An analysis by the liberal advocacy group “Progress Iowa” found Republican Governor Terry Branstad has collected over $791,000 in campaign donations from Iowans the governor has appointed to serve on state boards and commissions.
“We researched every political appointment that Governor Branstad has made since he returned to office in January of 2011,” says Progress Iowa’s Matt Sinovic “…We discovered nearly 1300 appointees and of those nearly one out of six have made donations to the governor’s campaign.”
The Rastetter brothers together have donated over a quarter of a million dollars to Branstad’s reelection effort. Branstad appointed Bruce Rastetter to the board that governs the three state universities and Branstad named Brent Rastetter to the Iowa Environmental Protection Commission.
“They’re giving these donations and, it would appear, in turn receiving these top appointments,” Sinovic says.
According to the Progress Iowa analysis, Mary Andringa, the president and CEO of Vermeer Corporation in Pella, has donated $90,000 to Branstad’s reelection effort and Pete Brownell, president of the firearms supply company Brownell’s that’s based in Grinnell, has donated nearly $40,000. Sinovic points out Branstad put Brownell on the Iowa Economic Development Authority Board and named Andringa to the state’s Science Technology Engineering and Math Advisory Council.
“This is really just another example of the culture of cronyism where Branstad’s donors are given preferential treatment above others,” Sinovic says.
A spokesman for Branstad’s reelection campaign says Branstad “is proud to have the support of more than 15,000 individuals who have contributed to his campaign financially and thousands more” who support his record as governor.
There are no dollar limits on campaign donations to statewide candidates in Iowa and it is not illegal for those who serve on state boards and commissions to make donations to Branstad’s campaign. Sinovic says his group is not seeking changes in state policies regarding campaign contributions.
(This story was updated at 5:45 p.m. after Progress Iowa reported its initial tally of donations was incorrect.)