Civic Skinny

Is Register’s all-state academic team biased? Clinton flies in, but Culver skips pal’s funeral


Recent editions of The Des Moines Register’s Academic All State team have left Asians complaining that criteria are stacked against them in ways that redefine academics. This year’s team will increase their frustration and confuse all students about what constitutes a great academic career. Ames High’s Harvard-bound Lawrence Chiou did not make the 15-person “top achievers” team despite a 2380 SAT, an internship to Harvard Medical School, making it to the finals of the National Spelling Bee, and participating in Science Olympiad. Nor did Iowa City West’s Kui Tang, also with a 2380 SAT and participation in the Lincoln Douglas debates, Mu Alpha Theta and the Federal Reserve Challenge. They were beaten out by, among others, two white girls who scored 25 and 28 on the ACT and collectively listed Iowa Pork Princess and State Fair Queen as their top activities, followed by 4-H Council, softball, touring Europe, and being an all-state large group speech performer. Another white kid made it with only a 21 ACT and nothing more than choir and Big Brothers on his resume. They’re all great kids, no doubt, but the omission of the outstanding Asian students will do nothing to stop the rumors that the Register’s honor team is racist. ...

Skinny joins the legions mourning the death of Ed Campbell, who knew everyone and everything political in this state. He was a loyal aide, a shrewd strategist, an able leader and a jovial companion, with a never-ending supply of stories and a never-empty fount of facts. Happily, he lived longer than the doctors predicted a generation ago; sadly, his final months were difficult ones. But he died the way he wanted to die — at home and in the arms of his devoted wife, Bonnie, Iowa’s former attorney general who ran her busy law practice out of their apartment so she could be always at his side. The lines at the visitation Sunday afternoon snaked outside Dunn’s Funeral Home on Grand, — and everyone had his or her own Ed Campbell story to tell — and St. Anthony’s Church was filled with friend, and the occasional political foe, on Monday.

Bill Clinton flew in for the three-priest funeral, and St. Anthony’s looked like a Democratic convention hall, with everyone from Tom and Ruth Harkin to precinct workers on hand. Leonard Boswell was there, and Mayor Frank Cownie, and the Mauro Brothers — Michael and John — and a bunch of Knapps, and AFSCME’s Danny Homan and Marcia Nichols, and Jerry Crawford and Teresa Vilmain and Willie Glanton and Sally Pederson and Angela Connolly and Patty Judge and Attorney General Tom Miller and Republicans Steve Roberts and Doug Gross and Tom Whitney and every other Democrat in the state.

Almost. Absent were the two Democrats Ed and Bonnie Campbell were closest to and most loyal to — Chet Culver and his father, John. They were in Boston for a fund-raiser for Chet. “Bill Clinton could re-arrange his schedule to fly in for the funeral,” one close friend (and Democratic insider) of Ed’s told a guy at the visitation. “But Culver can’t re-arrange a fund-raiser.” Told of the situation, another guy e-mailed Skinny, “Chances are Holmes Foster will figure out how to attend before Chet does.” Clinton spoke at the funeral (“I know Edward had a gentle, kind side — but he was brilliant at hiding it,” he noted before praising him as a “political genius.”) One of Campbell’s five younger sisters spoke, followed by Mari Culver (“Chet very much regrets not being able to be here”), public television’s Dan Miller (Campbell “had the soul of an angel,” Miller said, and noted that after one particularly trying time Campbell remarked, “Out of chaos will come turmoil.”) and pal and neighbor and confidante Ned Chiodo (“I’m sure every one of you has a story about Edward — and I want to assure you that Edward had a story about every one of you.”). Clinton, a tough act to follow, spoke last — but with a bow to Miller he said, “Dan you were fabulous,” which he was. But so was Clinton, who evoked tears and laughter in talking about Campbell. ...

Meantime, the Governor got yet another bad break the other day when Attorney General and fellow Democrat Tom Miller decided he had a conflict and couldn’t oversee the look into those campaign contributions from Fort Dodge casino hopefuls. The bad break wasn’t that Miller recused himself or that he named longtime Des Moines lawyer Larry Scalise as the guy to handle the inquiry. Rather, it’s that Miller referred to Scalise as a “special prosecutor.” Those loaded words — unnecessary, at the very least — raised the issue to a new level, evoking visions of Watergate and of presidential impeachment. Culver and his revolving-door campaign folks probably didn’t do anything wrong, says a guy who seems to know quite a bit about it, but the term “special prosecutor” adds to a perception of wrongdoing. “And in politics, perception is more important than reality,” he says. ...

Could the Business Record and DSM magazine end up back in the hands of Connie Wimer? Perhaps. The Ohio company she sold them to has filed for bankruptcy, and if it’s sold off in parts she could end up buying back — at a big discount — the Des Moines operations. She’s looking into it. Stay tuned. CV

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