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Civic Skinny

Another big claim is filed against Blunck estate.

3/9/2016

A bank in Atlantic has filed a large claim against the estate of Kirk Blunck. The Rolling Hills Bank & Trust says the estate owes it $557,214.64, plus interest at 4.75 percent, on borrowings Blunck made from the bank and didn’t repay. It said the notes are guaranteed by both Blunck and his wife, Doreen, and it says it has a “general security interest” in all the assets of Blunck, the Des Moines architect who died under mysterious circumstances in the Teachout Building in January.

The details of the note had not yet been posted by the court at week’s end.

The bank’s claim — one of several already filed with the court — exceeds the estimated $500,000 value of the estate. Rolling Hills has a dozen or so offices in towns stretching from Stuart to Walnut along Interstate 80. …

Catching up: Central College, which last fall sued the Davis Brown law firm and Piper Jaffray alleging the school got bad advice in a bond-refinancing deal, apparently has had second thoughts. Piper Jaffray was awarded summary judgment in December after Central lawyer Steven Fieweger “acknowledged that after careful consideration [Central] had filed no resistance” to the motion. Davis Brown also sought summary judgment, and the court said that if Central didn’t respond by last Friday it would grant the judgment. No response was filed.

The college had asked for more than $1 million in damages when the refinancing ran afoul of federal rules, causing Central to have to pay $276,443.74 to the Internal Revenue Service, the suit in Marion County district court alleged. The firms and lawyer David VanSickel vigorously denied the malpractice charges, saying in effect that Central caused its own problems. …

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The three people who estimate the state’s revenue — Dave Roederer of the Governor’s staff, Holly Lyons of the Legislative Services Agency, and retired businessman David Underwood — meet next week to update their forecast for the fiscal year ending June 30. They’ll probably be tempted to lower their forecast. At the moment, they are estimating revenue of $6.949 billion, an increase of 3.8 percent from fiscal 2015. But the increase is running at just 3 percent through February, so the state is missing its target by about $55 million. …

Oops. In its online edition, The Des Moines Register wished happy birthday again this weekend to Chris Green — just as it did last year. Chris Green died 14 months ago. …

Cityview joins those saddened by the death of Don Rowen. For decades, he was an influential force for good in Des Moines and in Iowa, a labor leader who cared deeply for the workingman and for the community. His father, he said a couple of years ago, was “a staunch Republican and member of the Ku Klux Klan,” which is how “I came to know right from wrong.” He used that knowledge to fight for fairness and facilities for the downtrodden and the disadvantaged. He was 87 when he died on Thursday of kidney failure. CV

A letter to sen. Grassley

Dear Senator Grassley,

Let’s try to look at this whole thing logically.

First of all, what if someone said, “Senator, you have only nine months left in your term before the next election. We don’t know if you’ll be re-elected. So we don’t think you should vote on anything in the United States Senate for the remainder of your term. Let the people decide on the issues that will come up.” You would think that absurd.

But that is what you are saying to the President in this Supreme Court matter.

Second, you have had a mighty run in politics in general and in the United States Senate in particular. No one in this state has served so long in the Senate, and few people in America have. At the end of this term, you will be among the 20 longest-serving Senators in the history of this nation. If you win a seventh term, and serve it out, you will be the fifth-longest-serving Senator in all of history — fifth on a list of 1,961! — behind only Robert Byrd and Dan Inouye and Strom Thurmond and Ted Kennedy, legends all. Ahead of Daniel Webster and Henry Clay and Robert Taft and Robert LaFollette and John F. Kennedy.

But you are imperiling your chances for that final term. You will be running on a ticket that could well be headed by Donald Trump, which is not a great thing for you politically, and you can bet that Democrats and independents — incensed over your Supreme Court power play — will pour money and manpower into beating you. For the first time since you first ran and ousted John Culver, you’ll have a real race. The Democrats will find someone — they have until Friday of next week, at 5 p.m., to get on the ballot — to take you on and spend tens of millions of dollars. They will drain your supporters of their dollars and you of your stamina. Win or lose, is that what you want in your final race?

Third, you have been almost untouched by controversy in your decades of public service. You have polished your image as a watchdog against excessive spending, as a protector of Iowa’s agricultural interests, and, more recently,  as just kind of the really nice old guy — the beloved uncle who watches the History Channel and tweets scores of girls basketball games.

But that image is flying out the window. Right now, you look vindictive. And, for the first time in your career, you look somewhere between uncomfortable and unbalanced. You have always been congenial; now you seem confused. You have always been rational; now you seem rattled. You seemed close to losing it in the rant at the end of the Kathie Obradovich interview, which was taped and is making the rounds. That’s not you. Or at least it’s not who Iowans think you are. This fight with the White House is getting to you.

Fourth, you really like your role as the non-lawyer chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and it is powerful. Indeed, you recently leveraged your post into persuading the Democratic president into appointing two Republicans to the federal bench in Iowa — and then you got them quickly confirmed by a Senate that has been sitting on other nominations for months. That was astounding. You know how to use power.

But you are putting yourself in danger of losing that cherished Judiciary Committee chairmanship and that power by stiff-arming the White House. Whether you are re-elected or not, the Republicans now are in real danger of losing control of the Senate. The Iowa Electronic Markets — a University of Iowa business school site in which people bet (real money) on how the elections will turn out — has changed markedly in recent days and bettors now are heavily backing “Republican House, Democratic Senate.” The abrupt change came at about the same time you and Sen. Mitch McConnell took your stance. Last week, the Cook Report — the nonpartisan watcher of politics — moved your race from “solid Republican” to “likely Republican.” And your approval rating is dropping.

Fifth, you have been a shrewd negotiator as you have risen through the ranks of the Senate.

But now you are refusing to negotiate. Now you look stubborn, not shrewd. I’m told you said nothing in the meeting last week with the President — that Sen. McConnell did all the talking — and that you seemed uncomfortable. Do you grasp that this is not a political issue — it’s a Constitutional one? And you — and Sen. McConnell — are viewed by many as men who are trashing the Constitution. That’s not a good image.

So here’s the situation, Senator. By telling the President that you will neither advise nor consent when he sends up a nominee for the Supreme Court — that instead you will just ignore and resent — you are doing great harm. Harm to the nation by trashing the Constitution. And harm to yourself. You are risking your reputation in the nation, your image here at home — and your power in the United States Senate.

Are you sure you want to do that?

Thirty-five years ago, one of your predecessors, Roger Jepsen, took on the Reagan White House over its plan to sell radar planes to Saudi Arabia. The White House called him in. “We stood him up in front of the grave and told him he could jump in if he wanted to,” a White House aide said. Jepsen chose not to jump. He changed his vote.

Please be careful, Senator. It’s possible the White House is showing you your grave. CV

Respectfully,
Michael Gartner, constituent

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