Governor Terry Branstad is vigorously defending his economic development director’s travel expenses.
A Des Moines television station reported last week that the state spent more than $73,000 on Iowa Economic Development Authority director Debi Durham’s travel during the state’s last budgeting year, some of it on first-class plane tickets.
“That is a bunch of baloney,” Branstad says. “…She has always flown by coach class if it’s within the United States or business class if it’s overseas.”
The governor says if any of the receipts show Durham was flying first class, it was because she got an upgrade, not because she booked a first class ticket.
“She’s a tireless advocate for Iowa and she’s had a tremendous success rate in attracting business and jobs from all over — from Japan and Korea and Egypt and everywhere else,” Branstad says. “…This woman works day and night for the taxpayers of Iowa and what she’s done is phenomenal.”
Branstad says he and Durham travel in business class so they can sleep when they go overseas, because they immediately go into meetings once they land.
“I just know what the policies are and I know Debi Durham,” Branstad says. “I know that there’s nobody that is more honest, more focused, more dedicated, more effective and I just find these accusations to be unfair and inappropriate.”
The governor and the four other members of the State Executive Council approved the $73,000 worth of travel expenses for Durham that were the target of the WHO-TV report. Three members of the Executive Council are Republicans and two are Democrats. As of July 1, 2012, however, the authority to approve travel expenses was transferred from the Executive Council to the directors of state agencies.