Saturday, January 31, 2009

Obama's Tax Problems

It's "he didn't pay his taxes, part II". The Politico reports that President Obama's nominee for Secretary of Health and Human Services, Tom Daschle, may have skipped out on paying taxes on more than $250,000 worth of free limo rides around Washington a mega donor gave him. The Prez' other tax problem, Timothy Geitner, who is now Treasury Secretary, made it through senate confirmation despite owing Uncle Sam $34,000.

But that may not be Daschle's biggest problem. What about those Sally Jesse glasses, Senator?

Super Bowl Day II

I'm not sure I'll be wearing any brown shirts anytime soon. U.P.S. hasn't exactly won us over so far this trip. We mailed our gear in three packages: our camera tripod, our videotape editor and our light kit. The deliverers in brown were supposed to bring all three items from Des Moines to my in-laws in Tampa where we are staying by 3pm Thursday. Our editor arrived about 6pm. Our tripod arrived about Our light kit? It's still not here. That's a big problem when we are reporting live at night...when it's dark! We have been told our equipment is in Orlando.

We did a little celebrity sighting at the media center in downtown Tampa. Here are some of the famous football players we saw: Joe Theisman, Rod Woodson, Randy Clark, Shannon Sharpe, Justin Tuck, Nate Newton, Michael Irvin and Brian Billick. There were some others we were pretty sure were players, but we just couldn't think of their names. It's a lot tougher without their jerseys on.

Michael Irvin and Shannon Sharpe totally blew us off for our requests to talk to them. Brian Billick and Justin Tuck couldn't have been nicer. We also saw Jared, the Subway guy. We didn't try to interview him. Ross the Intern from The Tonight Show with Jay Leno stood next to us. He carried a pink football. Does that surprise you?

We may have missed the biggest drama. Several family friends say they saw Dennis Rodman led out by security from one of the malls here. Sorry we missed you, Worm.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Mauro to Seek Re-Election

I don't recall seeing a big announcement news conference or even a news release on this, but it seems as if Iowa Secretary of State Michael Mauro wants to keep doing his job. On Mauro's website, I found this...

In 2006, after serving as Polk County Auditor for nearly a decade, I was elected Iowa’s Secretary of State. I am still humbled by the confidence that has been entrusted to me in this role, but also very proud of my accomplishments since taking office. However, there is still much work to do — my passion for public service and my commitment to the great state of Iowa is stronger than ever. That is why I am running again in 2010.

Obviously, it's the last line that grabs my attention.

It's Day One for us (Shawn Terrell and I) here in Tampa for Super Bowl 43. It's a soggy mess. It has rained much of the day. Not quite the sun-drenched paradise everyone at the office gave us so much crap about before we left! But it's hard to complain. We're staying with my in-laws, which has already meant great food...beef stew offered a great reason to stop by their house while we were working on our 10pm story. So did the strawberry cake (strawberries are in season in Florida right now) my wife's "Grammy" made. Man, it was good.

We haven't seen any celebrities yet. Maybe they're at the strip clubs. There sure seem to be a lot of them near Raymond James Stadium. And, no, we didn't stop at any of them. But we did get to listen to Bruce Springsteen practicing on the field at Raymond James Stadium (at least we were told he was actually in there instead of some recording they were playing inside). He is performing at half-time of the Super Bowl, in case you hadn't heard. We heard "Born to Run" and "Tenth Avenue Freeze Out" and we watched the practice fireworks. That was pretty cool, too.

I ran into Jay Gray from NBC news. I hadn't seem him since the Iowa Caucuses. He seems like such a great guy. I wonder how he handles traveling as a correspondent all over the country all the time. And maybe that "Earl" guy from the NBC show is right about karma. We UPS'd our equipment to Tampa, so we wouldn't have to carry it on the plane. Apparently, there was some big ice storm in Louisville, so only one of our three packages of equipment actually made it here. The rest is supposed to come Friday. Fortunately, the NBC crew from Tucson let us borrow its lights for our night-time shooting. What a huge help! On our way out, we found a way to return the favor. The NBC crew from Jackson, Mississippi had a minor crisis. Their camera battery died and they needed to shoot something. So we lent them ours. They were incredibly nice, extremely gracious. That southern hospitality, I guess. They said we should let them buy us a beer for helping them out. Sounds like a good idea.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Yepsen Not Going to Illinois?

It sounds (or at least reads) like Des Moines Register columnist Dave Yepsen is the top choice to take over as director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University (This is the one in Carbondale. I graduated from the university in Edwardsville). An advisory board reportedly named Yepsen as its top choice. But it doesn't sound (or read) like the university president likes the recommendation.

