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Civic Skinny

Rastetter and Fred Hubbell led political givers of 2014.


Gleanings from the final round of campaign reports from state and local candidates:

Bruce Rastetter appears to have given more money to state and local candidates last year than any other Iowan.  All told, he gave $104,846.19, according to reports on file at the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board.

Almost half of the money — $50,000 — went to House Speaker Kraig Paulsen’s committee; Paulsen used that to support the party and, in a roundabout way, to funnel money to Republican candidates for the Iowa House, which remained firmly in GOP hands after the Nov. 4 election. All told, Paulsen’s committee gave $950,000 to the state party last year. (Gov. Terry Branstad’s committee gave the party $826,950.)

Rastetter, a mega-rich agri-businessman and head of the Iowa Board of Regents, gave $10,000 to Gov. Terry Branstad in 2014, adding to the $45,000 or so he gave the governor in 2013.

The second biggest giver last year — just a few dollars behind Rastetter — appears to have been Des Moines Democrat Fred Hubbell, who wrote checks for $104,150. He gave $70,000 to Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jack Hatch — on top of $15,000 given in 2013 — and $15,000 to the state party. Hubbell, a retired insurance-company executive, and his wife, Charlotte, also gave $20,000 to “Planned Parenthood Voters of Iowa.”


Hubbell also gave $250 to Republican legislator Peter Cownie, which was $250 more than Cownie’s mother or father, Jim and Patty Cownie, gave. But scores of friends of the elder Cownies, from both parties, contributed to Peter Cownie’s re-election campaign. Among them: Bill Knapp, George Cataldo, Duke Reichardt, Suku Radia, Mary O’Keefe, George Milligan, Steve Lacy, Gerry Neugent, John Ruan (father and son) and Gary Kirke. Peter Cownie’s father-in-law, Bill Tiffany, gave $350. (Peter Cownie, a Republican in a safe district in West Des Moines, didn’t need the money. Indeed, his campaign turned around and gave $185,000 to the Republican state party, which makes him a very popular guy in the party,)

Though he didn’t give to his son, Jim Cownie did give $56,075 to others last year. His biggest contribution: $25,000 to Paulsen’s committee. He gave $10,000 to “Friends for Dix,” the committee that senate minority leader Bill Dix runs. Cownie also gave $13,625 to Branstad.

Harry Bookey, like Hubbell, went all-out for Hatch. He gave the losing Democrat $45,000 in 2014, which followed a $10,000 contribution in 2013. All told, Bookey and his wife, Pamela Bass Bookey, made $74,969.93 in political contributions last year, including $19,700 to the state party.  Tim and Toni Urban gave $14,000 to Hatch.

Bill Knapp, the real-estate developer who is the first person that Democrats call when they’re thinking of running for office, gave $79,275 to state politicians last year — but $15,000 of that went to Republican Branstad (following a $20,000 contribution to Branstad in 2013). Knapp gave $20,000 to the Iowa Democratic party, $10,000 to Polk County Democrats and $6,000 to Democrat Brad Anderson, who lost a close race to become Secretary of State. Knapp also gave $3,750 to Hatch, probably to keep peace in the family. Susan Knapp gave $27,600 to Hatch over the two-year election cycle.

Politicians, who spend much of their time raising money, gave little in the past year, which fits the pattern. Sen. Chuck Grassley gave zero, and his wife gave just $25 — to the Polk County Republican Women’s Club. Outgoing Sen. Tom Harkin gave zero and his wife, Ruth, gave $1,000 to Brad Anderson. Steve King gave nothing. Dave Loeback and his wife gave $450 — $100 to Hatch and the rest to four local candidates in Linn County. Bruce Braley, who lost an $85 million Senate race to Joni Ernst, gave $125, to Anderson. In the past two years, Ernst gave $25 to the Montgomery County Republican Women, $35 to the Benton County Republican Central Committee, $7.50 in an in-kind contribution to the Marion County Republican Central Committee and $10 in-kind to the Hamilton County committee. She and her husband together gave $100 to the successful Iowa senate campaign of Dan Zumbach of Delaware County.

Former politicians also were not big givers. Former governor — and perhaps future Congressional candidate — Chet Culver gave $750 last year, all to Brad Anderson. Former Gov. Tom Vilsack and his wife, Christi, gave $1,750, including $1,000 to Hatch. Longtime Congressman Neal Smith gave $1,500 — $1,000 to the Polk County party, $250 to the state party and $250 to the re-election campaign of Attorney General Tom Miller. Miller himself gave $700 — $500 to the unsuccessful state legislative campaign of Assistant Attorney General Nathan Blake, and $185 to the Dubuque County Democratic committee.

Sitting politicians note that they often give to others — directly or indirectly — through their own political action committees. That is true, but it’s also true that that is not their own money. Then they note that by and large they aren’t wealthy. That is also sometimes true.

The Iowa Democratic Party received 10 contributions of $20,000 or more from individuals in 2014, and all were from out-of-staters. Five of the 10 checks came from Henry H. Goldberg, a real-estate developer and investor with addresses in Maryland and Florida, and his wife, Carol B. Goldberg. He gave the Iowa party checks of $50,000, $25,000 and $20,000 last year, and she threw in two more $20,000 checks.

The state Republican Party got just two checks of $20,000 or more. Both were for $25,000. One was from Tim and Brenda Kapucian of Keystone, Iowa, and the other from lawyer and legislator Chris Hagenow of Windsor Heights.

The state Democratic Party got big checks from labor. Public Employees Organized to Promote Legislative Equality, the national political arm of AFSCME, gave $950,000, while the state branch of AFSCME added $150,000. The teachers’ union in Iowa gave $375,000, and the committee controlled by Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal gave the party $385,000.

Odds and ends from the campaign deports:

Odd: Sam Clovis, the losing candidate for state treasurer — a job that requires precision in finance and reporting — is listed as “delinquent” in filing the campaign report that was due Jan. 19.

End: David Vaudt, who resigned after 10 years as state auditor in the middle of 2013 to become chairman of the Government Accounting Standards Board in Norwalk, Connecticut, cleaned out his political account in the latest period. He donated the money, about $118,000, to the state Republican Party. The Connecticut appointment was for one seven-year term. …

A final note on money: According to the magazine for the Iowa Bar Association, “a survey of all members conducted between Nov. 17 and Dec. 2 showed 67 percent believe that providing legal services to Iowans who can’t afford an attorney is a societal issue, not an attorney issue.” CV

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