Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Governor Culver Cancels Fundraiser for Health Forum

Iowa Governor Chet Culver's office has now given up on a possible moneymaker to help with that health summit that takes place in Des Moines next Monday. Moneymaker may be the wrong word here. Perhaps, a money-get-backer. (The Des Moines Register broke this story earlier today.) Some Republicans are calling this the "Pay to Sit Scandal."

The gov's office sent out a message to certain health care groups asking for contributions of $5,000 or more to help offset the state's $30,000 costs of putting on President Obama's event at the Polk County Convention Complex. The sponsorship idea has now been scrapped. The gov's office says it thought it was allowed to do it. But now the White House is saying not to do it. Here's a response we received from the gov's Deputy Chief of Staff Phil Roeder about what has happened, along with the original email sent out seeking the money. A Republican who would love to challenge Culver in the governor's race next year, Bob VanderPlaats has already criticized Culver for the idea. VPlaats seems to be a lot more aggressive early on in this "campaign" than he has at this point the other times he ran for governor. I'll attach his news release at the bottom of all of this.

First, here is the statement from Phil Roeder:

First of all, we’re honored to have a chance to host one of the White House Health Summits in Iowa. In fact, the event in Iowa may be the largest of any of the summits in the nation, and we now expect more than 500 people.

Our office had been informed by the White House that sponsorships could be used to defray the expen
se of hosting the Health Summit. Based on that, we contacted several organizations that have an interest in health care to let them know of this opportunity. While there was interest in underwriting the expense of this event, the White House today informed us that sponsorships are not going to be allowed.

The budget for this event is more than $30,000, which will now be paid for with a combination of state and federal funds. The summit in Iowa may have more public participation than any such event in the nation, and this is an expense that the State will make in order to host this regional forum on a critical issue.

The email was sent to the following organizations:

American Cancer Society
Child and Family Policy Center
Delta Dental
Federation of Iowa Insurers
Greater Des Moines Partnership
Iowa Foundation for Medical Care
Iowa Health System
Iowa Hospital Association
Iowa Medical Society
Iowa Pharmacy Association
Mercy Medical Center
Principal Financial Group
SEIU/Change to Win
United Way of Central Iowa
University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics

We sought sponsorships to try and offset the expense to the State, at a time when Iowa and every state in the nation is facing budget cuts, based upon input we were receiving from the White House. Given what the White House informed us of today, we will make use of State funds to cover the expense of what we feel is a very important event.


Fri, 13 Mar 2009 14:14:25 -0500
Walton, Kate [IGOV]

Walton, Kate [IGOV]

As you have heard, the White House has selected Iowa as one of five host sites for a regional forum on health reform. The event will take place Monday, March 23rd at 10:00am at the Convention Center in Des Moines. We are still sorting through many of the details of the event and we are looking to secure sponsorships to help defray the cost of the event.

Attached you will find a document that provides some additional information on event sponsorship. We are hoping sponsors could participate at the $5,000 level, but are certainly open to discussion if that amount is in excess of what you are able to do, but you would still like to be included as a sponsor. Event sponsors will be visibly acknowledged at the event, so we would appreciate you sharing your organization’s logo if you choose to participate.

Because participation in the forum is limited to 500 people, we will be setting aside tickets for event sponsors. Unfortunately I can’t tell you at this time how many tickets sponsors will receive. I do provide assurances that any tickets would be above and beyond tickets your organization may have received through ticketing process AND if you choose to not to be a sponsor that will, in no way, affect the tickets your organization will receive for the event.

Please feel free to contact me with any questions. I appreciate your consideration and interest in this event.
Kate WaltonSenior Policy AnalystOffice of Governor Chet Culver and Lt. Governor Patty Judge1007 E. Grand AvenueDes Moines, Iowa 50319Direct: 515/281-4495Main: 515/281-5211Fax: 515/281-6611E-mail:

Now here's what Team VP had to say:



SIOUX CITY – Gov. Chet Culver’s plan to have Iowa businesses, unions or interest groups pay to participate in a health care forum underscores his administration’s mismanagement of the state budget, Bob Vander Plaats said this afternoon.

Culver’s office has dropped a plan to have health-care interest groups pay $5,000 each to sponsor a health-care reform meeting after The Des Moines Register raised questions about the practice. The forum, set for next Monday, is being co-hosted by the White House. A Culver spokesman said Wednesday afternoon that “the White House today informed us that sponsorships are not going to be allowed.”

“Public-private partnerships have their place but our state government wouldn’t need to be out there holding a tin cup and begging for money if Chet Culver and legislative Democrats hadn’t mismanaged the state budget to the tune of $900 million in additional spending in just the last two years,” said Vander Plaats, who has formed a 2010 gubernatorial campaign committee. “The fact of the matter is that Iowans have been left holding the bag for the tremendous amount of unnecessary government growth just these last two years under Chet Culver. Under his watch, state government has 2,600 new full-time equivalent employees in just two years.”

He added, “Chet Culver apparently thinks it’s OK to steal a page out of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich’s playbook. The idea that he’d tell groups that they’d be guaranteed a place at the health care forum if they ponied up $5,000 is as brazen of a pay-to-play mentality as you’ll ever find.”

Culver spokesman Phillip Roeder said the governor’s office solicited 17 organizations, businesses or unions for money to defray the $30,000 cost of the event.

“I’m all for public-private cooperation and, as governor, I’ll look for innovative approaches to benefit Iowa taxpayers. But this quid pro quo of cash for a voice in a serious public policy discussion is just over the top,” Vander Plaats said. “If Governor Culver and legislative Democrats hadn’t overspent this year’s budget by $775 million they just might have been able to come up with their half of the $30,000 this event will cost.”

A White House spokeswoman said the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will be splitting the cost of the event with the state.

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