Iowa Senator Tom Harkin refused to answer questions about what if any role he played in obtaining donations for the Iowa State University institute that is named after him. Harkin, a Democrat, was asked during his weekly conference call about a newspaper article that questioned whether he was involved in securing a $500,000 donation from PMX Industries in Cedar Rapids.

Harkin says the article included some “factual inaccuracies” and that is all he will say about it at this time. “What I’ve said about this whole institute I’ve said before. At this point in time I am not saying anything other than the original quote that I put out, the statement that I put out. I want the best for my alma-mater, and Ruth and I have always worked hard to support ISU. But I simply cannot be part of any arrangement that restricts full and unfettered academic freedom at this institute,” Harkin says.

Harkin’s response is in reference to a disagreement with ISU President Steven Leath over how agricultural studies should be handled by the institute. He was then asked if he is involved in the institute’s fundraising.

“As far as this goes, I have not more to say about this institute,” Harkin answered, “I tell you what, I probably will at some point. But not now.” Harkin is sponsoring a bill that would phase out the paper dollar for a dollar coin. P-M-X supplies metal to the U-S Mint.

Iowa Congressman Tom Latham, a Republican from Clive, has introduced legislation in a last ditch attempt to keep the Iowa National Guard’s F-16 fighter jets at their Des Moines base. The bill would require a cost-benefit analysis before the Defense Department could go through plans to cuts the jets and assign unmanned drones to the Iowa unit.

All members of the Iowa delegation are supporting the move, but Senator Tom Harkin says the alternative also needs to be given a good look. “While I may have some concerns about this, I think we have to recognized what the future is,” Harkin says.

“And the future, Des Moines now could become sort of the first of the air wings anywhere in the United States to actually be fully drone capable. And that’s going to be a growing part of our defense structure in the future.” Harkin says the use of manned fighter jets is not going to be as big a part of the future of the military.

He says the plan to replace the F-16s with drones may be a better option. “Even though I have been a very strong supporter of keeping the F-16s there — I guess maybe that’s because I am a pilot — the more I look at it and the more I analyze it, the more there is a possibility that what is in the Defense Authorization Bill could actually move Des Moines to the forefront,” Harkin says.

Harkin says having the most up-to-date technology may have more benefits. “That could be a growing prospect for our airwing, especially in the National Guard in Iowa. So I think that is something that has to be looked at too,” Harkin says.

The provision Latham is seeking was in the original House and Senate versions of the defense bill, but it was cut out when the bill went to a joint committee to work on a compromise.