ask Christie about the controversy, but they did ask about the 2016 presidential race and Christie said deciding to seek the White House would be an “intensely personal” decision.

“Every election that I’ve ever run in I present myself as who I am and then people make a judgement and sometimes I’ve won and sometimes I’ve lost,” Christie said. “…If I decide to run for anything else again in my life, I’ll just come out, I’ll present myself. I’ll tell them what I think and then everyone else will get to decide.”

Christie and Branstad are due to appear in Davenport this evening at a fundraiser for Branstad’s reelection campaign.

Conservative group criticizes Christie as NJ governor campaigns in Iowa

A conservative group is attacking New Jersey Governor Chris Christie as he campaigns in Iowa today for Iowa Governor Terry Branstad. Carrie Severino, a spokeswoman for The Judicial Crisis Network, says Christie “talked a good talk” about when he first ran for governor, but wound up appointing “liberal activist judges” to New Jersey courts.

“Unfortunately when he went to actually nominate judges, he didn’t have any kind of process for making sure that these judges were ones that were committed to a constitutional philosophy consistent with the rule of law,” Severino says.

The group has a website — Christie Bad on Judges. Severino is particularly critical of Christie’s decision to strike a deal with Democrats who control the New Jersey legislature by agreeing renominate a Democrat as chief justice of New Jersey’s Supreme Court if they’d confirm another judge, who is a Republican, as well. Severino says there’s “no evidence” either of those two judges have a “solid judicial philosophy” and she argues Christie is “the poster child” of how not to make judicial appointments.

“He really has just completely gone back on his promise and we’re hoping the people of Iowa and throughout America recognize the importance of this issue,” Severino says.

Christie held a private fundraiser this morning for the Republican Governors Association. It was held at the home of Kyle and Sharon Krause, owners of the Kum ‘N Go convenience store chain and the price for entry was $25,000 per person. Over the noon-hour Christie is headlining another private fundraiser in Cedar Rapids for Republicans in the Iowa House of Representatives. The New Jersey governor’s first public appearance is at 3 p.m. at a Marion restaurant, then he’s scheduled to speak at an event this evening in Davenport to raise money for Governor Branstad’s re-election campaign.

HIs trip is attracting national attention and spurring chatter about his presidential prospects. The vice chairman of the Democratic National Committee is in Des Moines today to hold a news conference to talk about the “bridgegate” scandal in which legislative investigators say a former aide to Christie ordered bridge lanes closed last fall to cause major traffic jams as a political punishment to a local mayor.

Survey finds 67 percent of Iowans oppose paying sales tax on internet purchases

The National Taxpayers Union and a D.C.-based think-tank are touting a new survey which finds a majority of Iowans are opposed to paying sales taxes on internet purchases.

A Gallup poll last year found 57 percent of Americans were opposed to internet sales taxes and the groups’ survey, which was conducted in Iowa this past May, found 67 percent of Iowans were opposed to the concept.

Andrew Moyland of the R Street Institute was at the Iowa capitol today to discuss the survey with legislative staff and representatives from Iowa business groups. Moyland suggested candidates for all offices should be wary of allowing states to collect internet sales taxes, including prospective presidential candidates like Ted Cruz, Mike Lee and Marco Rubio who’ve been campaigning in Iowa. There may soon be a vote in the U.S. Senate on a bill that would give states greater authority to collect sales taxes on internet sales.

“This is definitely coming to a head now and I think that folks who are supporters of this would like to get this done as soon as possible because even supporters don’t want to be on record supporting an internet sales tax bill so close to an election,” Moyland said during an interview with Radio Iowa.

Moyland praised Chuck Grassley, Iowa’s Republican senator, for opposing what’s called The Marketplace Fairness Act that would give states broader authority to collect sales taxes on internet purchases. Others who support the legislation say Main Street businesses see more and more people who come in, look over the merchandise, then go online to make the purchase — escaping the sales taxes they’d pay if they bought the product in the store. Moyland rejected that argument.

“There are 46 different states with sales taxes and 9,998 different taxing jurisdictions across the country,” Moyland said, “and so if you’re asking online retailers to have to jump through all those hoops when brick-and-mortar retailers are just jumping through one where they’re physically located, I think that’s the opposite of a level playing field.”

According to a University of Tennesse estimate, $88 million in sales taxes that were legally due to the State of Iowa were NOT collected on internet purchases made in 2012. Moyland argued that “pales in comparison” to the sales taxes the State of Iowa fails to collect because the state sales tax is not charged on all services. For example, boat repair services are not subject to the Iowa sales tax and, ironically, the state sales tax is not charged to any “on-line computer service” operating in Iowa. Here’s the comprehensive list of state sales tax exemptions for both goods and services.

Password problems persist for new Iowa GOP leaders

Think you’ve got a problem remembering and keeping track of all your computer passwords? After nine days on the job, the Iowa GOP’s new leadership hasn’t been able to get an accurate list of passwords for the party’s online platforms.

The party’s previous chairman was ousted June 28. The list of passwords left behind for the Iowa Republican Party’s website and other online accounts didn’t work. Chad Olsen was hired as the party’s executive director on the 28th of June.

