A state senator is asking the president of the Board of Regents to delay a decision on a proposal to create a public policy institute named for Democratic U.S. Senator Tom Harkin at Iowa State University. State Senator Sandra Greiner, a Republican from Keota, says she has some serious questions about the proposal.
“My basic concern is the impropriety of a seated senator…whose organization would be soliciting funds to run their institute from the same people who would possibly be seeking regulation from that senator,” Greiner says. Greiner says this is the same type of thing that was part of the ethics investigation against Democrat New York Representative Charlie Rangel.
Greiner says it is not a partisan issue, as there have been similar things that have happened with Republicans who have created outside foundations and then seek donations to run the foundation from the very people they are regulating. “As a member of the oversight committee I don’t want to see this come into my committee to have to deal with,” Greiner says, “I just think it has to be nipped in the bud.”
She says in her letter ( Greiner Letter PDF) that it is clear the proposal has been discussed in length internally among the Regents and Iowa State, while the legislature and the governor have been “kept in the dark about the proposal.” “Particularly I think it was…not the wisest thing to do to move forward with this without at least alerting the governor,” Greiner says.
She says she doesn’t know that the legislature has to sign off on the issue, but said at the least it would have been a courtesy to notify the governor. Greiner wants the board to delay any action on the issue. “If it’s a good idea, it needs to be vetted and move forward,” Greiner says. She says she’s just not aware of successful organizations like this where the person whose name is at the top of the organization is making appropriations or regulatory decisions that involve the people who’re making contributions to maintain the institute.
“I just think it’s the wrong thing to do,” Greiner says. The proposal before the Board of Regents says the institute would honor Harkin and the “senator’s policy concerns, including those related to agriculture, education, international affairs, disabilities, nutrition, health, and labor, will guide and direct the proposed institute’s teaching, research, and outreach priorities.”
The proposal says the institute would also hold Harkin’s papers from the over 35 years of his service in the U.S. House and Senate. It says the institute would be nonpartisan and be funded through gifts. The Regents are scheduled to meet at Iowa State University Wednesday. Harkin’s wife Ruth is a member of the board.
A spokesperson for the Board of Regents told Radio Iowa president Miles was unavailable for comment due to the holiday, and it was too early to speculate on the impact of Greiner’s letter as they have just received it.
See the Regents proposal here: Harkin Institute PDF