Will this news disappoint Governor Chet Culver? I'm getting ready to head out to Tampa to cover the Super Bowl, so I didn't personally witness the exchange between the Gov and Yepsen during the Gov's budget address. But several observers tell me the Gov got a little flustered at Yepsen's questions today about whether the Gov is cutting enough to balance the budget next year.

Bruce Rastetter for Governor

Move over, Bob Vander Plaats. Two days after Team VP 2010 announced his intentions to begin the process of running for governor, another man may be stepping up. According to Iowa Statehouse Republican sources, Bruce Rastetter, CEO of Hawkeye Energy Holdings, plans to make his presence known in the statehouse Wednesday, the same day and same place Governor Chet Culver delivers his budget address. Rastetter plans to meet with house and senate caucuses to talk strategy and issues for the future. His money helped elect some of these Republicans to office.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

New Democratic Party Chairman

Democratic sources confirm to me Michael Kiernan is expected to be "elected" the new chairman of the Iowa Democratic Party this Saturday. Of course, the State Central Committee elects the chair Saturday. But Governor Chet Culver more than has his say in this. And apparently he has had his say.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Culver Wants 6.5%

Governor Chet Culver will ask for most state departments to cut their budgets 6.5%. Here's the release from his office:

DES MOINES – In the midst of a national economic recession, Governor Chet Culver will recommend reduced state spending and no tax increases in his fiscal year 2010 budget proposal, he said in a speech today to the annual meeting of the Iowa Business Council. The Governor also spoke about the need for the state to invest in creating jobs and rebuilding Iowa’s infrastructure.

“Our State’s sound fiscal management does not mean we can avoid cuts in government spending,” said Governor Culver. “Simply put, just as families and businesses across the state and around the nation are doing more with less, so too must state government.”

In his remarks to the group of state-wide business leaders, Governor Culver discussed key points in his recommended FY2010 budget, which will include a 6.5 percent reduction in spending for most State programs. Complete details of the proposed FY2010 budget will be released on Wednesday.

“While the current economic circumstance is not the fault of Iowans, it is something we must all face together,” added Governor Culver. “We have a history, under both Democratic and Republican leadership, of balancing our budget and acting appropriately to tough economic times.”

The Governor’s FY2010 budget proposal recommends a 6.5 percent cut in spending for the majority of State programs. Other key points about the FY2010 budget that Governor Culver addressed include:

· No tax increases will be proposed;
· Certain key areas – such as public safety, workforce development, human services, disaster relief, the teacher quality program, and early childhood education – will not see the full effect of the 6.5% cut;
· $200 million from the state’s cash reserves will be used in the FY2010 budget;
· Funds from a proposed federal economic stimulus package are not reflected in the proposed budget.

The proposed 6.5% cuts would apply to a total of 205 State programs. Cuts proposed in next year’s budget are in addition to nearly $180 million in spending reductions proposed by the Governor to the current budget. In December, he made selective cuts of $40 million and on January 1 a 1.5 percent across-the-board cut went into effect totaling approximately $90 million. In addition, Governor Culver has requested the legislature de-appropriate $37 million for a new state office building and approve transferring another $10 million to the General Fund.

Governor Culver pointed to the State’s strong fiscal management – including a $620 million cash reserve, a Triple-A bond rating, and one of the nation’s lowest debt levels – as enabling Iowa to take steps to get through the recession not available to many states. One example is the proposed Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Authority, a $700 million initiative to create jobs and improve the state’s infrastructure without raising taxes.

“Creating the Rebuild Iowa Authority will also allow us to build upon federal stimulus and flood recovery funds our state might receive and, when fully leveraged, this $700 million investment will lead to billions of dollars of projects to improve our state,” said Governor Culver. “So while we’re cutting day-to-day expenditures of state government, we would invest in creating jobs, supporting businesses, and strengthening our economy. And we’re in a position to do it without raising taxes.”

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Grading Obama's First Week

Next week President Barack Obama continues his push for Congress to pass his $825 billion stimulus package to turn the crummy economy around. He's also ordered the closing of the detention camp at Guantanamo and called for troops out of Iraq in 16 months. What do you think so far? Grade the president's first week. Give him an "A" for a great first week bringing the change he promised during the campaign or an "F" for failing to accomplish anything of substance so far. Use a "B", C" or "D" if you think the outcome is somewhere in between.

I'm wondering what made Governor Chet Culver's office release a statement on not selling the lottery on a Saturday morning...a Saturday statement that took shots at Republicans (they've come after him hard for an idea they think is "short-sighted" and "desperate"). The Gov frequently releases weekend statements praising the achievements of athletes like Kurt Warner or Zach Johnson. But it doesn't happen very often that the Gov weighs in on newsy subject on a Saturday morning.

