Friday, October 30, 2009

Purple Matters

"Purple Matters"...did you miss it this week? Here it is...two parts.

Here's the rundown...

Des Moines Senator Matt McCoy wants to get rid of a bunch of superintendents. He wants one per county. How would that work? Could it actually happen?

Tom Shaw wants a job at the Iowa Statehouse. He is going the non-traditional route, as an Independent. He left his party. Actually, he believes the Republican Party left him.

And a West Des Moines businessman who has been satisfying Iowans' sweet tooth for chocolate now has a way to help you save money and help other local business owners stay alive.

Watch and enjoy. I look forward to your opinions!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Huckabee Returns

TPaw vs. Huck: It looks like the first weekend in November could give us a little preview of 2012. Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty headlines the "Leadership for Iowa" dinner at the Iowa State Fairgrounds, a big fundraiser for the Republican Party of Iowa on Saturday, November 7th. The following day, former Arkansas governor and 2008 presidential candidate, Mike Huckabee, is scheduled for a three-city swing through the state to sign copies of his new Christmas book. Anyone seen Sarah Palin?

Monday, October 26, 2009

Governor Culver Explains Hawkeye Comments

Governor Chet Culver "is a huge Clones' fan". That's what he told reporters after the Golden Dome Awards, which honors top-performing state employees (They hope, I'm sure, they won't be among those state workers losing their jobs following the governor's 10% across-the-board cut).

Late Saturday night, Culver's office put out a statement praising the Hawkeyes' historic win in East Lansing. Before the Hawks had even begun their game, the Cyclones pulled off quite a win of their own. They beat Nebraska in Lincoln for the first time since Jimmy Carter was president. My brother, Tom, was also born that year, 1977, in case my family is reading this tonight.

But Culver made no mention of the Cyclones victory. That brought snickers from some Cyclones' fans, wondering where their love from the gov was. Today, the former football coach had to play some defense of his own to explain himself. I'll put the video below. You'll hear him talk about how he put out statements praising the Cyclones earlier in the year. I checked with his office. He never said anything about the Cyclones' football team in any of those statements. His office did send out releases about the Cyclones' women's basketball team last spring.

His spokesman said the gov was talking today about Iowa State Cyclones', not just the football team.

For your viewing pleasure, here's the video from today:

No Christie Vilsack for Senate

Man, that was quick. Less than two weeks ago, former Iowa First Lady Christie Vilsack told me she was thinking about running against Republican Senator Chuck Grassley. This morning, she had someone send out a statement that said she won't run. That was a quick decision process. The statement doesn't say when Vilsack made her decision. But is it any coincidence that announcement has come out when it did? Des Moines Attorney Roxanne Conlin finally broke her silence last Friday and said she was interested in running. I'm told Conlin also showed up at the Polk County Democrats Fall Dinner Saturday night and got introduced to the crowd (was that crowd a bit less because the dinner went head-to-head with that amazing Hawkeye game Saturday night?) Party insiders told me there was no way the Democrats wanted a Conlin-Vilsack primary battle to see who had the chance to become Iowa's first-ever female member of Congress. Insiders said someone would step aside. Now we see who made the first public move and who moved out of the way.

Here's Vilsack's statement:

“My life in public service has taught me many things but one of the most important is an understanding that there are many ways to serve at different points in life. As a career educator, activist and advocate, I have a deep appreciation for the role elected officials play in our communities. My varied experiences – teaching Iowa’s children, advancing literacy across the state during Tom’s term as Governor and now working to support preventative health care – continue to inspire my passion for public service.
Committing to a campaign for the US Senate next year requires more than the confidence that I have the right experience, the necessary support and the resources to be successful. It must come with an understanding that it is the best way for me serve our State and my fellow Iowans in the most effective way possible at this time. I have decided not to run for the United States Senate in 2010. I will continue my work with the Iowa Initiative to Prevent Unintended Pregnancy and will be active in our Party and across the state in issues that affect the quality of life for all Iowans.
I am flattered and humbled by the requests from Democrats, Independents and even some Republicans to consider running. My careful consideration of the opportunity to represent Iowa in the Senate was done with great respect for those who came to me and the office itself.
While I will not be a candidate for office in 2010, never doubt I am committed to a life of service and to Iowa.”

