Civic Skinny: 'Hensley leaked list'

 

City leader points the finger at 'bitter' councilwoman

As we've been reporting in this column for the past few weeks, Des Moines City Councilwoman Christine Hensley has been death on the idea of promoting acting City Manager Rick Clark into that position on a permanent basis. However, Hensley, who we're told had been trying to swing Archie Brooks and Tom Vlassis in the direction away from Clark, has had little in the way of luck. And when it appeared to her that the "fix was in" to make Clark a finalist with questionable competition, Hensley made public the list (perhaps via Eric Anderson so she could deny it if questioned) of all who had applied for the job before it was whittled down to four (three when one dropped). "(The council's) intention was to have a crappy list so Clark would clearly be the best," a source close to Hensley told us. "That's why the council is so pissed (Hensley) leaked the list (which is not illegal) to the Register." When we asked one of Hensley's fellow city leaders, the individual, who admitted the council looked foolish but denied its intention was to have Clark be "wired-in," told us to "add it up." "She is no longer running the show, and when Anderson left, she lost her last chance at any kind of power. She hates Rick because he won't meet with her one-on-one and let her dictate what's coming down the pipe like Eric did, and she isn't the type to sit idly by. She's a bitter game-player. But we had her boxed in (Friday), so she wanted to save face in the end and voted our way." What was her goal? "To send us back to the drawing board," this person said. "But it was never going to happen, Register editorial or not. And now everyone is walking away from her. She's done."

Lists aren't falling into the lap of Register education reporter Lynn Campbell, however. Campbell, in an e-mail to a DMPS official, asked for information regarding upcoming forums on the issue of attendance but was rebuffed. In an e-mail from DMPS Communications Director Klark Jessen to board members and senior staff, Jessen wrote: "We are currently overwhelmed by data requests from Lynn Campbell. It's important to remember that we are not obligated to put (an employee) to work compiling a report because the Register requests it." Federal Sunshine laws might stipulate otherwise.

The finger pointing continues in the race to see which Democrat, Mike Blouin or Chet Culver, will run against likely Republican candidate Jim Nussle for Iowa governor. Last week a top state source told us that Blouin's only way back in the race would be to go negative, and lo and behold, his campaign did exactly that by pointing out that Culver had received $40,000 from a questionable source - Scott Ginsburg, who was fined $1 million for violating insider trading rules. Just one problem, though: Culver's group was able to, in the same 24-hour period, fight back by pointing out that Blouin had received a $25,000 contribution from Bernard L. Schwartz, whose company paid $20 million in connection with a federal probe into its dealings with the Chinese military. "Nice bomb," a Culver insider said. "Too bad it blew up in their face. Of course, if I was $500,000 behind in cash-on-hand and still couldn't figure out, as a Democrat, a straight answer on the abortion issue, I'd look at the numbers and say my best option was to run a desperate and negative effort to destroy the frontrunner, too." Our statehouse source from last week's issue pointed out again that these types of "games" will weaken the ticket in the fall.

In other news regarding the Democratic side of the gubernatorial race, a few statehouse leaders have begun to wonder out loud why staffers in the Secretary of State's office are showing up on Culver's campaign disclosure statement. A total of 24 reimbursements paid to Joni Klaassen, Scott Ourth and John Hedgecoth, all on the state payroll, were made by Culver's committee. "We know they have day jobs," a legislator said. "And working on Chet's campaign while being paid by Iowa taxpayers is not it." Hedgecoth was reprimanded for campaign violations in both 2003 and 2004.

Campaigns of other Democratic presidential hopefuls not named Tom Vilsack have been showing increasing distress over the Iowa Democratic Party's obvious pro-Vilsack tilt ever since former Vilsack aide Mike Milligan took over as executive director and Lt. Gov. Sally Pederson took over as state chair, a top national source told us. Even though party policies explicitly prohibit state party staff from taking sides in primaries or presidential caucuses, the latest report from Vilsack's Heartland PAC shows that it purchased a $2,500 laptop computer for Mike Milligan (doing business as Milligan Consulting). "How can John Edwards and Hilary Clinton or other prospective candidates expect a level playing field in Iowa, and why would they even bother attending our caucuses, if the party bigwigs won't play by the rules?"

A top statewide Republican said, "You could almost hear Dusky Terry's campaign for secretary of agriculture come to a screeching halt at the candidates' debate put on by WHO Radio at the Iowa Power Farm Show." Terry benefited heavily when his former boss, Gov. Vilsack, literally forced two other Democrats out of the race. But when Terry was asked about specific programs he'd start or eliminate, he could only say he has ideas, and "programs will be developed in the future." "People have been thinking this is the guy to beat," said one political operative at the debate. Now, we're told, Republicans are taking a harder look at how much to invest in the race. CV

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