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Civic Skinny

Register reporter calls Obama ‘cult leader.’ More Harkin fallout. Dick Olson cheats death.


More on the fallout from Tom Harkin’s decision not to run again in 2014. It’s becoming more and more clear there will be primaries in both parties as state politicians eye the First District Congressional seat that Bruce Braley will vacate as he seeks Harkin’s seat. And it’s becoming more and more clear that Braley won’t have a primary.

As Skinny has reported, it’s likely Speaker of the House Kraig Paulsen will seek the GOP nomination in the First District, but Republicans say he’ll have a very tough primary, though they aren’t saying from whom. And Democratic legislators Pat Murphy and Liz Mathis are looking hard at the seat, Democrats say. But Senate President Pam Jochum, who had been thinking about it, told the Democratic blog Bleeding Heartland this week that she wouldn’t run. But, she said, she might run for governor.

The fallout from all that: If Paulsen runs, he has to give up his legislative seat, win or lose. That would indicate that Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer would step up and become Speaker — if the GOP maintains control of the House after 2014 — but GOP insiders say that’s anything but a sure thing. In fact, they say, it’s a sure unthing. Among names mentioned: Chris Hagenow of Windsor Heights and, if he’s interested, Pete Cownie. (Hagenow would bring zeal, Cownie money and donuts.) One problem: Hagenow barely kept his seat in November, edging Democrat Susan Judkins by just 23 votes out of 17,478 cast. Cownie, on the other hand, won by 2,200 votes in his West Des Moines district. …

Richard Olson, former Drake football player and former mayor of Des Moines, is recovering in his winter home in Arizona after a severe reaction to a new blood thinner caused him to nearly bleed to death. The councilman and two-term mayor during the 1970s was an ardent supporter of many Des Moines landmarks including the Civic Center, the Botanical Center and the skywalk system. He was the former Agency Manager for the Des Moines office of The Bankers Life Company, which is now known as Principal Financial Group. Olson was the first manager to be inducted into The Bankers Life/Principal Financial Group Agency Managers Hall of Fame. …

A reader suggested we “check out the ultra conservative political rants from the Register’s ‘young professionals’ writer Todd Erzen.” So we did. On Erzen’s Facebook page, he declares that President Obama is “officially the leader of a cult” and rants about a litany of other topics including abortion. The woman who contacted us said that at one time, The Des Moines Register forbade its reporters from this type of activity. She’s right, in part. The newspaper did and still does have a policy in its code of ethics to prevent staff from placing political signs in their yards. The policy also addresses social media comments, according to editor Rick Green. He tells Skinny that he wasn’t aware of the Erzen posts but would certainly look into them. The woman who informed us of this says a staff email from Green in November also instructed every staffer that they were in no way allowed to attend the Bruce Springsteen concert/Obama rally. Green’s response: “Absolutely true. It wasn’t a concert. It was a campaign event, and our reporters did not need to be there.” The Register’s editorial board, which includes Green, endorsed Mitt Romney for president.

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In other Register news, a guy called Cityview about last week’s Datebook, which featured a theater review by Michael Morain on “Spank.” Morain admits in the review that he has neither read the book on which it was based (“50 Shades of Grey”) nor seen the actual play. Meanwhile, this guy tells Cityview that the current issue of Juice features a “glowing review” of “Spank” written by Emily Genco. The caller wondered why one play was reviewed by two different reporters if both publications are owned by The Des Moines Register. “I feel cheated as a subscriber, and upon further review, I’m frustrated,” he said. “I paid for a null review (Datebook) and get a full review for free (Juice).” He added that people who will most likely attend the show and read those types of risqué novels are typically older, the very people more likely to subscribe to the Register and read Datebook. “Joan Bunke is probably turning over in her grave right now,” he added while referring to Datebook as “Prune Juice.” …                

Chuck Grassley tweets: “Newspaper stories about Harkin papers and where they may be donated brought up Q abt my papers. I picked UNI in 1988 to deposit mine.” …                

An apparently somewhat-avid Cityview reader sent an email asking Skinny, “I may have missed an edition, but what happened to Heather (Burnside) and why has Jackie (Schmillen) moved from KCCI to “Great Day” (morning show on KCWI)? You are usually on top of this.” Well, here’s the belated answer. Heather Burnside left KCWI’s “Great Day” in early December and is back in the radio business, filling in for Pam Dixon in the Maxwell and Pam morning show. Dixon has been dealing with side effects from chemotherapy treatment. Jackie Schmillen left KCCI in January to join “Great Day.” She was doing traffic reports at KCCI and was eager to take on the opportunity to “co-anchor a three-hour, live morning show and do more of the things she likes to do,” according to KCWI marketing director Mike Cunningham. …                

Special Olympics Iowa has hired retired admiral Hal Pittman as president and chief executive. During the past 10 years he has organized youth sports programs in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq. He now lives in Tampa, and he took the job even after visiting Des Moines for four days during the worst ice and snow storm of the season. …                

From the pee-wees to the pros — to somewhere yet to be determined. The Iowa Sports Connection, a magazine founded by publisher Mike Rickord out of his garage in the 1990s, quietly changed ownership a few months ago. Rush Nigut, a business attorney and shareholder at Brick Gentry, P.C. in West Des Moines, with no prior publishing experience, is the new owner. He renamed the publication Sports Spotlight, although the most recent issue looks and feels much the same as it always has. Nigut says he is currently exploring other opportunities for vendor locations to “enhance circulation and become more well known.” Rickord is still involved in sales but no longer manages or owns the company, Skinny hears, but the details are a bit sketchy. The former publisher is rarely at a loss for words, but briefly said “a health scare” started the discussions for the change last July. Nigut is also apparently in discussions with Marty Tirrell, the job-hopping “Mouth of the Midwest” who now offers his rants at The Jock 1490 AM. “That’s not a good connection,” says another guy close to the scene. Maybe not, as Tirrell clearly has a storied past, including the much-publicized, profanity-laced tirade he had with Larry Cotlar on KXNO 1460 AM in 2009 that included 12 on-air f-bombs during what was intended to be a commercial break. CV

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