O.K., so I get the Vilsack decision. Here's one I don't get. My St. Louis Cardinals announced that they are bringing in Mark McGwire to be their hitting coach. Yes, THAT McGwire who told Congress he wasn't here "to talk about the past". As a life-long fan...P-L-E-A-S-E tell me he will address his past when he takes this job. He has to apologize for taking performance enhancing drugs, doesn't he? For the kids? For the fans? Surely, Big Mac, you have to, right? We'll be listening.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Challengers Beware: Predictions about Iowa Congressmen

Much of the media's attention has been focused on the Iowa governor's race and the so-called "mystery candidate" to take on Republican Senator Chuck Grassley next year. But a report I saw this weekend has a bit of a warning for anyone thinking of challenging Iowa's congressional incumbents, at least in two of the races.

Congresssional Quarterly has changed its predictions to favor the incumbents. Republicans Dave Funk and Brad Zaun beware: CQ moved 3rd District Democratic Congress Leonard Boswell's re-election race from "likely Democrat" to "safe Democrat". I don't know of a Democratic challenger for 4th District Republican Congress Tom Latham. But CQ changed the race from "likely Republican" to "safe Republican". Here's the report:

And this video has no news value at all. But it shows how important "pausing" is between words:) Check out this anchor's unfortunate lack of a pause when he talks about how his co-anchor is off for the night.

Culver Praises Hawkeyes; Doesn't Mention Cyclones

Iowa Governor Chet Culver gave out some late-night love for the Iowa Hawkeyes, but not a mention for the Iowa State Cylcones. The Hawks had beaten Michigan State for their eighth straight win to start the college football season. They had never done that in their history. The Cylcones made some history themselves. They beat Nebraska in Lincoln for the first time since 1977.

The gov's statement is included below. I also checked around to see if any of the Republican gubernatorial candidates mentioned either team after the games last night. I found only two.


DES MOINES –Governor Chet Culver issued the following statement of congratulations to the University of Iowa football team on their best start to a season in 120 years, after defeating the Michigan State University Spartans 15-13 tonight in East Lansing, MI:

“I want to congratulate the Hawkeyes on not only a great win tonight, but by making history with their 8-0 record, the best start in 120 years of football at the University of Iowa. Tonight’s game was an exciting way to continue Iowa's undefeated start. Coach Ferentz and his staff, Ricky Stanzi, Marvin McNutt and the entire team showed great leadership, and that success comes from never giving up. I wish the team the best of luck for the remainder of this exciting season.”
Here are the messages from the 2 Republicans:

Christopher Rants ISU and UI - what a day for football fans in Iowa

RepRodRoberts Congratulations to the Iowa and Iowa State football teams on their big wins yesterday. Great day for the state. Hope they keep it going!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Zaun for Congress

It looks like Doug Gross may have known what he was talking about after all last weekend. Gross, the former GOP candidate for governor, said on Channel 13's "Insiders", that State Senator Brad Zaun was looking at running for the Republican nomination for Iowa's Third Congressional District. You will remember Congressman Leonard Boswell announced on election night in 2008 he would run again in 2010. Zaun wouldn't rule it out, he told me, at the time.

Zaun is a former mayor of Urbandale and owned a hardware store for years. He confirmed to me this afternoon he is "seriously looking" at running. And he told me he would decide in the next 2-3 weeks. Zaun has represented District 32 since 2005. The last two years or so, he has become a bigger face and voice for senate Republicans, especially on money matters.

Dave Funk as already announced he wants the nomination. And former GOP Chairman Mike Mahaffey has said he is looking at running.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Day Before...

I'm sitting at my desk waiting on some callbacks from sources on a November "sweeps" story the boss gave me time to work on today. Tomorrow could be a fascinating day, and not necessarily fascinatingly (is that a word?) good for hundreds, if not thousands, of state employees.

State department heads have to hand over a list to Governor Chet Culver's office by the end of today on how they will manage his 10% across-the-board cuts for the current fiscal year (that began July 1st). We don't expect to hear a lot of the details of this until tomorrow. While we wait, I thought I would check in on the governor's day today as these budget cut reports come into his office.

He woke up to this headline in the Des Moines Register: "Ideas for cuts not given to legislators".

He went on another rail tour and promoted wind energy, as Radio Iowa's O. Kay Henderson points out.

His staff sent out a memo with a link to a report on how budget problems are hitting other states, too.

His political campaign announced it has redesigned its campaign website.

(The site features the new political ad that started to air last Friday. But campaign manager, Andrew Roos, told me they shot the Culver ad last Wednesday night. He said the plans are to air it on broadcast tv in the Des Moines and Cedar Rapids/Waterloo markets and some cable channels. They may add in some radio stations later, he said.)

