Tuesday, December 5, 2023

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Civic Skinny

Jerry Crawford v. Doug Gross in court? Not this round.


It sounded too good to be true. And, alas, it was.

The best show in town this fall could have been on Nov. 5 at Drake University, with lawyers Jerry Crawford and Doug Gross squaring off for the first time in a courtroom.

Republican Gross and Democrat Crawford are old hands at politics — the Washington Post this year called Crawford “something of a kingmaker back home in Iowa,” and “Iowa Republican strategist Doug Gross” seems to be Gross’ official name in national news stories — and they are periodic combatants on television political shows. But they have never faced each other in court.

There was talk, though, that that was about to change. Gross’ firm represents the Clarke County Development Corp. and Crawford’s firm Affinity Gaming and HGI-Lakeside in a lawsuit over how the Lakeside Casino’s gaming revenue is supposed to be distributed. Crawford’s partner, Nick Mauro, won a summary judgment from Federal Judge John Jarvey in April of this year, and Gross’ firm then appealed to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The Circuit Court, which usually meets in St. Louis or St. Paul, will hear the arguments in a special session at the Drake University Law School next month. Each side will have 20 minutes to make its case in the courtroom located in the Neal and Bea Smith Law Center at Drake. The judges will be Iowans Steve Colloton and Jane Kelly as well as Judge Lavenski Smith of Arkansas.

The word was that Crawford and Gross themselves were going to argue the issue.

But on Friday, Crawford told Cityview that he wouldn’t be the guy on stage.  “I want to with every fiber of my being,” he said. But, “there are some procedural issues in that we were both fact witnesses in the proceeding below, which would make it awkward for us to argue the appeal.” Gross on Friday said he hadn’t decided whether he’d argue his side.

But if Crawford were going to do it, “I would definitely do ours,” he said. “Too bad. Decent theater.” …

Rox Laird, who joined the late, lamented Des Moines Tribune in 1972, moved to the Register when the Tribune was killed in 1982, and joined the editorial page a year or so later, is taking a buyout from the paper. He was an expert on municipal and legal matters, and he walks out the door with 43 years of institutional memory. …

Don’t worry about the Meredith executives if the sale to Media General goes through and the new board decides to get rid of them. If that happens within two years of the sale, according to a Meredith proxy statement sent to stockholders last week, chief executive Steve Lacy would walk away with more than $10 million in salary, bonus and incentives, with over $18 million in pension benefits and with an additional $11 million from immediate vesting of stock options and incentive payments.

Lacy, whose compensation last year from salary and stock and added pension value totaled about $7.2 million, is slated to become chief executive of the combined companies. But if the new board ordered him to office in Richmond, Va., where Media General is based, he could refuse, and the rich buyout would take effect. He can’t be ordered to “relocate to a place more than 25 miles distant.”

A bid by Nexstar to buy Media General could scuttle the whole deal, however. Last week, Meredith filed a press release with the Securities and Exchange Commission saying the board of both Meredith and Media General “continue to recommend” the deal and that Meredith remains “confident in the strategic rationale behind the merger and the shareholder value it will create.” …

It often takes months — or longer— for federal judicial nominees to get hearings scheduled in Congress, but Sen. Charles Grassley plans to set a hearing on Oct. 21 — next week — on the nominations of Leonard Strand and Rebecca Ebinger to become judges in Iowa. Both were proposed by Grassley, and both now have been nominated by President Barack Obama — even though both are Republicans. Politicians figure the appointment of two Republicans by a Democratic president is part of a larger deal the President has made with Grassley, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee and can hold up or kill judicial nominations.

Grassley’s tenure as committee chair could end next year. No one expects the six-term Iowa Republican to lose, but it’s quite possible the Republicans could lose control of the Senate.  The Republicans have a four-seat majority in the Senate, so the Democrats need just four (if they keep the White House) or five seats (if they lose it) to regain control.

“The GOP’s majority is flimsy,” the respected and nonpartisan analyst Charlie Cook wrote last week. “Republicans have 24 seats at risk next year, compared to just 10 for the Democrats, and seven are in states that President Obama carried in 2012.” He noted that one of those six — Grassley — “is widely seen as both unbeatable and unlikely to retire.” But the other six, he said, “are in real danger.” He went on to note that no incumbent Democrat up for re-election is in a state that Mitt Romney carried in 2012.

With 13 months to go before the election, the Cook Report lists Steve King’s district as solidly Republican, Dave Loebsack’s as likely Democratic, David Young’s as leaning Republican, and Rod Blum’s as a tossup. …

Danny Homan, who heads AFSCME in Iowa, was elected first vice chair of the state Democratic Party over the weekend. He succeeds Jim Mowrer, who quit earlier in the year when he decided to run for Congress. CV

Excerpt: Pigs

From an article in Natural History magazine:

“…Pigs deserve inclusion in the ‘smart’ animal club. Pigs live in complex social communities, they love to play, and they recognize each other as individuals. They are adept at solving mazes and other tests involving object location, and they can recognize a simple symbolic language. They have excellent long-term memories….Pigs feel a range of emotions, and they respond to each other’s emotional states.”

For the record, there are 21 million hogs in Iowa.

Try not to hurt their feelings. CV

Comment: Yes, crazy.

The argument in the lawsuit against Gov. Terry Branstad for closing the mental-health facilities in Mount Pleasant and Clarinda took place in Judge Douglas Staskal’s courtroom in Des Moines last week.

Mark Hedberg is representing AFSCME and the score or so of Democratic lawmakers who contend Branstad does not have the authority to close the institutions, which were established by the Iowa Constitution. Jeffrey Thompson, the state’s solicitor general, argued that the governor has the constitutional power to veto spending bills and that that is all-powerful. An excerpt from Tony Leys’s story in the Friday Register:

“Hedberg raised the possibility that under Thompson’s argument, the governor could theoretically do away with a whole branch of government by vetoing its annual appropriation. For example, Helberg said, the governor could get rid of the entire court system that way.

“The judge asked Thompson whether he believed Hedberg’s hypothetical situation had merit. If the governor was displeased with judges’ decisions, could he use his veto power to shut down the court system? Thompson called it ‘an extreme example.’ But then he said, ‘Yes, I think that could happen. It’s crazy, but it’s possible.’”


And scary. CV

— Michael Gartner

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