There was a debate Friday featuring six of the seven Republicans who want to face-off against Democratic Congressman Leonard Boswell in November. Former Iowa State wrestling coach Jim Gibbons, one of the Republican contestants in the third congressional district race, has raised the most campaign cash and that was a topic of discussion in the debate. 

Competitor Dave Funk criticized Gibbons for a campaign fundraiser that was hosted by former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert.  Funk, a retired airline pilot, questioned Hastert’s integrity and blamed Hastert for tainting the Republican brand.

“I don’t care if they are the former speaker,” Funk said.  “(He’s) the very person who ruined our reputation as fiscally responsible.” 

Funk accused Hastert of using his position as a congressman to bolster a personal real estate investment. “We don’t need the likes of Dennis Hastert in the third district, a man who not only personally benefitted and profitted to the tune of tens of millions of dollars with fraudulent earmarks and the abuse of earmarks, to come in here and raise money for anybody,” Funk said. 

Hastert is a former wrestling coach and Gibbons said he’s honored to have Hastert as a financial supporter. “A lot of people have big drug companies, big oil companies,” Gibbons said. “I’ve got big wrestling.”

Gibbons also defended his fundraising. “You talk about hard work, anybody that knows what it takes to be able to raise money knows that in this economic environment it is a lot of hard work.  I’ve dedicated my life — I’ve let go of my career as a financial advisor to pursue this full time,” Gibbons said.  “I make no apologies for where we are.  I’m excited about where we are.” 

State Senator Brad Zaun, another one of the candidates in the third district, criticized both Gibbons and Funk for holding campaign fundraising events in Washington, D.C.  “Money can’t buy campaigns and it shouldn’t,” Zaun said. “The fact of the matter is of the top three candidates I’m the only one that hasn’t been out to D.C. with my hand out.  The fact of the matter is Washington, D.C. is broken.  I run a grassroots campaign.  That’s what I’ve always been successful doing.”

The forum was sponsored by and featured three other third district candidates: retired architect Mark Rees, Urbandale physician Pat Bertroche, and West Des Moines businessman Scott Batcher.