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Civic Skinny

Jack Who? Out-staters lavish cash on Branstad. Susan Knapp backs Hatch while Bill aids Guv.

5/28/2014

Gubernatorial candidate Jack Hatch received no significant Iowa money from outside Des Moines in the latest reporting period. Terry Branstad received carloads.

That’s a major reason the Republican Governor has such a phenomenal money lead over his Democratic challenger. From Jan. 1 to May 19, Branstad raised $1,157,436.36, spent $748,677.06 and ended up with cash on hand of $4,541,972.51. In that period, Hatch raised $259,845.07, spent $186,806.36 and ended up with cash of $309,981.99.

There’s probably never been a more unbalanced money race in Iowa history.

In the latest period, the governor received 75 contributions of $5,000 or more. Of those, eight came from out of state, 13 from the Des Moines area and 54 from elsewhere in Iowa.

In the same period, Hatch received 11 contributions of $5,000 or more. Three were from out of state and eight from the Des Moines area. None was from Iowans living outside the Des Moines area.

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“Hatch either doesn’t have the team to make a go or hasn’t really started,” says a nonpartisan person who watches Iowa elections very closely. “You’d think money would be the first order of business.”

Branstad seems to face a new scandal every week, but Hatch hasn’t found a way to cash in on that. “My take in talking to Republicans about this race is that Branstad is lucky to be running against Hatch,” this person adds. “It doesn’t matter whether it is name recognition, an inferior organization, or lack of drive. It’s the whole package. Branstad’s job approval was at 63 percent in February. It would take a mighty titan to knock him off.”

(“Mighty titan” is in contrast to “weakling titan.”)

The seeming inevitability of a Branstad victory has kept some big Democratic names sitting on their wallets — or even opening them up to Branstad. “Why give money to someone who is going to lose?” asks a guy who is usually generous to Democrats. “A losing candidate isn’t going to do anything that’s good for the state” — or for a contributor, adds this guy. “So why give?”

The out-state givers to Branstad in the latest period include some well-known names. Joe Crookham, the Musco co-owner from Oskaloosa, is in for $10,000. The Sukup family, from Hampton and Clear Lake, also gave $10,000. Subhash Sahai, a Webster City doctor and regular Democratic contributor whom Branstad appointed to the Board of Regents, gave $5,000 to the governor in the latest period. Some Pella families were especially generous: Larry and Rosemary De Vries gave $10,000, Bob and Lois Vermeer gave $5,000, Charles Farver gave $10,000, and Patrick Weiler gave $5,000. Michael and Cheryl Wells of Le Mars — Wells as in Wells Blue Bunny — gave $10,000.

Other recognizable names from out in the state: Richard Stark, the Fort Dodge banker, tossed in $25,000 in the latest period, while former Maytag executive Leonard Hadley of Cedar Rapids added $10,000. Marcia Kinzenbaw of Williamsburg gave $10,000, Stan and Helen Howe of Muscatine gave $5,000, Bill Bernau of Iowa City is in for $10,000. Mike Whalen of Bettendorf and Irving Jensen of Sioux City each contributed $5,000. Big checks came in from Lake Mills and Winterset and Sioux City and Waucoma and Blairsburg and Iowa Falls and Manchester and a score or more of other Iowa towns.

But none of those checks was written to Hatch. In the latest period, he got $25,000 from retired Principal chief executive David Hurd and another $25,000 from Fred Hubbell, $20,000 from Richard Holland of Omaha and $15,000 from Harry Bookey and his corporation, BH Equities, as well as $15,000 from Des Moines lawyer and onetime gubernatorial candidate Roxanne Conlin. Owen Newlin, the retired Pioneer executive, gave $5,000, as did Rich Eychaner, and Fred Weitz, once of the Weitz contracting company, gave $6,000. But that’s about it for big checks.

Notably, Susan Knapp gave Hatch $2,600. That’s notable because her husband, Bill, longtime Democratic writer of big checks, publicly announced his support of Branstad last year and wrote the governor a $20,000 check last fall. The support stunned some Democrats, pissed off others and caused others just to say, “That’s Bill.”