The statement about the lottery actually is attributed to the Gov's chief of staff, rather than the Gov himself. But here it is:

"The idea that the Iowa Lottery might be leased is getting more attention from pundits and partisans than it deserves. There is no plan to sell or lease the lottery. Period. Governor Culver has made clear that he wants to look at options to lessen the impact of reduced revenues and further budget cuts. But as far the leasing the lottery is concerned, the Governor has held exactly one meeting with a group interested in this issue. This has become nothing more than a silly political game that some in the Republican Party want to play, and at a time when Iowans want a balanced budget and deserve bipartisan results. This much is certain: when the Governor releases his budget proposal in a few days, it will not include a line item reflecting a lease of the lottery."

Friday, January 23, 2009

Senator Charles Grassley is a Tweeter

I will never again doubt the tweeting prowess of Chuck Grassley. I openly (and perhaps, foolishly) wondered aloud on WHO radio today that Iowa's senior U.S. senator personally sends out his messages on Twitter. I mean the guy is 75. I later received an email from his office assuring me the senator does indeed do his own tweeting. I'm new to tweeting myself.
A woman sort of shamed me into it during a media panel on which I served last week. She asked how the media would connect with the younger crowd with social networking. This bothered me on two fronts. I didn't really know what twitter was. And apparently, she doesn't consider me part of the younger crowd. Ouch. So I joined twitter. I can't make myself younger.

BTW, Senator Grassley has 1154 followers. For you non-tweeters, twitter members can sign up to "follow" someone's postings. You get an email or text message when that person posts some kind of message. It's kind of like "friends" on Facebook. How does "the younger crowd" stay up on all of this!

In case you care, here's Senator Grassley's latest tweet he sent Friday a.m.:

Up at 4am on way to iowa. Two speeches this wkend in DsM and Waukee. One other Iowa Congreeman up early on same Flite

Thursday, January 22, 2009

On the Radio

I'm hosting Jan Mickelson's show on WHO radio show Friday morning from 9-11:30. The first hour we'll have Matt Strawn, the new Chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa, and Tom Henderson, Chairman of the Polk Democratic Party (and rumored to be on a very short list to take over as state chairman). The second hour we'll talk about that idea Governor Culver is considering to lease the Iowa Lottery.
If you can't call in, comment here. I'll use some of them on the air. Thanks!

Governor Double Fister?

I'm hearing from a few friends how fun those inaugural parties in D.C. were. The Politico implies Governor Chet Culver had some fun, too. The website reports the Gov was "double-fisting" drinks during one of the bashes. Although, I haven't been able to find some Ed Podolak-like pictures on the claim.

Obamas on TV

Will NBC need a right-hand turn on its lefty prime-time news coverage? Keith Olbermann and Chris Mathews, without a doubt, won't be confused by anyone as being non-partisan, politically agnostic, whatever term you choose to use. But are they hurting the cable network overall?

MSNBC has been stressing how it is "THE Place for Politics" for some time now. But on one of the biggest days of the year, and it seems the second most viewed inaugural in recent history, its coverage got stomped by its competitors. On Inauguration day, nearly 2 1/2 times more people watched CNN than MSNBC. About 50% more watched Fox than MSNBC. It would seem THE Place for Politics isn't THE Place for Viewers.
I wonder what Tim Russert would think of all of this.

Obama Gets Sworn In. Again.


A do-over. A mulligan. A make good. We knew this last presidential election was unique. And now we know, even the swearing-in ceremony is memorable. So Chief Justice John Roberts butchers the oath (do you think he'll take his notes next time, conspiracy theorists?). President Obama looked like he knew something was screwed up. After all, as a former constitutional law professor, he probably could recite the words backwards. Justice Roberts then meets the Prez last night to administer the oath again. It was surprising to me, I must say. I watched NBC Nightly News, which addressed the swearing-in stumbling. Brian Williams said experts with whom they talked said the messed up ceremony (he didn't used "messed up, of course") was still legal, so everything was o.k. Or not! The do-over came about an hour after the broadcast.

Boy, imagine if we could all get do-overs like that.

