Saturday, March 31, 2007

Where's the Breck Girl When You Need Her?

A producer came into our newsroom asking for hair spray. I assumed there was some type of joke on the know, about tv anchors or reporters. Nope, turned out a guest needed some. Tom Tancredo. We gave him a few squirts. Is that a campaign contribution?

BTW, Tancredo's making his official announcement Monday morning in Des Moines on Jan Mickelson's show on WHO radio.

Tommy Thompson officially joins the ranks of candidates Sunday a.m. He'll announce again in Des Moines Wednesday a.m. So there's the pre-announcement, the announcement and the re-announcement. No wonder these campaigns have to start so early.

Speaking of this campaigning, Hillary Clinton's coming back next week. She'll head to Mt. Pleasant. Any guesses who will stand by her side in that town? Perhaps, the man she's helping to get out of debt...Oh, wait, that's not happening anymore.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Who Wants to Pay Da Bills?

Tom Vilsack runs for President. Tom Vilsack drops out. Tom Vilsack's in debt. Tom Vilsack endorses Hillary Clinton (let's forget about the whole Iraq difference for now). Hillary Clinton's peeps say she'll help Vilsack pay off debt. Tom Vilsack says no, she won't. Now, what?

I sat down with Iowa's former Gov today. He told me Mrs. C is not going to help with his red bank account ($430,000 or so in debt). Monday night, Clinton's camp said she would help Vilsack find some money. The campaign emphasized the endorsement didn't come with a price; no payback here.

But Vilsack maintains he's taken out a personal loan to pay off his bills, and he will pay it back in whatever time it takes (he wanted to make sure he paid his staff a final two weeks' pay and benefits after he closed down his campaign).

So from where will all this money come? Vilsack says he has friends in Iowa who are strongly supporting Clinton, but who also think he did a good job as Gov. They will help him pay his bills. Clinton's campaign says pretty much the same thing today as Monday: the Clintons and Vilsacks are friends and have been friends for decades. The Senator's willing to do what she can to help her friend, Tom Vilsack. So is she helping him with this or not?

(Courtesy: Orlando Journal-Sentinel)

On a lighter front (or tanner front/back)...if you were wondering where Vilsack got that clearly not-from-Iowa-right-now tan, he says he spent some time at the Spring Training site of his beloved Pittsburgh Pirates in Bradenton, Florida. Vilsack's friends with the Bucs' owner.

Vilsack says the last time he went to a Pirates' spring game, the team had a winning year (it was something like 15 years ago). He's predicting another one this time. The Underdog flies again.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Clinton Calling for Cash, Not Just For Her

Your phone rings and Hillary Clinton's on the other end. She wants money. But not just for her. She's agreed to help Tom Vilsack pay off the big bucks he owes after his failed attempt to become President (I hear it's about $430,000 and he's determined to pay staffers for all their dedication). Clinton's peeps say this is NOT (emphasis added to reflect what I heard on the phone from the campaign) a payback. She's not paying off his debt in exchange for his endorsement.

Other democratic campaigns are also (gladly) pointing to South Carolina right now. Darrell Jackson, a state senator there, and apparently a pretty influential least, that's what I read, also endorsed Clinton. He's now getting $10,000 a month to consult the campaign. The Clinton campaign also denies any type of deal for his endorsement.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Elizabeth Edwards Health Announcement

Thursday morning at 11 Central time, we should know more about the health of Elizabeth Edwards. The campaign says both Mrs. and Senator John Edwards will hold a news conference in North Carolina to discuss her health.

I talked with the Des Moines office around 10:30 pm Wednesday. (They were still working, by the way) Press Secretary Mark McCullough directed me to the national office, which isn't saying much more about what's happening.

I had expected to talk with Senator Edwards Tuesday night during a house party in Indianola. But just two hours before the wine and cheese party was scheduled to start, the Senator called the host to say he had to cancel. Edwards said his wife got some unexpected news from the doctor following her checkup earlier in the day and he had to fly back home right away.

Edwards' campaign seemed to have a different spin on what was transpiring. A release said Mrs. Edwards just had a routine followup appointment scheduled for Wednesday and that the Senator wanted to be with her, since he usually accompanies her to the doctor. That take seemed a lot less urgent than what I was told from the site of the house party.

Let's hope all the worry is unneeded. Let's hope Mrs. Edwards breast cancer isn't back. Let's hope we don't have to watch the Senator halt his campaign while his wife gets treatment. Let's hope everything is really o.k. Let's hope.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Edwards Skips Iowa Event; Another Cancer Scare?

John Edwards is skipping an Indianola house party event tonight to fly back to his wife, who's battling breast cancer. I talked to Ray Walton, the man hosting the wine and cheese event. He said Edwards called him about 4pm, about two hours before the party was scheduled to start. Walton said Senator Edwards told him Elizabeth got some unexpected test results back from the doctor and he had to fly back home immediately.
The campaign called supporters who had planned on going to the party to say the Senator hoped to reschedule the event soon.
Here's the campaign's take on it:
Chapel Hill, North Carolina - The John Edwards for President campaign released the following statement about the cancellation of Senator Edwards' house party tonight in Indianola, Iowa.
"Mrs. Edwards is having a follow-up medical appointment tomorrow to a routine test she had on Monday. She's had similar follow-ups in the past and they've all resulted in a clean bill of health, but Senator Edwards has gone with her to these appointments and he wanted to be with her tomorrow too."

