Roxanne Conlin, the Iowa Democratic Party’s nominee for the U.S. Senate, says her Republican rival — Senator Chuck Grassley — has helped his wife’s lobbying firm secure “billions” in tax breaks for its clients.
Grassley’s wife, Barbara, “crafts legislative strategy” for a Washington, D.C. lobbying firm and Conlin notes the firm’s website even mentions that Barbara Grassley is the wife of Iowa’s senior U.S. senator.
“The people of Iowa are generally not even aware that Senator Grassley’s wife works for a lobbying firm, let alone that Senator Grassley was himself responsible for that infamous ‘Bridge to Nowhere’ and that his wife’s lobbying firm got a quarter of a million dollars to get that in the bill,” Conlin says.
The “Bridge to Nowhere” was a nearly $400 million project to connect an island with the Alaska mainland and it became an issue in the 2008 presidential campaign. Grassley’s campaign says Barbara Grassley’s firm did not lobby for that particular bridge and a Grassley spokesman says Conlin should be “embarassed” by the “falsehood”. Conlin’s campaign says the firm where Barbara Grassley works did lobby for another $200 million “Bridge to Nowhere” in Alaska that was a waste of taxpayers’ dollars.
According to Conlin, spouses are fair game in her race against Grassley.
“Mine has been and mine doesn’t work for a lobbying firm,” Conlin told reporters this afternoon. “His wife, Barbara, works for a lobbying firm that lobbies him and that lobbies on behalf of governments and corporations that have business with the United States Senate.”
The Grassley campaign has criticized Conlin’s husband for using federal tax credits to build low-income housing complexes, and the Grassley camp last week criticized the Conlins, as a couple, for seeking the temporary property tax abatement available for the home they built within the Des Moines city limits.
Conlin this afternoon said Grassley helped his wife’s lobbying firm secure a tax break for the railroad industry that’s worth half a billion dollars annually.
“After the firm paid for Chuck Grassley to attend a luxurious conference in Florida, complete with golf outings and board tours, the tax credit found its way into Grassley’s so-called JOBS Act and was passed,” Conlin says. “Opponents of the bill called it an early Christmas gift to lobbyists.”
According to the website for the lobbying firm where Barbara Grassley works, Mrs. Grassley has been working there for “nearly two decades” and it lists her as a “key staffer for the firm’s work on behalf of (its) railroad clients.”
Eric Woolson, a spokesman for Senator Grassley, said Mrs. Grassley “has never been a lobbyist” and he called Conlin a “desperate” candidate who is running a “Campaign to Nowhere.”
“People who live in very large houses and go out of their way to avoid paying taxes should avoid (throwing) stones,” Woolson said in a written statement. “We’ve criticized Roxanne Conlin’s hypocrisy but we’ve never attacked her husband. The fact is that she’s listed as a co-founder, co-manager and co-owner of Conlin Properties…She claims to want to end tax breaks for the wealthy, but then goes out of her way to take them.”
Read more about this story on the blog.
Listen to Conlin’s entire news conference here: Conlin 15:44 MP3
(This story was updated at 5 p.m.)