The top Republican in the Iowa House has signed on to be a political advisor to Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and expects to back Romney’s likely bid for the White House in 2008.
House Speaker Christopher Rants of Sioux City says he won’t get a paycheck from Romney’s Commonwealth PAC. “I am a volunteer…I think it’s wrong to do otherwise…It would be prohibited by law to do otherwise, so the governor’s got me on the cheap. I mean, this is just all my time on my nickle,” Rants says. “I think that’s the right way to handle it and that’s what I’m intent on doing.”
Two other legislators who are not seeking re-election to the Iowa Senate ran into problems with statehouse ethics rules when they took paychecks from political actions committees run by two other Republican presidential hopefuls. Senator Stewart Iverson of Clarion has returned the money he’d been paid by New York Governor George Pataki’s PAC and Senator Charles Larson, Junior, is no longer paid by Arizona Senator John McCain’s PAC.
Rants met one-on-one with McCain, Pataki and other potential G-O-P presidential candidates “on their turf,” asked what Rants calls his “20 questions” — and he settled on Romney. “I saw in Governor Romney a leader that I could put my trust in, somebody that I felt would inspire other Republicans to follow, I thought somebody who looks beyond just national security issues but talks about economic security at home. (We) talked about some of the challenges the country faced I thought in a fairly direct manner,” Rants says. “I hope the governor chooses to keeps this alliance moving forward and I’m certainly in it for the long haul.”
Romney says he’s “delighted” Rants is working with him. “Our highest priority is to get Jim Nussle elected Governor of Iowa, at the same time to see the Iowa House remain in Republican hands,” Romney says. “It’s kind of a close race right now.”
Republicans have held a 51 to 49 seat majority in the Iowa House since the 2004 election. Romney, who is chairman of the Republican Governors Association, has given Nussle’s campaign half a million dollars from that group, in addition to funds from his own PAC. Romney says he hasn’t settled on a dollar amount that he’ll be forwarding to Iowa legislative candidates. “There is a, if you will, a connection (among) Republican races across a particular state,” Romney says. “But…local issues sometimes play a much more significant role and the qualities of individual candidates.”
Rants, who is 39 years old, was first elected to the Iowa House in 1992 and his Republican colleagues elected him floor leader in 1999 and Speaker of the House in 2002. His previous job was as an environmental compliance projects coordinator for Metz Baking Company in Sioux City.