There was a flashpoint during today’s debate among the three candidates who are seeking the Democratic Party’s nomination for the U.S. Senate, as one of the male candidates challenged the business practices of a rival’s husband.  Tom Fiegen, a lawyer from Clarence, directly questioned rival Roxanne Conlin, who is a lawyer from Des Moines.

“I understand that you and your husband own a company called  ‘Conlin Properties’ and you received last year and this year $20 million in tax credits,” Fiegen said. “How can you credibly ask Charles Grassley to give up $270,000 in farm program benefits when you’ve collected yourself $20 million in tax credits?” 

A Conlin campaign spokesman says Fiegen’s figures are off, as Conlin Properties received 15 million in tax credits over 10 years rather than the 20 million over two years which Fiegen claimed.

“My husband builds low-income and moderate-income properties,” Conlin said. “The money, the tax credits that are provided for that are part of our effort nationally to provide housing to low-income people.” 

The exchange happened as the three U.S. Senate candidates were given a chance to question a competitor.  Conlin said she and her husband are “proud” of the properties they own and manage. “The properties house families, for the most part,” Conlin said. “We provide playgrounds and computer rooms and security and do everything that we can to be helpful to the people who live in the buildings that we build.” 

Fiegen attacked the rental rates for the apartments. “I understand on your properties low-income people pay rent between $400 and $700 a month,” Fiegen said. “I’ve got to say in Clarence, Iowa, I don’t think that that’s necessarily affordable housing for low-income people.” 

Conlin, in reply, suggested rent in Iowa’s largest city were higher than in Fiegen’s hometown of Clarence, which has a population of about a thousand.  “The low-income housing properties are rent controlled in the sense that they’re based on the local in which they are,” Conlin said. “And a $400 apartment in Des Moines, Iowa, is — in fact — a very low-income property.” 

Fiegen’s other beef was that Conlin Properties sold the tax credits they were awarded. “I don’t know how selling tax credits for cash helps low-income (people),” Fiegen said. 

Conlin said it was “clear” that Fiegen didn’t understand how the tax credits for low-income housing development work.  “You always sell tax credits,” Conlin said. “That’s the purpose of tax credits is to sell (them) and provide equity in the building.”

When Conlin got her turn to ask a rival a question, she chose to ask candidate Bob Krause a question about veteran’s issues rather than question Fiegen.  The three candidates are competing for the chance to face Republican Senator Chuck Grassley on the November ballot.

Today’s debate will air at 9 a.m. Sunday on WHO-TV. You can watch it on-line now at