Republican candidate Terry Branstad says if he’s elected to a fifth term as governor, he’d work to expand the state’s open meetings and open records laws to cover nonprofit groups that get government funding. Branstad’s proposal would cover groups like the Iowa State Association of Counties and the League of Cities as well as the Iowa Association of School Boards which is under investigation after whistleblowers raised questions, leading to the firing of the group’s executive director.
Branstad says Iowa has always had a reputation for “clean, honest and open government,” but this scandal and others are tarnishing that image. “This is not Illinois,” Branstad says. “…I have some ideas in how we can restore integrity and openness and provide sunshine that will prevent these kinds of things from happening.”
Branstad would not create a new state agency, but he’d establish a new division in the state attorney general’s office to give the public and the media a place to pursue complaints about the operations of private, nonprofit groups that operate with government funds. “Those are things that I think we can do to restore public confidence in the openness, honesty and integrity of government,” Branstad says. “I think that’s critically important.”
Branstad made his comments during a meeting with The Des Moines Register’s editorial board. Branstad cited recent controversies ranging from the salary scandal at the Central Iowa Employment Training Consortium to the investigation of contributions to Governor Culver’s reelection campaign that came from gambling interests.
“We have seen too much…corruption and inside deals and things like that,” Branstad said. “People are very skeptical about it and I think the best way to correct that is to have…sunshine, openness and I’ve always tried to err on the side of making things as open and public as possible.” The chairman of the Iowa Democratic Party shot back, saying “Branstad’s administration was one of the most cozy, back-scratching operations in the history of state government.”
Iowa Democratic Party chairman Michael Kiernan also ridiculed the idea of a new division in the attorney general’s office to police nonprofit groups that spend taxpayer dollars. Kiernan said the last thing government needs is a “whole new raft of lawyers reviewing documents.”