Two key Democrats see no real obstacles to having one of Republican Governor Terry Branstad’s major campaign contributors serve on the Board of Regents. Late last week Branstad nominated Bruce Rastetter for the board that governs Iowa, Iowa State and U.N.I., an appointment that must be confirmed by at least 34 of the 50 state senators.
Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs has heard no objections from his fellow Democrats. “You know, anytime you end up with an appointee that has a high level of political activity there are a few people whose eyebrows are raised,” Gronstal says. “The fact is if political activity disqualifies you from serving in the executive branch, there wouldn’t be many left to serve, so I don’t see it as a disqualifier.” Senate President Jack Kibbie, a Democrat from Emmetsburg, says there’s “nothing new” about appointing political contributors to state boards and commissions and he sees “no reason” Rastetter shouldn’t serve on the Board of Regents.
“I personally don’t have a problem with that,” Kibbie says. “He likes ethanol and so do I.” Rastetter is the C.E.O. of Hawkeye Energy Holdings, a company based in Ames with . Senator Jack Hatch, a Democrat from Des Moines, has a “business relationship” with Rastetter.
“Over the last couple of years the only thing we’ve really agreed on is our business ventures. We don’t talk about politics too often,” Hatch says. “There’s no question, though, that Bruce loves the state and loves the universities, has contributed money to the universities, has an entrepreneurial spirit that I think the Regents would benefit from.”
There’s no Senate rule that would prevent Hatch from voting to confirm Rastetter to the Board of Regents, but Hatch says it may have the appearance of a conflict and he may not vote on Rastetter’s nomination. Rastetter donated nearly $163,000 to Branstad’s 2010 campaign.
Photo courtesy of the Governor’s office.