Civic Skinny

The Gov sweats, the AG’s aide dials, a judge rumbles


“I am now on a first-name basis with the Culver campaign,” says an e-mail from a guy who attaches an e-mail from the governor’s campaign headquarters. It starts:

“Dear [Firstname],”.


The letter asked [Firstname] to volunteer to walk with the governor in the West Des Moines Independence Day parade.

[Firstname] declined....


But [Firstname] apparently isn’t on a first-name basis with Attorney General Tom Miller. Miller has his aide Eric Tabor making the fund-raising calls. [Firstname] and several other Democrats, including some Iowa lawyers, tell Cityview they’ve received calls from Tabor — not Miller — and to a man (and woman) they’re between pissed and insulted by it. Even so, some are sending checks.

Altoona’s Ed Skinner might not be on a first-name basis with the Culver campaign for long. A guy who cites an impeccable and unimpeachable source says long-time Democrat Skinner will support Branstad in the fall election. Skinner’s daughter, Democratic House member Geri Huser, has never been close to the governor, but Ed Skinner is all but a yellow-dog Democrat. In the past 10 years, he’s written dozens of checks — including checks to Culver four years ago — and according to state records only one has gone to a Republican; that was a $500 check he wrote two years ago to West Des Moines’ Pete Cownie, the Democrats’ favorite Republican who is both a good guy and the son of Jim Cownie, who is liked by everyone except the voters who elected Preston Daniels instead of Cownie as mayor of Des Moines in 1997.


Meantime, Leonard Boswell is stepping up his game as the indefatigable Brad Zaun shows up everywhere and calls up everyone in his bid to unseat the seven-term Democratic Congressman. The 76-year-old Boswell might not be running scared, but he’s running hard. He plans to bring in Bill Clinton to help the cause at a fund-raiser later this month, Skinny is told.


Back to that West Des Moines parade that [Firstname] declined to march in. It was a hot day, and the Republicans were there, as usual, with their cameras. The results can be seen on, a blog that posts unflattering pictures of the governor. In the latest batch, the overweight governor is sweat-drenched, and his short-sleeve blue shirt is wringing wet. Advice from a Democratic pol who saw the snapshots: Next time, wear a white shirt. And an undershirt. ...


The highest-paid Polk County employee is medical examiner Gregory Schmunk, who is paid $217,818 a year, according to a fiscal-year-end list of county salaries a Skinny reader unearthed. The lowest paid are Dennis Miller and Frankie Johnson, general-services workers who get $30,170 a year. There are 65 employees who earn at least $100,000 a year.


The highest-paid elected official — and third highest-paid county employee — is County Attorney John Sarcone, at $165,273. Second highest-paid official is Sheriff Bill McCarthy at $136,774. The five persons who run the county — the elected supervisors — earn $95,806, which means they are tied as the 77th highest paid of the 1,215 men and women who were full-time employees of the county as of June 30.


The supervisors earn a bit less than two other elected officials — Treasurer Mary Malone and Auditor Jamie Fitzgerald are at $97,233 — and the same as County Recorder Julie Haggerty. And they all make far less than county administrator Ron Olson, who is the second highest-paid worker at $166,036.


Thirty-six of the 65 employees who earn more than $100,000 a year work in the County Attorney’s office. Six of those earn $140,482 a year. They are Raymond Blase, Steve Foritano, Nan Horvat, Mike O’Meara, Frederick Vanliew and Dan Voogt. ...


Two weeks ago, Skinny reported that Federal Judge Mark Bennett of Sioux City railed against East Coast lawyers as he established rules for selecting lead counsel in some actions that he is consolidating into one lawsuit. The selection hearing was last week. The “beauty pageant” was attended by 42 lawyers, and, according to a Skinny correspondent who was there, it began with a three-minute music video of “Let’s Get Ready to Rumble.” Bennett then quizzed the East Coast lawyers present about how many states border Iowa. ...


A promotional ad in The Des Moines Register: “NOW IN SPORTS, EVERY SUNDAY: Find “The Sunday Scoop” — a new page devoted to reader letters, an old-time photo of the week, a “Where Are They Now?” feature — and much more. From the preps to the pros: We make Sunday special.” A cynical comment from a guy who grew up reading the sports pages in northern Iowa: “What does the word ‘Scoop’ mean now at the DMR? From their own description here it seems to mean ‘something cheap and simple that a summer intern can handle while we can furlough more reporters.’” CV