Two of the three leading Democrats running for governor differed on campaign finances and state economic development policies during an hour-long forum broadcast over the noon-hour today (Tuesday) on K-U-N-I public radio.
Candidate Ed Fallon suggested the two issues are linked. “I do think the size of campaign donations makes a difference and I’ll give you once example,” Fallon said. “(Former Republican gubernatorial candidate) Bob Vander Plaats got $100,000 from the CEO of Wells Dairy. Now, he’s not the only one to have received significant contributions from Mike Wells and others with that company over the years. Wells Dairy is no stranger to getting nice tax breaks and even Values Fund grants from the state. I don’t think you can possibly say there’s not a connection.”
Fallon’s rival, Mike Blouin, was director of the Iowa Department of Economic Development when state officials put together a package of state grants and tax breaks to keep Wells Dairy in LeMars. “Ed, there you go again. To imply that someone from a company like Wells Dairy giving $100,000 to a college friend who had never held office — Bob Vander Plaats, he’s not my best friend, but he’s never held office in his life — that there’s somehow a connection between that and their (Wells Dairy) having gotten an award from a Democratic state administration to expand their facility is just plain wrong,” Blouin said.
Blouin helped create and hand out huge state grants from the Iowa Values Fund, a program Fallon has repeatedly called corporate welfare. “Maytag’s a good example, too, Mike. We all feel awful about what happened at Maytag,” Fallon said. “About $24 million to that company from the taxpayers over the last ten years, well, it got the C-E-O, who just retired, a $19 million severance package but did it really help the little guy? I don’t see that as having happened.”
Blouin struck back. “Ed, you did it again. To imply that Maytag got $27 million from the Iowa Values Fund is wrong,” Blouin said. “They didn’t get a dime from the Iowa Values Fund in Newton. Not a penny. They got tax breaks from previous years. They got tax breaks against research and development that any company in Iowa is entitled to not by a decision by the Iowa Department of Economic Development but by law.”
Fallon, likewise, shot back. “There you go again, Mike. I didn’t say $27 million. I said $24 million. If I ever said Values Fund either you misheard me or I slipped a word in out of place,” Fallon said. “There must have been a mistake somewhere in speaking or in hearing.” Blouin quickly replied: “Or in hearing.”
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chet Culver did not attend the forum, which brought criticism from both Blouin and Fallon. “This forum was known about for a long time and I think it’s unfortunate that he chose not to be here,” Fallon said. Blouin agreed. “I, too, regret that Secretary Culver isn’t here and instead scheduled a press conference in conflict with this in western Iowa. That’s hardly a conflict that couldn’t be moved,” Blouin said. “It sounds like we won’t get together again because he’s not going to any more of these.”
The last face-to-face meeting of the three leading Democratic gubernatorial candidates was last Saturday. The primary is June 6th.