Wednesday, November 26, 2014


Civic Skinny

Stingy candidates: It’s better to receive than give. Gil Cranberg criticizes Register’s endorsement.

6/4/2014

Iowa’s elected officials have no trouble asking for money, but by and large they’re pretty stingy at giving it.

Gov. Terry Branstad raised $1,157,436.36 between Jan. 1 and May 19, according to records at the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board. He made one campaign contribution during the period — $100 to the Boone County Republican Central Committee.

Democratic challenger Jack Hatch raised $259,845.07 in the period. He wrote checks of $420 during the period — $100 to Citizens for Ako Abdul-Samad, $150 to Friends of Megan Suhr for Iowa, $20 to the Dallas County Democratic Central Committee, and $150 to the Committee to Elect Pam Deichmann.

Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey, who has no Democratic opponent as of yet, raised $8,075. He wrote one check, for $100 to Wills for Iowa. He had $242,128 cash as of May 19.

Secretary of State Matt Schultz, who is running for Congress and who raised $243,911 between Jan. 1 and May 14, hasn’t written a check to any state candidate or committee this year and wrote just one last year — $5 to the Hamilton County Republican Central Committee.

Des Moines Finest

State Treasurer Mike Fitzgerald, who has no Republican opponent, hasn’t made any contributions to state candidates this year and made just one last year — writing a $1,000 check to Iowans for Fitzgerald. The Fitzgeralds are one and the same. Fitzgerald raised $33,445.14 during the period and had $90,822.28 cash on hand at the end of the reporting cycle.

State Auditor Mary Mosiman, who also has no Democratic opponent, has raised $10,455 this year and has written 14 checks totaling $525.60. But six of those checks, totaling $285.60, were to her own campaign. Of the others, the largest was a $125 check to Deyoe for House. As of May 19, she had $41,253.67 cash on hand.

As Cityview mentioned last week, Attorney General Tom Miller, who rarely gives to state candidates, has written a check for $500 to Nathan Blake, an assistant attorney general who ran in this week’s Democratic primary seeking the nomination for the state senate seat being vacated by Hatch. This column went to press before the results were known in the three-way primary. …

Gil Cranberg, the longtime editorial writer and then editorial-page editor of The Register and Tribune, was dismayed by the Register’s endorsement of Joni Ernst in this week’s Republican primary for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Democrat Tom Harkin. He sent a letter to the editor.

The letter, sent in mid-May, hadn’t run by Monday. So here it is:

“To the Editor: Sunday’s Register editorial endorsing Joni Ernst as the Republican nominee for the seat being vacated by Tom Harkin says not a word about how Ernst would compare to Harkin. It’s as though Harkin’s accomplishments and the views expressed by Harkin during his Senate years did not exist. I suppose it’s possible to pretend that Tom Harkin’s many votes in the Senate were for naught but pretense is not reality. Tom Harkin will be missed and by endorsing a primary candidate whose views are so counter to Harkin’s the Register’s editorial is a reminder of how far the paper has strayed from its legacy.”

Cityview joins those mourning Helen Hubbell, a very nice lady who died over the weekend. CV

 

COMMENT: NAMING NAMES

“The Register’s policy is to not identify accusers in sexual-assault cases without their permission,” the newspaper noted the other day.

So the paper did not name Hunter Elizabeth Breshears in the story about former Iowa State athlete Bubu Palo suing her for defamation, infliction of emotional distress and abuse of process.

Why?

In May of 2012, fellow Iowa State student Breshears told Ames police that she was sexually assaulted by Palo, a friend from high school with whom she had slept before, and he then was charged with two counts of criminal sexual abuse in the second degree. He pleaded not guilty. Ultimately — and after reams of bad publicity for Palo and after his removal from the ISU basketball team — charges were dropped.

According to court documents, a key piece of evidence — a torn blouse — had been altered. And, according to court documents, the alteration was made while the blouse was in the possession of Breshears and her mother, Grace Breshears.

So the newspaper’s policy appears to be this:

— It does not name accusers in sexual-assault cases.

— It does not name accusers in sexual-assault cases even after charges are dropped.

— It does not name accusers in sexual-assault cases even if those accusers themselves are accused of tampering with evidence.

— It does not name accusers in sexual-assault cases even when those accusers are sued for defamation and other wrongs.

How unfair.

Sexual assault is a crime of violence, not a crime of sex. Convicted rapists should be sent to the penitentiary for a long, long time. Rape victims should get all the help they need from doctors and counselors and prosecutors. But offering anonymity to adult accusers and victims — as courts and prosecutors and newspapers regularly do — is not a good idea. It bolsters the perception that somehow a rape victim did something wrong or should be ashamed, diminishing the heinousness of the crime. It reinforces the stigma rape victims often live with.

That stigma won’t be removed until rape is identified with violence, not sex. And that won’t happen until the crime — with all of its facts and names — is discussed openly. It’s true that some brave and terrified women may suffer doubly when their names are a matter of record, but their bravery — and a change in policy by prosecutors and courts and newspapers — will ensure that in their daughters’ generation men and women and editors and prosecutors and judges will treat rape as the violent crime it is, not one tinged somehow with the absurd idea that the victim shares the guilt.

But what if the accused is not guilty?

No paper withheld the name of Bubu Palo when he was accused — unjustly accused, as it turned out. The stories are still one-sided — with one party named, the other not. That seems to transfer the stigma to Palo. Indeed, Palo has “suffered severe and extreme emotional distress” because of the proceedings, according to the lawsuit he filed last month in Story County District Court. And win or lose, Palo — by all accounts a fine athlete and a fine student — will be remembered in this state as the basketball player accused of sexual assault by a fellow but anonymous student. That anonymity — misguidedly offered to “protect” the accuser — has instead damaged the accused.

That just seems unfair.

Footnotes: Palo’s suit names Grace Breshears, the accuser’s mother and a defendant, by name, but “out of an abundance of caution and given the nature of the events set forth herein,” it refers to Hunter Elizabeth Breshears by her initials. That’s also absurd — and seems to offer sympathy of sorts to the woman being sued, the woman whose allegations were thrown out. At any rate, Hunter Elizabeth Breshears is identified by name for all to see in the docket listings available last week on Iowa Courts Online.                 

Last Wednesday, Cityview asked Register Publisher Rick Green what the newspaper’s policy is in the naming of accusers whose accusations are thrown out of court. As of Monday, he hadn’t replied. CV

— Michael Gartner

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