Monday, March 19, 2007

You're Hired, Part III

Ah, the relaxation of retirement. First, Tom Vilsack retired as Governor, and then he retired as a Presidential candidate. Tomorrow, we find out about another way he'll stay busy. Vilsack's already taken a part time teaching position with Drake University and a consultant's position with MidAmerican Energy. Now, this...(it just arrived courtesy of the Iowa Senate Democrats)

Former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack Appointed to the Institute For Tomorrow’s Workforce Board

11:00 a.m., Tuesday, March 20, 2007

What: Iowa Senate President John (Jack) Kibbie will announce the appointment of Thomas J. Vilsack, former Governor of Iowa, to the Institute For Tomorrow’s Workforce (ITW) Board of Directors.

The Institute for Tomorrow’s Workforce (ITW), a state-level non-profit foundation, was created by the Iowa legislature in 2005 to develop recommendations for quality educational opportunities for all Iowa’s learners pre-K through post-secondary to meet the workforce needs of Iowa in the global economy and to assure their success in the 21st Century.

The three areas under consideration this legislative session are: statewide standards and clear, 21st-century learning expectations for all students; standards and benchmarks for a quality educational delivery system; and implementing the 2001 Career Ladder for teachers with professional levels of compensation.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Mac at the Mic

I counted about a dozen times I heard John McCain use Ronald Reagan's name during his town hall meeting in Ames. Coincidence or concerted effort to win over the nostalgic conservatives?

In fact, he even said Reagan's the reason he got into politics. And he used one of Reagan's famous Iowa lines...that (while Reagan was Prez) he hadn't seen that much pork since he was giving out the Blue Ribbons at the Iowa State Fair. The line brought a few laughs.

I also got some time to sit down with the Sen. and his wife for a bit. We're putting that story together to run Monday night at 10pm. They talked about why he's trying to be a player in Iowa this time, what the Mrs. sees around the house that'll make her hubby a good Prez, and how they escape the campaign. (They also gave me a honeymoon destination suggestion. Thanks, btw)

As you know, McCain likes to drop a few funnies on the trail. Here's one, along with a little slip of the tongue...

The funny came after a series of annoyingly loud "pops" by the microphone McCain was using at the town hall..

Here's a cell phone pic I snapped off while riding on The Straight Talk Express from The Iowa Statehouse to the town hall meeting in Ames.

Two V.I.P.'s made the trip, one current, one former. That's Minnesota Gov Tim Pawlenty in the back and former metro U.S. Rep. Greg Ganske.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

McCoy Indicted: Dems to the Defense?

Those long-whispered rumors about trouble for Des Moines Senator Matt McCoy got a lot louder with a criminal indictment. The U.S. Attorney's office charged him with one count of extortion.

The attorney charged that McCoy used his power as a public official to threaten a former business partner and extort money out of him (the feds say they provided the money). The two men were setting up a private company that puts motion detectors in a home so you can check on elderly relatives over the internet.

McCoy told me he doesn't recall any threat (which the feds say are recorded during a secret taping with McCoy's former biz partner) McCoy does say it was a "heated argument" but that he doesn't recall exactly what was said. The feds say McCoy wanted money or he'd make sure his former partner wouldn't get the state contract to buy the equipment for Medicaid patients.

How are the dems coming to McCoy's defense? Here's what top dem Mike Gronstal had to say in a news release this afternoon:

A Statement from Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal Regarding the indictment of State Senator Matt McCoy

"Iowans want, expect, and deserve to have their legislators function in a way that meets a high ethical standard. Senate Democrats are committed to ensuring that all our members meet those high ethical standards.

"Naturally, we are concerned about the criminal indictment against Senator McCoy. If true, these are serious charges.

"Obviously, like any other U.S. citizen, Senator McCoy is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
"In consultation with Senator McCoy, we will continue to monitor this matter to assure there are no real or perceived conflicts of interest as it relates to his ongoing legislative duties."

I was searching for a McCoy pic and found this. Who knew Lloyd Braun's real name is also Matt McCoy?

Monday, March 12, 2007

Holy Smokes, What's Up, Chuck?

So just how close will that vote be tomorrow at the Statehouse to up the cig tax? Governor Chet Culver with his Catholic, former smoker, Lt Gov Patty Judge, by his side, told us that the Catholics are behind the effort. That's an argument I haven't heard so far in this debate. But Tom Chapman, the Exec Director of The Iowa Catholic Conference, said this is a pro-life issue. A higher cig tax will stop people from smoking, so it will save lives and it will help insure the uninsured and Catholics, he says, believe in covering the uninsured.

Jamie Van Fossen, the anti-taxer and Catholic Republican Rep. from Davenport, called the approach, "interesting". He doesn't remember learning the parable in Church of the importance of raising taxes.

How about that announcement-that-he'll-make-his-announcement-later from Chuck Hagel today? Sunday night, I was thinking of pitching to my boss to send me to Omaha to cover Hagel's 10 a.m. address. I assumed Hagel would announce he was running. Instead, he's going to think it over with his family and decide later. Sure glad I never called my boss last night...