2 Mystery Candidates

Last month on Iowa Public Television's "Iowa Press", Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Michael Kiernan said he had a mystery candidate to run against Republican Senator Chuck Grassley. Insiders speculated it was well-known Des Moines attorney, Roxanne Conlin. She hasn't returned my repeated calls for comment over the past month. But last week, former First Lady Christie Vilsack told me she has been thinking about the seat, too. And she seemed to sell her credentials several times during the interview. It sounds like there may be two mystery candidates, at least at this point.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Tom Vilsack, Mystery Candidate

Tom Vilsack, the mystery man. So says a report on the Republican blog, "Questions, Comments & Insults". It was also picked up the The blog claims a source said Vilsack is looking at running against Iowa Republican Senator Chuck Grassley next year.

On Tuesday, Christie Vilsack told me she is considering running against Grassley. My sources all agree she is the Vilsack in talks about running, not Tom. Either Vilsack would add some spice to the race, as both have a lot of statewide name i.d. But would Tom really give up his U.S. Secretary of Agriculture post, that sources close to him say he really, really enjoys? Not likely, at least according to the people with whom I've talked. The guessing game sure is fun, though, isn't it?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Branstad Announcement Friday

Des Moines University has confirmed what we reported yesterday. Terry Branstad will give a private speech on campus Friday at noon. The release doesn't say it. But sources say he will resign his position as president, so he can seek his fifth term as Iowa's governor.

Radio Iowa's O. Kay Henderson made a great catch on her blog about the release. It uses the word "was" to describe Branstad's history as president, not "is". (look below at the last line of the release). Thanks, Bill Clinton, for teaching us journalists to pay attention to semantics...remember what he said, "there is no sexual relationship with that woman..." Thanks, Mr. President!

Here's the release for the media to follow Branstad's private speech Friday:

Media invited for Branstad announcement Friday at 1 p.m.

You are invited...

WHAT: Des Moines University President Terry E. Branstad will make an announcement related to his future with the University. He will take questions.

WHEN: Friday, October 16, 1 p.m.

WHERE: Des Moines University (DMU) Student Education Center auditorium, 3300 Grand Ave. (

HISTORY: Former Iowa Governor Terry E. Branstad has been president and CEO of Des Moines University since August 2003. He was the 14th president in the University's 111-year history.

Purple Matters

With all my pursuit to find out what was going on with former Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, I forgot to post this week's "Purple Matters" internet radio show. Oops. It's all things Kay in the first hour. Radio Iowa's O. Kay Henderson address the Branstad situation, Christie V, the mystery candidate, budget cuts and more. After Kay, it's one of Iowa's most appropriate festivals: a bacon festival. It's sizzling and getting even bigger! Enjoy. And, as always, please send your thoughts...

This is in two parts...

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Branstad to Announce Plans for Governor

Four-time Iowa Governor Terry Branstad wants a fifth term in office. Sources close to Branstad tell me he will announce his plans for the future during a speech at Des Moines University Friday at noon. The news comes hardly as a surprise as this week Iowa Republican Party Executive Director Jeff Boeyink announced he was quitting the party to head up the 2010 Terry Branstad Committee, Branstad's organizational wing of his campaign efforts. Sandy Greiner, a former Republican lawmaker, led a group called "Draft Branstad". Yesterday, she sent out a message yesterday to supporters of her efforts that said the group would disband because of "mission accomplished". The group changed its efforts to NextGen PAC.

Branstad is currently the president of Des Moines University. Wednesday night, he lead a dinner at Prairie Meadows Racetracack & Casino in Altoona to benefit a minority scholarship fund for DMU students in health sciences. Branstad thanked the audience for what he said was a record night for the dinner. Approximately 600 people attended. Branstad did not discuss his plans to run for governor. A source close to him said he wanted the night to be about the scholarships and not his political future.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Christie Vilsack, Mystery Candidate?

Tuesday morning former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack told reporters to ask his wife is she is running against Republican Senator Chuck Grassley. You will recall last month on Iowa Public Television's "Iowa Press", Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Michael Kiernan said he had a mystery candidate to run against Grassley and that Grassley would be in for the "race of his life". So I went to Iowa State University where Christie Vilsack had a schedule appearance. Several ISU professors had designed a jacket for her to wear to the World Food Prize's dinner Thursday night in Des Moines. It is covered in tomatoes.

Christie Vilsack told me she has been talking to people about running. She said she has no timetable. Several things stood out from our interview. She mentioned she was "well-qualified" to run (she has never held public office before). She also pointed out that her husband had called her to say Maine Republican Senator Olympia Snowe had voted for the health care bill in the Senate Finance Committee. She said you can't make history by saying "no". Grassley, by the way, voted no on the health care plan. She also said Snowe showed bipartisanship. She said she also shows bipartisanship, through her time as Iowa's first lady and her current work. Here's the full interview. Can we safely say she just might be the mystery candidate? Watch for yourself:

Boeyink Leaves Party for Branstad

In yet another sign Terry Branstad will run for Iowa's governor again, word's out today the Republican Party of Iowa Executive Director Jeff Boeyink quit his job. Is there any doubt Branstad wants a fifth term as governor now? Here's the release from the Branstad people...