Would we still have invaded Iraq if we knew Saddam didn't have WMD?
Would John McCain still have (largely) skipped Iowa before the caucuses?
Would Rudy Giuliani still have waited until Florida to start campaigning?
Would Iowa lawmakers still have spent as much money if they knew the recession was coming?
Would I have still paid way too much money to a scalper to see Mark McGwire (the cheater) break the home run record in St. Louis?
Would I have still thrown my trumpet across the high school football field when I cracked the high note on the national anthem?
Would I have still moved to Iowa, if I had known how cold it is over the winter? Yes, I would.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Inauguration Day

I'm tired today. And for no good reason. I can only imagine how tired Barack and Michelle Obama must be. I remember my wedding day. You were grateful to have so many people there, filling you with well-wishes. But the smiling, waving, hand shaking, and thank you-ing were exhausting. The Obamas did that all day and all night long on inauguration day. I thought the First Lady looked like she was ready to go home by the time she and her presidential hubby danced at their tenth and final ball last night. She looked like she was too tired to smile. I can see why. What a day that must have been for the two of them. Now we'll see if her husband can really bring all that "change" he promised. He has his work cut out.

I'm also curious what George W Bush was thinking both today and yesterday. The job must be unimaginably exhausting. Does he look forward to having the weight of the world taken off his shoulders? Is he happy with what he accomplished? Does he wish he had more time? What will be do now that he's out of office?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Vilsack Confirmed as Ag Secretary

The U.S. Senate has confirmed Tom Vilsack as the next Secretary of Agriculture. Iowa Senator Tom Harkin's office just sent this release:


Leadership signifies focus on promoting the rural economy, nutrition, conservation and energy

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) today issued the following comment after former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack was confirmed as Agriculture Secretary by the U.S. Senate. Harkin is Chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, the Committee that held nomination hearings on Vilsack’s appointment.

"President Obama could not have made a better selection for Agriculture Secretary than Tom Vilsack. He knows how to bring change that will help to strengthen and rebuild the farm and rural economy on a sound foundation. As governor, Tom Vilsack was committed to better nutrition and providing food assistance to those who need it. He built a strong record in promoting renewable energy, rural economic opportunity, and conservation. These qualifications will serve him well as he transitions into Agriculture Secretary. Tom Vilsack’s confirmation today signifies new leadership for the USDA, but also a new focus on the issues important to all Americans, including nutrition, conservation, energy and promoting the rural economy.”

Monday, January 19, 2009

Senate Cancels Action Wednesday

The Iowa Senate is canceling activities Wednesday so lawmakers can mourn Marion Senator Mary Lundby, who died over the weekend.

Here's the release from Senator Mike Gronstal's office:

Democratic Senators and staff:

Senator Gronstal has cancelled all committee and floor action in the Senate on Wednesday so that Senators and staff may attend Senator Lundby’s funeral, which is scheduled for 1 p.m. Wednesday at St. Joe’s Catholic Church, 1790 14th Street, in Marion.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

$150 million Inauguration

(Photo courtesy:

How much is too much to spend on a new president's inauguration? $150 million? That's the estimate of what everyone is spending for Barack Obama's big day. This price tag comes in the middle of possibly the worst recession since the Great Depression. In 2005, some Democratic congressman asked President George W Bush to scale his plans back because the country was in the middle of war (we still are, of course). Does this $150 million bother you or is money not the issue on a day like this? bout them Cardinals? Congrats to Kurt Warner and the rest of the former Gridbirds (that's what we called them when they were in St. Louis) as they head to the Super Bowl. I wonder if this latest push will get Warner into the Hall of Fame? Not bad for a former stock boy at Hy-Vee Grocery Store, huh?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Mary Lundby Has Died

Iowa Senator Mary Lundby has died. She had been battling cervical cancer for the past several years. Over the holidays, she said good-bye to family and friends. I always enjoyed talking with her at the Iowa Statehouse. She was funny, passionate and sarcastic, three traits I can relate to.
She left the senate after her leadership position ended to go back to Linn County to run for a board of supervisors position. But her cancer prevented her from doing so. Her dedication, humor and whistle will be deeply missed.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Patrick Dillon to the White House

Patrick Dillon moves from the Iowa Statehouse to the White House. Here's the release from the gov's office:

(DES MOINES) – Governor Chet Culver issued the following statement today congratulating former Chief of Staff Patrick Dillon on his new appointment as Deputy Director of Political Affairs for President Barack Obama.

"I could not be happier for Patrick, and the First Lady, Lt. Governor, and I wish him well in his new role at the White House. For more than three years, Patrick has been an invaluable member of our team – first during my campaign for Governor and then as Chief of Staff. Though we are all sad to see him go, Patrick’s skill and expertise will serve the President well in the coming years, and I couldn’t think of a better choice. Though he may no longer reside here, he will always be an Iowan. Our state couldn’t have a better friend in the Obama-Biden Administration.”

And happy birthday to this man!

