Tuesday, August 16, 2022

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Civic Skinny

Branstad’s Expo money-raising broke ethics rule.


Jason Noble of The Des Moines Register wrote a first-rate story last week on the woes of the Central Iowa Expo in Boone. In it, he noted that between gubernatorial stints, Terry Branstad was hired to try to raise money for the beleaguered facility.

Separated at birth? John Forsyth (left) and former Rep. Patrick Kennedy

Separated at birth? John Forsyth (left) and
former Rep. Patrick Kennedy

He noted, too, that a 2010 article in The Register said Branstad’s campaign staff said he got a percentage of what he raised. That article, by Jennifer Jacobs, said Branstad “made a commission of $50,000 [in 2009] from a fund-raising firm he created after he left the governor’s office….He used it primarily to do fundraising for charities and other projects. As contributions come in, he gets a percentage, his campaign staff said.”

Branstad was president of Des Moines University at the time.

What the articles didn’t note was that fund-raisers who charge a percentage of the take violate the Code of Ethical Principles and Standards of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. Nor did they note that it’s highly unusual — perhaps unprecedented — for a president of a university to hire out as a professional fund-raiser for other organizations while still heading the university and, presumably, working hard to raise money for his own institution.

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“Uh, yes — very unusual,” a long-time professional fund-raiser told Cityview when asked about the deal. Knowing how hard it is to raise money at universities, he added, “I can’t believe he would have the time and attention to moonlight as a fund-raiser.”

But Jimmy Centers, the governor’s spokesman, confirmed the details to Cityview last week and said the DMU board “was aware of his position with [the fund-raising firm] and the governor did receive approval from the board prior to being hired as president of DMU.” He added that “the limited amount of work he did with [the fund-raising firm] during that time was done away from the DMU office or on vacation from DMU.”

Asked to confirm that the Governor received the $50,000 fee “and that the Governor was paid on a percentage basis,” Centers said: “I can confirm the reported payment referenced.”

“Members shall not accept compensation or enter into a contract that is based on a percentage of contributions; nor shall members accept finder’s fees or contingent fees,” the code of the fund-raising group states. “It is imperative that a compensation structure does not place self-gain over charitable missions,” the code explains.

The Branstad firm, Policy Management Interests, is not a member of the association, according to an officer of the local chapter. But Des Moines University is a member and was a member at the time Branstad was working for the Central Iowa Expo, the university says.

Branstad left the fund-raising firm as he geared up for his 2010 campaign for governor. The firm still exists. It is run by Mary Boote, a one-time Branstad adviser who was just appointed by Branstad to a second four-year term on the nine-member Environmental Protection Commission, and Doug Gross, Republican gubernatorial candidate in 2002 and sometimes-close and sometimes-not-so-close adviser to Branstad. …

Sen. Charles Grassley raised $682,472 in the first quarter of this year — including $315,247 from individuals and $362,247 from political action committees. At the end of the quarter, he had $2,406,238 on hand.

Here are some big givers from the Des Moines area: At the maximum of $5,400 are John Pappajohn, Greg Abel, Gary Kirke, Mark Oman, Jill Oman, Nixon Lauridsen, Virginia Lauridsen, Mary Bruce, Douglas Bruce, Cam Sutton and Gary Reubel,

At $2,700: Jim Cownie, Mary Pappajohn, John Ruan III, Sharon Krause, Kyle Krause, John Forsyth and Rita Forsyth. Dan Ochylski contributed $2,500.  At $2,000: Mark Doll, Jim Erickson, Lishing Steven Hou, Al Jennings, Cathryn Lacy, Jim Smith, Michael Schreurs and Gerald Baker. Dr. Tom Brown contributed $1,200. And at $1,000: Bob Burnett, Kevin McLaughlin, Bud Hockenberg, Ron Cheney, Diane Young, Greg Ganske, Sheri Horner, Jeff Lamberti, John Matovina, Susan Moore, Larry Moore, Karen Slifka, and Chuck Larson.

Linda Sutton of Grimes contributed $4,971 in food and beverages.

Rep. David Young gave $1,000, too.

No one named Grassley contributed anything.

Grassley received 23 contributions from people with Washington D.C. addresses — mostly lobbyists and consultants — and 26 from New York City addresses. Included: Donald Trump, at $5,200, big-time investor Carl Icahn at $5,000 and former Senator Al D’Amato at $5,000.

The PAC money came from 163 organizations. …

The article in the newspapers, from the Associated Press, said 12 student journalists sued the Muscatine Community College on a free-speech issue. “The paper and the college have had issues over various articles,” the story said.

That’s an understatement.

The lawsuit, filed this month in federal district court for the southern district of Iowa, names the college, its board and five of its top officials as defendants. It challenges “the constitutionality of the actions of the [college administrators] in allowing faculty and staff members to intimidate and harass student journalists without repercussions, allowing a faculty member to pursue a baseless EEO charge based on the content of an article, removing a full-time faculty advisor and replacing him with a part-time adjunct, modifying the fall 2015 class schedule to marginalize the journalism program and various other actions that amount to censorship by intimidation.” …

Television anchormen come and go. But at Channel 8, they rarely go. Russ Van Dyke anchored the 10 pm. news from 1955, when the station went on the air, until 1983. Kevin Cooney, who became co-anchor in 1982, slipped over into Van Dyke’s chair and has been there ever since, with various folks co-anchoring beside him. He has also co-anchored the 6 p.m. news since 1982. Last week, he announced he is retiring in November.

When a guy told him how remarkable that was, he responded that even more remarkable is the fact that Channel 8 has had only three news directors since it went on the air 60 years ago. Indeed.

The average tenure of a TV news director is just 5.7 years, and the median is just three years. But Dave Busiek, who sat at that anchor desk with Cooney from 1983 to 1988, has been news director since 1988. Van Dyke was the first news director, serving until 1983, and Paul Rhoades — who had been in charge in name if not in fact for a few years — officially became news director that year.

Not mentioned in the coverage of Kevin Cooney’s retirement: Mollie Cooney is not retiring. CV


One Comment

  1. Bob Shreck says:

    Mike: I know you’re up. Please call me–515-371-0917. Need some advice about the “Newspaper all Iowa used to depend on.”


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