Civic Skinny

February 17th, 2011 |

Cows, Deace, Pollock and Branstad’s grandkids


“I think it’s inappropriate to talk about my grandchildren” in connection with the dispute over whether there should be state-supported preschools, Gov. Terry Branstad told The Des Moines Register the other day after reporter Staci Hupp nicely pointed out that his own granddaughter, Mackenzie, attends such a school in West Des Moines. “But I guess that’s politics,” added the governor, who opposes the free schooling for all four-year-olds.

Well, yes.

But when is it appropriate to talk about grandchildren? Perhaps when you announce for office. Last year, when he went to the State Historical Building to confirm he would seek his old job as Governor, whom was he holding in his arms in the picture that ran in the Cedar Rapids Gazette? A granddaughter.

Or perhaps on primary night. When he won the party’s nomination in June, whom was he holding in his arms in the picture that ran in the Sioux City Journal? “Branstad holds his three-year-old granddaughter Mackenzie after speaking to supporters during a primary night rally,” the caption said.

Or perhaps when you win the election. Whom was he holding in his arms at an Election Night rally last November? Little Mackenzie. Wrote Kathie Obradovich in the Register: “Branstad vamped with his granddaughter Mackenzie, who didn’t want to smile at first but eventually chirped out her signature line: Vote for Grandpa!”

As the governor said, “I guess that’s politics.”...

Some other politicians found out last week just how vitriolic and nasty and crude the University of Iowa crowd can be. The nasty e-mails and newspaper comments started as soon as Scott Raecker, the chair of the House Appropriations Committee, submitted a bill to force the university to sell its $150 million Jackson Pollock painting and set up a trust fund to provide scholarships to art students and other undergraduates from the state.

One story mentioned that State Sen. David Johnson favored the move. That prompted this e-mail exchange:

From: Charlie Lilly

Sent: Thursday, February 10, 2011 7:01 AM

To: Johnson, David [LEGIS]

Subject: University of Iowa

Dear Mr. Johnson,

As a University of Iowa alumni, I am writing to ask you to keep your hands off the Jackson Pollock painting “Mural.” You clearly know absolutely nothing about art -- perhaps a class or two at the U of Iowa could help you out. Otherwise, stick to cow manure and other items that you know something about, please. You, the elected knucklehead, are the “fraud,” not this invaluable work of art.

Have a nice day, milk a cow or whatever.


From: “Johnson, David [LEGIS]”

Date: February 10, 2011 8:12:25 AM

To: Charlie Lilly

Subject: RE: University of Iowa

Mr. Lilly,

Do as Mr. Pollock did. Get drunk and start slinging whatever --- even manure --- on a canvass and you’re guaranteed to get rich and pollute the Iowa River and American culture at the same time.

Obviously, you put junk art above valuable student scholarships.

By the way, Picasso is overrated as well. Art died when Duchamp exposed the fraud for what it is. Unlike me, you must have slept through your art history classes.

Best regards,

David Johnson

State Senator

Some of the attacks on Raecker were vicious. One called him “Rep. Moron from Urbandale.” That’s ironic, because Raecker, a Republican from Urbandale, is one of the smartest and hardest-working legislators as well as one of the more gentle and gentlemanly ones. When he’s not legislating, he runs Character Counts, which teaches, among other things, fairness and respect and citizenship.

The painting, which was removed from the campus after the floods of 2008, now hangs in the Figge museum in Davenport, after first being put in storage in Chicago. If it isn’t sold, it will be at least 2015 before it can return to the campus. The federal government says the museum can be repaired at its current site, that it wasn’t damaged enough to qualify for 100 percent replacement funds. But Lloyds of London, which insures the collection for $500 million, says it won’t insure it unless it is moved to higher ground — the museum is, after all, in the flood plain.

Even if the feds would agree tomorrow to finance a new museum — and all appeals have failed so far — it would be three or four years before it could be planned, designed and built, university officials say.

The Pollock painting is worth an estimated $150 million. If put in an endowment, the proceeds would pay for roughly 1,000 full-tuition scholarships for Iowa undergraduates each year. There are 11,834 resident undergraduates at the University of Iowa this year. With students facing ever-rising tuition and ever-rising debt, using the money for scholarships seems like a no-brainer — unless you live in Iowa City or otherwise are in the clutches of the university. Two Legislature-watchers told Skinny last week that the bill surely will pass if it reaches the floor. “It will get at least 60 votes,” one lobbyist said. ...

The sudden and unexpected resignation of the evangelical Steve Deace from WHO is a blow to Tea Party and other far right Republicans. Deace used WHO’s microphones to further the Tea Party’s agenda and help elect folks like Secretary of State Matt Schultz and legislators Kim Pearson and Kent Sorenson, but without the 50,000 watts Deace is just another right-wing guy. His foray into elective politics — he made a last-minute, unsuccessful bid to be Polk County Republican chairman the other day — could be a precursor of things to come, central Iowa Republicans tell Skinny. ...

Now that the Census figures are out, folks with too much time on their hands are trying to figure out what the new Congressional districts will be at the next election, when Iowans will have one fewer Congress person. With the state’s population pegged at 3,046,355, each new Congressional district should have as close to 761,588 residents as the map drawers at the Legislative Service Agency can come up with.

If, as some people think, one of the districts will be around Des Moines, the drawers could include Polk, Dallas, Story, Warren, Jasper, Marshall, Marion and Clarke counties, whose population totals 761,627. That’s just 39 more than a perfect fit — and it would put Democratic incumbent Leonard Boswell of Des Moines and Republican Tom Latham of Ames in the same district. Steve King’s western Iowa district, which already includes 32 counties, will have to expand greatly, since the district is losing population. It could spread east across the upper tiers of counties, gobbling up much of Latham’s current district, or it could spread east from border to border, bringing it into Des Moines’ suburbs — it now includes Guthrie County, which is just west of Dallas County. That could be a tempting district for Democrat Christie Vilsack, who has made it clear she wants to run for Congress.

In the 1880s, Iowa had 11 Congressional districts.

Have a nice day. Milk a cow or whatever. Geez. CV