At lunch last week, a couple of his Democratic pals were chiding Knapp about supporting Branstad. “Geez, Bill,” one of them said, “you got rich being a Democrat, and now you’re a Republican?” Knapp, always quick, replied, “Yeah. I’ve finally made enough money so I can become a Republican.”

Big local names writing checks to Branstad in the latest period include John Forsyth, who runs Wellmark and wrote a check for $10,000; John Pappajohn, $5,000; Sam Wallace, $5,000; Tom Bernau, $25,000; Denny and Candy Elwell, $10,000; Dan Ochylski, $5,000; Nixon Lauridsen, $25,000; and Chuck Johnson, $10,000.

Many Democrats privately — and some publicly — say it would take a miracle for Hatch to win, and they worry that when Branstad is sure that he’ll be re-elected he will start spreading the cash around to other candidates.

Iowa law allows a candidate to transfer campaign funds to a charitable organization, to the general fund of the state or a state subdivision or to a national, state or county central committee. So the Governor could give a chunk of money to the Republican state central committee, and it could ship it to the politically needy.

To Democrats, maintaining at least their bare control of the Iowa Senate is vital, but a late gift from Branstad funneled through the party to, say, Tim Kraayenbrink in Fort Dodge could swing what’s considered to be a close election between him and Democratic incumbent Daryl Beall.

Or money funneled to Republican Paul Pate could hurt the campaign of Democrat Brad Anderson, who is given a pretty good chance of winning back for the Democrats the office of Secretary of State. As of the other day, Pate had $55,917.50 cash — bolstered by $35,500 in loans he gave his campaign — and Anderson had $193,487.54, bolstered by nearly $20,000 from Bill Knapp.

Republican Matt Schultz, now running for Congress, has pretty much messed up things as Secretary of State — spending a lot of money chasing nonexistent fraud while keeping Jim Gibbons on the payroll to do nothing — and Pate doesn’t have a great record from his years as Secretary of State a couple of terms ago. He misstated his resume and said the office should be abolished — which makes it kind of odd that he’s running for it again. But a chunk of Branstad money could make it a lot easier for Pate — and harder for Anderson to win the only statewide office where there’s a real contest.

Meantime, Attorney General Tom Miller is doubling down on his backing of Assistant Attorney General Nathan Blake in the three-man Democratic primary for the Iowa senate seat from the south side of Des Moines. After a robocall, a letter to the editor and a flyer supporting Blake, the Attorney General has chipped in $500 to the campaign.

That marks only the third time in 10 years that Miller has given money to an individual candidate for state or local office, and it’s by far the biggest check he has written to a candidate or party committee in the state. Until now, his biggest checks were periodic $125 contributions to the Dubuque County Democratic Central Committee and $300 to the state party in 1998. Federal records indicate he gave $250 to Joe Lieberman’s presidential campaign in 2003, his only contribution to a federal candidate in at least 15 years.

Blake has about $24,000 to spend before the June 3 primary; Tony Bisignano had around $14,000 and Ned Chiodo, who mainly is self-financing his run, about $7,500.

Miller, who has no opposition yet in his own re-election bid, has around $200,000 on hand. He spent just $8,800 in the latest period, most of that being $6,500 to Blueprint Strategies, a consulting firm founded in Des Moines last year by Derek Eadon, an Obama operative in Iowa in 2012. …

Report from the front: Six more people at The Des Moines Register are about to lose their jobs, Cityview is told. They’re in marketing, and apparently their work now will be done in Nashville. …

Essay question: Last Tuesday, it was page four news in the Register that Terry Branstad leads Jack Hatch in fundraising by a 14-1 margin. It was page one news that Hatch got a speeding ticket. Discuss. …

Cityview joins those mourning the death of John Hicks, a wonderful educator, a talented artist and a passionate contributor to this paper. CV

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