Civic Skinny

October 28, 2010


Who’s giving money? Who isn’t? A mileage differential

Terry Branstad received 175 checks for $2,500 or more in the latest campaign-reporting period. Chet Culver got 55. Most of Branstad’s were from individuals, though there was a lot of corporate PAC money in there, too. Most of Culver’s was from labor unions, with a sprinkling of checks from committed Democrats — and a huge, $600,000 gift from the Democratic Governors Association, which has been funneling labor money to the governor throughout the campaign.

There were few surprises in the 414 pages detailing the $2,083,515.89 that Republican Branstad picked up between July 19 and October 19. (Democrat Culver raised $1,381,124.25.) Bruce Rastetter, the hog and ethanol guy, continues to be a veritable ATM for Branstad, handing over another $50,000 in the latest period. That increases his total in the past year to at least $160,000, according to records at the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board. His son Brent has tossed in another $30,000 or so. Bruce Rastetter also gave $100,000 to Team Iowa, a Des Moines-based political action committee that supports Republican legislative candidates.

Rastetter has become a money player in politics only in the last few years. He supported Christopher Rants for governor this year before Rants got run over by the Branstad operation. Four years ago, Rastetter gave $25,000 to Chet Culver — and nothing to Jim Nussle, the Republican Culver beat. Rastetter was said to be angling for an appointment to one or another state board, but Rastetter got nothing from Culver. This year, Culver has gotten nothing from Rastetter.

One surprise on the Branstad list: Des Moines businessman Dick Levitt, who wrote a check for $25,000. Levitt is generous with his money for charitable causes — the University of Iowa has a Levitt Center and a Levitt Lecture Series; the Des Moines Art Center a Levitt Auditorium — but he’s never been much of a political money guy. The Ethics Board lists just one other contribution to a state politician in the last eight years, a $500 check to Democrat Mike Blouin five years ago. Nationally, he gives the occasional $1,000 check to Tom Harkin, and this year he gave $2,400 to Patrick Toomey, the Republican running for the Senate in Pennsylvania.

The other big names were predictable. Joe Crookham, one of the wealthy owners of Musco Lighting in Oskaloosa, added $40,000 to the $60,000 he gave earlier, putting him at a nice round $100,000. His daughter, Diane Crookham-Johnson, gave Branstad $15,000 earlier this year. The Krauses of Kum & Go added $12,500 each for Branstad in the latest period. Earlier, Bill Krause had given Branstad $24,500 and son Kyle Krause had tossed in $25,000. Four years ago, father and son each gave $25,000 to Chet Culver’s campaign, but that was when he appeared to be on their side in the video-gambling-machine fight.

The largest check that Culver got from an individual was $25,000 from Fred Eychaner, a Chicago media executive and brother of Rich Eychaner of Des Moines. Dave Miles, the head of the Board of Regents, was next highest at $10,000, which came on top of the $23,500 he and his wife, Lori, had already given the governor. Harry Bookey, who gave $10,000 earlier, came in with another $6,000. Fred Hubbell chipped in another $5,000 to Culver; he had given $35,000 earlier. Missing from Culver’s list in the latest round: Bill Knapp. But that’s excusable; he already was in for at least $205,000, according to state records. (But Knapp gave $50,000 to the effort to retain the judges, though the anti-judge forces have raised far more than the pro side.)

Totaling missing from the scene this year: Tom Bedell. The son of former Congressman Berkeley Bedell, he was a regular contributor to Democrats in elections past. He gave $65,000 to Mike Blouin, who lost the primary to Culver, and sprinkled checks elsewhere, but records indicate he hasn’t given any money in the state since he wrote a $1,000 check to state senator Jack Kibbe more than two years ago. Presumably, he is just looking on from afar as he makes guitars at his place in Aspen, Colo., and sails the world on his yacht, the Major Wager, occasionally stopping by to check in at his massive home on Lake Okoboji.

A couple of folks show up on both sides. Jim Cownie added $10,000 to the $20,000 he had already given Branstad, and his wife, Patty, gave $5,000 to Culver. The Iowa Corn Growers gave $5,000 to each.

Footnote: Neither Chet Culver nor his wife, Mari, has given any money to a state candidate in the past five years. The only check they’ve written is a $50 one to the Polk County Democratic Central Committee last January. Chet Culver’s mother, Ann, who now lives in Austin, Texas, has given $600 to her son’s gubernatorial campaign this year, according to state records. His father, former Senator John Culver, who lives in Washington, has given nothing, according to those records. But the good news for Chet Culver: his father hasn’t given anything to Terry Branstad, either. John Culver’s last campaign contribution to an Iowa state candidate was $1,000 to the Vilsack-Pederson campaign in 2003.

On the other hand, Terry Branstad this year has given money to the campaign of state auditor David Vaudt ($250), attorney-general candidate Brenna Findley ($1,200), legislatives candidates Scott Raecker ($50), Chip Baltimore ($200), and Sandy Greiner ($50). He gave to a handful of Republican candidates last year as well.

And finally, Matt Schultz, the Republican candidate for Secretary of State, pays an aide 30 cents a mile for campaign driving, according to his latest report. The report also indicates he pays himself 50 cents a mile. CV



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