Governor Chet Culver’s campaign today answered claims from former Governor Terry Branstad that Culver has tried to muzzle the ombudsman for the Iowa Department of Elder Affairs, saying that’s exactly what Branstad did. Branstad , a Republican, called on Culver, a Democrat, to fire the director of the Iowa Department on Aging, after reports the director told the ombudsman she could not express an opinion on state or federal legislation without the approval of the governor’s office. See related story here: www.radioiowa.com/wp-admin/post.php?action=edit&post=58342
Culver’s campaign issued a news release that said Branstad “swung and knocked himself out” with the muzzling claim, citing published reports that Branstad relieved the ombudsman of his advocacy duties in 1994.
The ombudsman at the time, Carl McPherson, said he was reassigned because of a report he wrote on nursing homes. The executive director of the department at the time under Branstad said that was not why McPherson was transferred. Branstad’s current campaign spokesmen, Tim Albrecht, also denies that happened.
“This is a big swing and an even bigger miss by the Culver campaign, desperate to talk about anything other than his record,” Albrecht says, “the fact remains that Governor Culver is muzzling one of his department heads and hoping nobody would find out about it, but we did, and Governor Branstad believes this department head should resign.”
Albrecht was asked about the claim that Branstad tried to muzzle the ombudsman when he was governor, and replied that it never happened.
“The fact is, Governor Culver is doing exactly that, and we think that it is important for Iowans to know what their governor is doing on their time,” Albrecht says,”Governor Branstad never acted in this way, never muzzled department heads and never gagged them in the way Governor Culver is clearly doing here. And so, to suggest otherwise is outright false.”
See the Culver campaign release below:
BRANSTAD SWINGS, KNOCKS HIMSELF OUT
DES MOINES – Branstad attacked Governor Culver and called on him to fire the director of the Iowa Department on Aging (IDA) even when in 1995, then-Governor Branstad dealt with a similar situation regarding the same federal regulation and chose not to fire his department director.
“Branstad’s statement on the IDA ombudsman is inaccurate and his suggestion that the Governor’s Office fire the IDA Director is hypocritical. Branstad hopes people have forgotten his record and that reporters won’t bother to fact check his statements. Be assured our campaign will continue to help keep him honest,” said Culver/ Judge Campaign Manager Donn Stanley.
In 1995, the Register reported on the muzzling of the State’s Long-Term Care Ombudsman after he wrote reports critical of the Branstad Administration’s oversight of nursing homes. This after Branstad had received a number of campaign contributions from nursing home operators.
“The state ombudsman for the Iowa Department of Elder Affairs will be relieved of his high-profile advocacy duties – action that comes days after he issued a report critical of the state’s oversight of nursing homes. Carl McPherson, the state long-term-care ombudsman for the past 15 years, authored the 1994 report that was first publicized Jan. 23.’They’ve given me new duties. Muzzle duties,’ McPherson said during an interview Wednesday. ‘I will not be able to speak publicly to the issues, when you look at my reassignment plan. This move will assure that a report like this does not come out next year. I have been mouthy.’ […] Betty Grandquist, executive director of the McPherson Department of Elder Affairs, denied any connection between McPherson’s release of critical reports and his reassignment.” [Des Moines Register, 2/2/1995].
“‘It was definitely a move to try to muzzle him,’ [Appropriations Committee Chairman Sen. Larry] Murphy said.” [Des Moines Register, 2/3/1995]
“Branstad, a Republican, has enjoyed strong financial support from nursing home operators over the years […]operators of several Iowa nursing homes were fined for violating campaign finance laws in connection with mailed solicitations for contributions to the Branstad campaign.” [Des Moines Register, 2/3/1995]
“‘It certainly looks bad the way that that was taken up,’ said House Majority Leader Brent Siegrist, R-Council Bluffs. ‘They are restructuring at the Department of Elder Affairs. Maybe that was the plan before, but it does not look good at all.'” [Des Moines Register, 2/3/1995]
“House Speaker Ron Corbett, R-Cedar Rapids, said the reassignment of the elder affairs ombudsman could discourage other state employees from reporting problems. ‘It probably sends a bad message to the rest of employees in state government, and that’s not what we’re trying to accomplish here,’ Corbett said. ‘We want input from the general public, and we want input from the state workers on how we can make this state operate more efficiently and effectively on behalf of the taxpayers.'” [Des Moines Register, 2/3/1995]
“Iowa cannot change Carl McPherson’s job title if it dilutes his independence as an advocate for nursing home residents, federal authorities said Tuesday.In fact, federal law requires that one person work full time as long-term care ombudsman, a position that McPherson has held in Iowa for 15 years. State officials said last week that they planned to restructure the agency so that the role would be shared among a team of workers.” [Des Moines Register, 2/8/1995].
The Governor’s Office will deal with any personnel and policy issues pertaining to the current situation appropriately.