September 2, 2014

Hatch says Branstad ‘can’t buy back integrity’ with campaign ads

Jack Hatch

Jack Hatch

Jack Hatch, the Democratic candidate for governor, says Repulican Governor Terry Branstad has taken “zero responsibility” for mistakes in his administration and that can’t be papered over by Branstad’s barrage of campaign advertising.

“The governor can spend all that he wants, but you can’t buy back integriy,” Hatch said this morning during a statehouse news conference.

Branstad’s campaign war chest dwarfs Hatch’s campaign treasury, but Hatch says raising money isn’t “equivalent” to success — and Hatch pointed to the 1998 governor’s race, when summertime polls showed former Congressman Jim Ross Lightfoot leading eventual-winner Tom Vilsack by 30 points.

“After almost $3 million of advertisement, this governor is still only 11 points ahead of me,” Hatch said, “so this campaign is not over.”

Hatch said Iowans “are suspicious” of what Hatch calls the “fake numbers” Branstad’s administration is presenting about how many new jobs have been created in Iowa and how much personal incomes have grown. Next week Hatch plans to start airing his own ads, which Hatch said are sprinkled with humor but will focus on Branstad’s management of state government.

“The abuse of power, the mismanagement of our resources has been to a level never seen before in this state,” Hatch said.

Hatch will he’ll also talk in the ads about his vision for the state’s future, including “clean water” initiatives and a new economic development approach.

Last week the chairman of the Iowa Republican Party accused Hatch of killing a bill about tax credits for developers that may have reduced Hatch’s income as a property developer. Hatch called it a “desperate” attack that ignores the political reality of the legislature.

“The Republicans are reaching deep into the recesses (for) a minority bill that joined 80-90 percent of the bills introduced into the state senate and not getting through a committee,” Hatch said.

According to Hatch, it was the committee chairman who didn’t want the bill to pass, but Hatch says “in hindsight” he should have turned down the assignment of subcommittee chairman for the bill.

In other campaign news, political action committees representing the Iowa Association of Business and Industry and the Iowa Corn Growers Association have endorsed Branstad’s bid for a sixth term. The Iowa Corn PAC has also endorsed Democrat Bruce Braley in the U.S. Senate race, along with Republican Congressman Steve King and Democratic Congressman Dave Loebsack. The group is backing Democrat Pat Murphy in Iowa’s first district race and Republican David Young in the third congressional district.

Branstad says state lacked ‘good tracking system’ for confidential settlements (AUDIO)

Governor Branstad and Lt. Governor Reynolds.

Governor Branstad and Lt. Governor Reynolds.

Governor Terry Branstad says he was surprised a state audit has revealed a key state agency failed to find all the settlements with former state employees that included confidentiality clauses.

“Unfortunately they did not have a good tracking system and my staff went on the information they were supplied and it wasn’t adequate and that’s the thing we are committed to correcting,” Branstad says.

This spring Branstad ordered an end to adding money to a state employee’s exit settlement to keep the details of that deal confidential. Branstad released a list of what he said were all the confidential settlements his administration had struck. A state audit released last week, however, identified 18 more confidential settlements. Branstad was asked about the discrepancy during his weekly news conference.

“Unfortunately, the Department of Administrative Services in the past has not had an electronic tracking system and that’s the reason why it was not discovered previously,” Branstad said.

AUDIO of governor’s news conference, 23:00

Branstad told reporters the director of the Department of Administrative Services is now working with the state auditor to set up a tracking system.

“I’m pleased that the auditor’s report also showed that the action that I took with the executive order has ended the use of confidentiality clauses in settlement agreements and that the agencies are abiding by the responsibility to have all of these agreements reviewed by the attorney general’s office and approved by the director of the department and the Department of Administrative Services,” Branstad said.

Branstad asked legislators to make all state personnel files public records. State Senator Matt McCoy, a Democrat from Des Moines who works in human resources, says private businesses do not disclose that kind of information because of the liability and Branstad’s proposal would open the state up to lawsuits.

Branstad says 2012 Iowa Caucus bribery scandal shouldn’t taint future caucuses

Governor Terry Branstad.

Governor Terry Branstad.

Governor Terry Branstad says Iowa’s Caucuses shouldn’t be tainted by a bribery scandal involving the former state senator who now admits he was paid $73,000 to switch his support from Michele Bachmann to Ron Paul in the closing days of the 2012 Caucus campaign.

“When we find wrong-doing, we investigate it and we take action to make sure that justice is done,” Branstad said.

Kent Sorenson of Milo resigned from the senate nearly a year ago after an investigation launched by the Iowa Senate Ethics Committee concluded it was “manifestly clear” Sorenson had been paid to work for Bachmann. Last week the U.S. Justice Department announced Sorenson had pleaded guilty to taking money from Ron Paul’s campaign. Branstad notes the state investigation came first.

“I think it’s a tribute to the political system of our state and to the senate itself — both the ethics committee and minority leader Bill Dix — that they took the action that they did,” Branstad said this morning.

Sorenson signed on as Bachmann’s Iowa campaign chairman in early 2011. Sorenson has now admitted in his guilty plea that he began negotiating with the Paul campaign in the fall of that year to make the switch to Paul’s camp and get paid. In the spring of 2012 three Democrats and one Republican on the state Senate Ethics Committee voted to launch an investigation of Sorenson’s activities.

“The fact that Iowa has taken appropriate action to protect the integrity of our caucuses and to keep out inappriate actions speaks out strongly that we do things differently here,” Branstad said.