Richard Schwarm today announced the hiring of Jeffrey Boeyink to lead the Terry Branstad 2010 Committee as it continues to explore a possible gubernatorial run by former Iowa Governor Terry Branstad.

Schwarm said, “This is the next natural step in our exploratory process as we move from a volunteer effort to the acquisition of professional staff and financial resources to take Terry Branstad 2010 to the next level of effectiveness.”

Boeyink has served as Executive Director of the Republican Party of Iowa (RPI) since last February and resigned yesterday to accept this new position. Prior to joining RPI, Boeyink served as President of Iowans for Tax Relief where he worked for more than two decades.

Schwarm also noted, “This appointment does not signal any change in Terry Branstad’s status as a potential gubernatorial candidate. He continues in his role at Des Moines University and will make his plans known at a future date.”

Friday, October 09, 2009

Purple Matters

Here is this week's "Purple Matters" show.

The highlights...
One guest compares Governor Culver's office to Richard Nixon's
Another guest gives a behind the camera insight into the state film fiasco
And our final guest talks about how he's become a professional mountain climber...after getting his start in Des Moines. Yes, Des Moines!

Enjoy. And please excuse the technical issues. Other than those issues, please let us know what you want to hear during the show. What do you like? What don't you like?


Monday, October 05, 2009

Report Questions Culver's Secretary of State Office

Channel 13 has obtained a report that charges improper spending, bookkeeping and paperwork problems in the Iowa Secretary of State's office. The report looks at the years between 2003 and 2008, but focuses on Chet Culver's final three years heading the office. The U.S. Election Assistance Commission requested the report that looked into how the secretary of state's office spent money from the Help America Vote Act, otherwise known as HAVA.

The report criticized a program Culver's office used called “Celebrate Voting”. The events featured, among other things, dancers, refreshments and singer Simon Estes. Investigators found the $118,000 cost was improperly spent because it failed to promote voting as required. The report also said the office failed to properly document nearly $900,000 paid to employees for working on HAVA programs.

In all, the review questions more than $2.55 million in spending. Current Secretary of State Michael Mauro told me, “The audit speaks for itself. We think a lot of the issues can be worked out. But the time frame deals with before we got into office."

Much more on this Tuesday... For now, here's the report if you want to check it out. Grab some coffee. It's a long one...

Report on Film Tax Credit Progam

The report is out on Iowa's controversial film tax credit program. I'm working on a story for tv later. But here's the report if you want to read it. The attorney general's office offered the first comments on it:

Statement of the Attorney General’s Office

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Attorney General’s Office, Polk County Attorney’s Office, State Division of Criminal Investigation and State Auditor are undertaking a criminal investigation related to the Iowa Film Office tax credit program.
We are not permitted by ethical rules to discuss the possible subjects, focus or other details of the investigation. We are permitted to provide information about other aspects of our ongoing review of the Film Office tax credit situation, which was requested by Governor Culver. We are working intensively on this review.
The Attorney General’s Office will work to recover any tax credits or funds obtained illegally or not in compliance with the Film Office statute. Approximately $32 million in tax credits have been issued, and we will review them in detail and seek recovery wherever they were obtained in violation of the law.
The preliminary, outside review has been completed by the Clifton Gunderson firm, and we understand the State Auditor will undertake a full examination of the Film Office tax credit program. The Attorney General’s Office continues to coordinate and work closely with the Governor, the State Auditor, the Dept. of Revenue, and the Dept. of Economic Development in reviewing the overall matter.
The Governor handled this well by acting quickly and decisively, referring the matter to the other state agencies, taking the personnel actions he took, and freezing the tax credit program.
The Film Office Tax Credit program, which was suspended by the Governor on Sept. 18, remains suspended. Given the problems that we have encountered, and the amount of money at stake, it was imperative that the Governor suspend the program on Sept. 18, and continue to suspend the program.
The Attorney General’s Office has found the statute regarding tax credits was not implemented properly in at least several ways: investment tax credits were not calculated according to the statute; expenses were not adequately vetted and verified; projects were not justified in terms of their economic benefit to the State compared to their cost; and the definition of “investment” sometimes was improperly applied.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Film Tax Credit Report Monday

(Photo courtesy:

I checked with the spokeswoman for the Iowa Department of Economic Development tonight. And she said, best she knows, the report will come out Monday on the state's film tax credit program. The interim director of the department, Fred Hubbell, also has his first day on the job. Hope he's ready for some interviews...

