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Civic Skinny

Oct 13 , 2011
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Madam Judge? A manicure for Steve King. And dead deer

The next federal judge here will be a woman, if all goes according to plan. Sen. Tom Harkin has sent President Barack Obama the names of three persons for consideration to replace Robert Pratt, who is taking senior status on July 1.

All are women.

The list, which is expected to be made public this week, proposes Polk County District Judge Karen Romano, United States Attorney for the Northern District Stephanie M. Rose or Iowa Court of Appeals judge Mary E. Tabor. They were picked after the Harkin staff interviewed a score or so of applicants and after the Senator himself interviewed 10 or so finalists, Cityview has learned. The applicants included some well-respected judges and lawyers and some well-connected ones, though the names were never made public.

The President now will send a name to the Senate — presumably one of these three — and that person then will have to be approved first by the Senate Judiciary Committee and then by the full Senate. It won’t be easy. Iowa’s Chuck Grassley is a key member of the Judiciary Committee, and he probably has the power to block the nomination in hopes that Obama will lose and then the Republicans can pick the Pratt successor.

That’s not a certainty, of course. Political deals can be made and surely will be sought, and Harkin hasn’t stopped Grassley appointees when he probably could have. Still, no one should be ordering any new robes quite yet.

There has never been a woman on the federal bench in the Southern District of Iowa. ...

Mayor Frank Cownie is lobbying his fellow council members for a big — a very big — raise. The mayor now makes $31,500 a year, and he’d like to make $90,000 for his part-time job, City Hall folks tell Skinny. That’s a $58,500 raise, a raise of 186 percent. That’s also a bit more than the 3.5 percent increase the council is planning to give veteran city manager Rick Clark. The request isn’t going down very well with at least some council members, who make $22,000 a year. All of this would be a campaign issue in November, when Cownie stands for re-election, but for one thing: He’s running unopposed. ...

Roll Call, a newspaper on Washington’s Capitol Hill, reported last week that Steve King “was spotted indulging in a little rest ‘n’ relaxation at Tammy’s Nails on Capitol Hill.” King “is not exactly who comes to mind when you think mani-pedi kinda guy,” the paper added. Trying to give equal time to King opponent Christie Vilsack, we e-mailed asking where she gets her nails done. Alas, no response by press time. What could be more important? ...

Before you join the fuss about “Niggerhead,” that place in Texas where Gov. Rick Perry goes to hunt, we should tell you — or maybe we should tell Perry — that according to the federal register of names there is a Negro Creek in Clinton County. ...

A former legislator and another office-holder who has been hanging around the Capitol for years were talking about those interesting editorial-page pieces The Des Moines Register had explaining how legislators get pension credit for their per-diems and disclosing other schemes, and maybe scams. “They missed the big one,” the former legislator said. He went on to note how many legislators have their wives or daughters or nieces or cousins on their legislative payrolls — with no requirements about how often, if at all, they need to show up. One of the guys estimated that “a majority” of members over the years have benefited from this. ...

Your taxes at work: In fiscal 2011, state and local cops and agents spent $268,000 to buy drugs or pay snitches in Iowa for information needed in criminal investigations. Of that, $201,000 was federal money, $67,000 state money. ...

More information gleaned from new state reports that no one else reads: In the 2010 hunting season, Iowa took in $6,323,665 from licenses sold to nonresident deer hunters — that is, nonresident hunters who shoot deer, not residents who shoot non-resident deer. That was down from $7,026,054 during the 2009 hunting season. The state has a quota of 6,000 “nonresident any-sex deer licenses” each year, and it sells out each year. The any-sex apparently refers to the deer, not the hunter. For the past seven years, there have been around 9,000 to a bit more than 12,000 applications annually.

During the 2009 season, nonresidents killed 5,628 of the 136,504 deer killed in the state. Excuse us, we mean “harvested” in the state. Most of the deer killed by nonresidents were shot in the southern tier of counties, though 16 were killed in Polk County. It is not known if the deer themselves were resident or nonresident.

According to the Legislative Service Agency, “A nonresident deer hunter wanting to hunt antlered deer must apply for a combination nonresident any-sex deer license ($295), an antlerless deer license ($125), nonresident hunting license ($110), and pay the wildlife habitat fee ($11).” At the butcher shop, the average price per pound of venison is $10.98.

When you include license fees for shooting things other than deer, the state took in $23,999,616 in 2010, about a third coming from out-of-staters. ...

The meter keeps clicking. That Peninsula Gaming political-contribution case — you really don’t care about the details unless your name is Curtis Beason — was supposed to go to trial on Oct. 10, meaning an end to the fees being racked up by “special prosecutor” Larry Scalise. The charges were brought on Oct. 11, 2010, and if it had been handled normally it would have long ago gone to trial. But Scalise, a former attorney general skilled at drawing things out, now has gotten an additional delay. The judge now has set a two-week trial for Jan. 23. Scalise’s firm already has billed the state for more than $90,000 in the case, which involves a $25,000 political contribution and which is an aggravated misdemeanor. The fine for an aggravated misdemeanor is up to $5,000; those convicted also can be sentenced to up to two years in prison.

The “aggravated” refers to how pissed off the taxpayers ought to be at the special prosecutor’s bills. CV

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