In 2008, Sorenson was elected to one term in the Iowa House, then he won a seat in the Iowa Senate in 2010. Sorenson’s case has had ripple effects in Kentucky, where the political director for Ron Paul’s 2012 presidential campaign had been running on Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell’s reelection effort. Jesse Benton, who is also married to Ron Paul’s granddaughter, resigned last week from the McConnell campaign. Benton said any suggestion that he was involved in Sorenson’s bribery scandal was “untrue,” but he resigned to ensure McConnell’s campaign wasn’t damaged by “rumors” about the case.


Judges tell legislators they were pressured to make pro-business rulings

Current and former judges who rule on contested claims over unemployment benefits for laid-off workers testified Tuesday before the Iowa Senate Oversight Committee. Joe Walsh, the former chief administrative law judge in the Iowa Workforce Development agency, was laid off by the department’s director, who then put herself in charge.

“Which means that you have a partisan political employee in direct management of administrative law judges,” Walsh said.

Walsh said Teresa Wahlert — Governor Branstad’s Iowa Workforce Development director –pressured him to give tips to businesses on how to win cases against laid-off employees. Other judges like Marlon Moorman testified that Wahlert questioned their pro-employee rulings.

“And the pressure was direct. It wasn’t subtle,” Mormon told lawmakers. “It was: ‘You need to change.’”

But one judge who has now been elevated to a management role said she had never been pressured to decide a case one way or another. Wahlert is scheduled to appear before the committee today.

Iowa GOP chair blasts Hatch over killed bill

The chairman of the Iowa Republican Party is accusing Jack Hatch, the Democratic candidate for governor, of killing a bill in the state senate that would have been a hit to Hatch’s bottom line as a real estate developer. Iowa GOP chairman Jeff Kaufmann says Hatch has been trying to “hide the truth” about his business from Iowans.

“This is just one more example of where his job as state senator has lined his pockets,” Kaufmann says.

In 2013 a Republican in the state senate introduced a bill that would have reduced the fee property developers could claim on tax credits that are issued by the Iowa Finance Authority for low income housing developments. Senator Jake Chapman, a Republican from Adel, says Hatch used his position as chairman of a three-member SUB-committee to kill the bill.

“Hatch, a man who has made millions of dollars from developer fees, killed the bill,” Chapman says. “He stuck it in his desk drawer, never held a (subcommittee) meeting or let it come to a vote because it would have personally cost him millions of dollars if it had passed.”

Chapman says Hatch should have cited a conflict of interest and removed himself from any decision-making on the legislation.

Hatch’s campaign manager accuses Republicans of making a “false attack” against Hatch to divert attention from the two-day hearing a Senate Committee is holding this week to review Branstad Administration management practices. Hatch campaign manager Grant Woodard says it shows Branstad must be “extremely concerned” that Iowans are deciding Hatch is “more competent, honest and informed” than Branstad.

Branstad’s campaign manager sent an email blast to the Branstad supporters, citing the Iowa Republican Party’s allegations and referring to Hatch as a “liberal Des Moines politician” who “owes every Iowan an apology.”

Branstad calls state fuel tax ‘old fashioned’, considering sales tax on fuel instead

Governor Terry Branstad says he’s open to continued discussions about how to find new funding sources for road and bridge construction in Iowa, including the idea of imposing the state sales tax on fuel.

“That kind of an approach is an approach that has been used now recently by a number of other states and its one that would be more of a permanent solution,” Branstad says.

Charging the six-percent state sales tax on fuel sales would add far more to the cost of filling up the tank than just raising the state gas tax by 10 cents a gallon. For example, someone buying 10 gallons of gas would pay $1 more if the state gas tax went up a dime. But, if the state sales tax were charged on that transaction, the consumer would pay $2 more.

“Anything you do, obviously, the users are going to have to pay for it,” Branstad says.

The state fuel tax hasn’t been hiked since 1989, when gas was selling for less than $2 a gallon. The average price today in Iowa is $3.37 a gallon. Branstad says charging the state sales tax on fuel purchases would keep up with inflation.

“Going away from the old-fashioned gas and diesel fuel tax, to me, makes sense,” Branstad says.

But the governor is not calling on legislators to pass a bill that would make the change. Branstad has repeatedly said he’s waiting for a “bipartisan consensus” to develop in the legislature. According to Iowa DOT estimates released a couple of years ago, the state is at least $215 million short of what’s needed to maintain and expand the state’s transportation network.

Branstad made his latest comments on the subject yesterday, during his weekly news conference. Find the audio here.

Hatch unveils ‘Community First’ economic development approach

Democrat Jack Hatch says if he’s elected governor, he’ll “realign” the Iowa Economic Development Authority advisory board, splitting it into four regions, along the lines of Iowa’s four congressional districts. Each region would get an equal amount of money from the state and the local boards would decide which projects quality for state grants and loans.

“As a state, we find our best ideas come when we allow our communities to determine their own destiny and not rely on a top-down model in which government picks winners and losers,” Hatch says.

Hatch would forbid any of the members of these advisory boards to be involved in a business that gets a grant or loan from the state.

“It’s now like an ‘old boys club’….You have to know somebody in Des Moines,” Hatch says. “That just leads to abuse and loss of opportunities.”

Hatch says the regional boards he envisions would likely dedicate more state resources to smaller businesses rather than the big corporations Republican Governor Terry Branstad has been courting. Branstad reconfigured the Iowa Department of Economic Development shortly after returning as governor in 2011, establishing a public-private partnership instead of a strictly state-run agency.

Hatch unveiled his “Community First” proposal for regional advisory boards during a speech in Davenport on Monday.