Interviewing Pervez Musharraf

I wasn't born in Iowa. I grew up in the border state of Illinois. But one of the most incredible things about living in Iowa, professionally speaking, is the access I get to the country's leaders. I interviewed all the major political candidates the last two cycles (except for President George W Bush, whose people kept making me think we would get time with him, but never did. No. I'm not bitter). It doesn't come without hard work and preparation and numerous calls at times to get those interviews. But I must say, this last interview was quite different. Who knew former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf would ever step foot in Iowa? Who knew I would ever have a chance to talk with him? But it happened, thanks to the Iowa family who helped host his visit in Clive.

When my photographer and I arrived, we were greeted by at least 15 agents from various agencies. They checked through our camera gear before we entered the house. Aside from drug-sniffing dogs, it seemed very similar to the experiences I've had with some of the visits from presidential nominees from the United States.

I could see Musharraf enjoying a smoke in the sitting room inside the house with another man. I never got to find out who that was. A short while later, they cleared the room, so we could set up. I'll attach the video from the interviews once they get posted on-line, so you can watch. But I wanted to share a few things when the camera wasn't rolling.

Musharraf's people wanted us to know how damaging the war on terror has been on Pakistan. They estimate the country has lost about $35 billion in trade with Afghanistan alone.

Musharraf talked about the young presidency of Barack Obama. He said it's been a "good start" for Obama so far. But he also said Obama is learning the difference between being a candidate and being the president. He said it's one thing to say as a candidate, you would end the war. But he said, it's another thing when you have intelligence officials handing you confidential memos as president that show the imminent dangers your enemies threaten.

Musharraf said he might be interested in becoming president again, if his country is "suffering" (he did say Pakistan is already suffering). He said he would have to measure his support in the country. He doesn't want to "overassess" or "underassess" his support, he said.

For now, he is living in London. He is currently touring the U.S., where he is doing about 20 speeches. Musharraf told me he plays a lot of golf and bridge with his new free time. He also surprised me with his use of American sayings. He talked about "playing that ballgame" and "hullabaloo"...and, yes, I had to look up how to spell that word.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Letterman Extortion, Obama Olympics, Gronstal Budget

The fallout...

I'm wondering about three things this afternoon as the wind howls outside our living room window at home, making me think way too much about the crummy winter that will soon be upon us. But I digress...

Budget fallout--This past budget year, Iowa Democrats spent less than the previous year, before you add in the federal stimulus money. So, in the end, they spent more money this year. Today, Radio Iowa's Kay Henderson reports Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal expects some pretty deep cuts during the next budget year. Kay was part of the panel quizzing Gronstal on today's taping of "Iowa Press". Gronstal also told Kay the now-suspended state film tax credit program only has a 50-50 survival chance. Here's what I wonder...will voters think the Dems should have made deeper cuts last year to reduce the amount of cuts they will next to make this next year? Or will they decide that Democrats made enough cuts to balance the budget and preserve their core programs last year and then get set to tackle challenges in the coming year?

Olympics fallout--President Barack Obama traveled overseas to give a personal plea (after his wife gave one, too) to get the 2016 Olympics in Chicago. Here's what I wonder...will voters praise the Prez for his efforts or will critics get another weapon to use against him for failing?

Letterman fallout--Did you see the show last night? David Letterman admitted that he had sex with female staffers. And he said someone was trying to extort about $2 million from him, so the man wouldn't produce a movie about it. Here's what I wonder...did anyone else find the way Letterman explained the situation a little inappropriate? No where in there did Letterman say he was sorry for what he did. He is married now, after dating a woman for several decades. If he had sexual relationships with women on his staff, doesn't that mean he was unfaithful to his girlfriend/wife? Should he have apologized for what he did, rather than just keep making joke after joke about the situation?

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Des Moines Radio Legend Dies


Dic Youngs, arguably one of the most popular and well-known radio men in recent memory in central Iowa, passed away this morning at the age of 68. Star 102.5 offers this heart-felt tribute. Here's another story in the Des Moines Register.

2 Iowans Help Pawlenty for President

Jonathan Martin, who wore out who knows how many pairs of shows trudging around Iowa following the candidates, posted a piece on the The Politico that shows possible 2012 presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty could have an Iowa touch with his early efforts. Jonathan writes that Pawlenty has brought on Sara Taylor and Terry Nelson. Taylor is a Dubuque native, Drake grad and President George W Bush's former political director. Nelson is a Marshalltown native, Univ of Iowa grad and former political director for the Bush-Cheney 2004 campaign.