“When we attempted to use those user names and passwords for the most part we were unsuccessful in gaining access and in those cases where the username was correct, but the pasword was not functional, you can attempt to reset the password,” Olsen says. “The problem was that if we attempted to the reset the password, the reset information would go to the former executive director’s email account.”

Steve Bierfeldt, a staffer on Rand Paul’s 2010 U.S. Senate campaign in Kentucky, had served as the party’s executive director for the past two years. He actually was the Iowa GOP’s only paid employee — until June 14 when he resigned rather than wait to be fired when Jeff Kaufmann, the new party chairman, took over. There hadn’t been a tweet on the @IowaGOP twitter account for a month, but one finally popped up today announcing: “We’re baaaaAAAAAaaaack. What’d we miss?!” Olsen, the party’s new executive director, is now able to tweet for the party.

“We do not yet have administrative rights to the Facebook page,” Olsen says. “We are still waiting for the former executive director to provide those.”

This weekend Olsen did get access to the Iowa Republican Party’s website. Olsen says the party’s finances were never affected by password problem.

“All the financial information of the party is under our control so we don’t have any issues with reporting or bank accounts or anything like that,” Olsen says.

However, the party’s current leaders do not have control over the “iowagop.org” email account.

“It hasn’t been the smoothest transition that we could have wanted,” Olsen says, “but I think eventually we will get there.”

Olsen says on the advice of legal counsel, he cannot comment on whether the party is considering legal action over these password problems.

When George W. Bush’s team entered the White House on January 20th of 2001, they discovered some Clinton staffers had removed the “W” keys from over 60 computer keyboards before they left. There was only one desk top computer left behind at Iowa GOP headquarters in late June when Olsen arrived and he says its keyboard is intact.

Tom Harkin inducted into Iowa Democratic Party’s ‘Hall of Fame’ (AUDIO)

About 500 Democrats gathered in Des Moines tonight to honor retiring U.S. Senator Tom Harkin. Iowa Democratic Party chairman Scott Brennan, a former member of Harkin’s senate staff, called it a “bittersweet” event.

“We don’t have the hall reserved long enough for all the tales we need to tell,” Brennan said.

Harkin, who announced in January of 2013 that he would not seek reelection this year, was inducted into the Iowa Democratic Party’s “Hall of Fame.”

“I don’t stand on the shoulders of giants,” Harkin said. “I stand on the shoulders of ordinary Iowans who put their trust in me, worked their hearts out for me, stood by me when the going got tough.”

AUDIO of speeches by Ruth and Tom Harkin, 30:00

Harkin reminisced about his political mentors and his nearly 40 years of service in congress, then concluded by saying it’s time to pass the torch to a new generation.

“I may be retiring from the senate, but I am not retiring from this fight,” Harkin said. “…As long as I have a breath, I want to be part of that effort.”

President Obama as well as possible 2016 presidential candidates Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton were among those who recorded video messages that were played at the event.

“I’m getting ready to take a momentous plunge and you are uniquely suited to help me,” Clinton said in her recorded message.

“It’s a new adventure full of excitement, but also responsibility and unexpected challenges. I could really use you in my corner. No one knows the terrain better, so Tom I need to ask – what’s the secret to being such a terrific grandparent?”

Congressman Bruce Braley is the Democratic candidate who is seeking Harkin’s seat and Braley called Harkin a friend and mentor.

“For the last 40 years, Tom, you have shown all of us in this room what it means to be a Democrat,” Braley said.

Congressman Dave Loebsack, a Democrat from Iowa City, called Harkin his hero.

“And he’ll continue to be my political hero so long as I have a breath in my body,” Loebsack said. “Thank you, Tom. Thank you for everything.”

Jack Hatch, the Democrat who’s running for governor this year, is also among the ranks of former Harkin staffers or “Harkinistas” as they call themselves.

“Anybody who has worked on a Harkin campaign, will you stand up? How about anybody who went to New Hampshire for Tom Harkin – can you stand up? And anybody who’s voted for Tom Harkin, can you stand up?” Hatch said and, as the entire crowd stood applauding and cheering, Hatch concluded with this: “Tom Harkin, this is your life.”

Harkin, who ran for president in 1992, hosts an annual steak fry fundraiser every fall. Keynote speakers at the event like Al Gore and Barack Obama went on to win the Iowa Caucuses. In 2012 Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley was the keynote speaker at the Harkin Steak Fry and O’Malley returned to Iowa tonight to pay tribute to Harkin.

“Health care for all, that would not have happened without his voice and his strength of service,” O’Malley said during a brief, five minute speech.

Harkin was first elected to the U.S. House in 1974. Harkin won a seat in the U.S. Senate in 1984 and won re-election four times. Harkin will speak again Saturday at the Iowa Democratic Party’s state convention. Delegates will formally nominate Monica Vernon for lieutenant governor. Vernon is the Cedar Rapids City Councilwoman Jack Hatch — the Democratic Party’s nominee for governor — has chosen as his running mate.