THIS STORY WAS UPDATED AT 1:56 P.M.
The top Republican in the Iowa House says there’s an unanswered question about First Lady Mari Culver’s recent admission that she smoked in a state-leased vehicle as she was being driven around Des Moines by a state trooper.
House Republican Leader Kraig Paulsen of Hiawatha says he and his fellow Republicans want to know whether Mrs. Culver was on state business or whether she was being driven to her law office.
"When she’s on state business, when she’s doing those things that are first lady related, I don’t have any problem with that," Paulsen says. "…But are we also paying to take her to work, where she’s making money. That’s the more interesting question in my mind."
Phil Roeder, the governor’s spokesman, says the Department of Public Safety’s "executive protection unit" is assigned to the governor as well as the First Family and lieutenant governor, and troopers "provide security to them at all times." Paulsen says Republican legislators plan to ask the governor whether his wife should be driven to her job.
Paulsen, who admits to being a smoker at one point in his life, says the whole "smoking" episode, though, highlights the "silliness" of the state’s smoking ban. "Outside of that trooper…who was riding with her — and if he had an opinion, I’d be interested in that, but otherwise I don’t think Iowans care whether Mari Culver was having a smoke in that vehicle," Paulsen says. "That trooper might, but I don’t think Iowans do."
Paulsen was elected House G.O.P. leader earlier this month. Last week, First Lady Mari Culver paid a $50 fine for smoking in a restricted area. She was spotted smoking in a vehicle which is leased by the state and used to transport the governor and his family.
Mrs. Culver issued a short statement, expressing regret over the episode and promising she would not do it again.