(Photo courtesy: St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Cardinals' superstar Albert Pujols turns 29 today. It's hard to imagine what he could accomplish by the time he is 40! The picture comes from the Cardinals' Winter Warm-up last year. Fans will need a warm-up from the weather and from the lack of action by ownership this off-season. I'm not sure which one has been colder.

Leasing the Lottery

Iowa democrats are thinking about leasing the Iowa Lottery. The Des Moines Register reports on the numbers...the state may get about $200 million up front and then about $20 million or so a year afterwards. That's about one-third of the revenue it's taking in a year now. Short-term gain, long-term loss? Do you want lawmakers to do this?

The Register also has an awful story about a Des Moines man who may have been stuck outside in his wheelchair last night in the snow when the temperature was minus 18. Awful.

I'm getting ready (it's just about noon right now) for a taping of "The Insiders", which runs Sunday morning at 9:30 on Channel 13. The guests are Jerry Crawford and Doug Gross. I hope you'll watch.

I'm still waiting to see if my Cardinals are going to make a move. I realize the economy sucks, but, surely, they can do more to help their pitching staff. Former favorite David Eckstein just signed with the Padres to play second base. And uber-fan favorite So Taguchi just signed with the Cubs. The Cubs?! First, Jim Edmonds and now So? Who's next...Pujols?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

IBM Coming to Iowa

First Google. Then Microsoft. Now it's IBM that is moving to Iowa. Iowa Governor Chet Culver announced the company was bringing about 1,300 jobs to Dubuque. Taxpayers are kicking in about $53,000,000. By my math that works out to $40,769 per job. Is this how you want your tax dollars spent? Is this how it works these days? Should the state do more of this to lure other big name companies to our state as we move on from an all-farm-all-the-time economy?

Grassley vs. Vilsack

Tom Vilsack's apparent easy U.S. Senate confirmation would take away one of those potentially "sexy" match ups two years from now: Tom Vilsack vs. Charles Grassley. But some Iowa democrats aren't giving up the Vilsack vs. Grassley dream. They'd like Christie Vilsack to get on the ballot. After Tom's appearance before the Senate Agriculture Committee, I asked Sen. Grassley about it. He told me expects democrats to throw everything they have at him because of their strong 2008 election and their current 110,000 voter registration edge in the state.

He doesn't expect a "second-tier" opponent like he had last time around (Colonel Sanders look-a-like candidate, Art Small, offered a token contest against Grassley in 2002). But in 2010 Grassley expects a "first-tier" opponent, someone like Christie Vilsack he said. He said he is taking his re-election very seriously. He's held 8 fundraisers so far and has twice that many planned. Grassley will be 77 years of age by the 2010 election.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Tom Miller's Black Eye

(Photo courtesy: The Des Moines Register)

They said the budget would be a battle this year, but...did you notice that shiner on the A.G.? Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller showed a black eye as he stood and applauded during Governor Culver's Condition the State Address. His office told me the A.G. fell on the ice at his step-son's house Thursday as they were leaving to go out to eat. Ouch! I wonder if the A.G. plans to sue?

Monday, January 12, 2009

Breaking news

3:01pm...just heard Iowa Governor Chet Culver's Chief of Staff Patrick Dillon is stepping down. His wife is moving to D.C. No confirmation from his office yet...

3:11pm...I didn't get a call back from his office confirming this, but the office did email a statement. Dillon's departure had been rumored months ago when his wife worked for the Obama campaign out of state.


Current Director of Department of Management to Assume Role

DES MOINES – Chief of Staff Patrick Dillon announced today that he is stepping down from his position, and Governor Culver announced that he has appointed Charles Krogmeier, currently Director of the Department of Management and a longtime state government manager, to succeed him.

Dillon is moving to Washington, DC, with his wife, Jennifer O’Malley Dillon, who was recently appointed Executive Director of the Democratic National Committee.

"Patrick Dillon has been an invaluable member of our team for more than three years, and I cannot thank him enough for his service to the people of Iowa. Most importantly, I appreciate his personal friendship and trusted advice,” said Governor Culver. “I’m sorry to see him leave Iowa for now, but Patrick and I have always said that we married up, and I fully understand he needs to be in the same city as his better half. I wish him all the best as he begins a new chapter in his career during this exciting transition to a new Administration."

Dillon has served as Chief of Staff since his appointment in December 2006. Prior to that time, he managed the Governor's campaign.

"This time of great change at the state and national levels is also a time of change in my life, and so now is the right time for me to be with my wife," said Dillon. "It has been the privilege of my life to work every day helping Governor Culver and Lt. Governor Judge serve the people of Iowa. I am forever grateful for the opportunity to work side-by-side with so many committed public servants throughout state government, among them Charlie Krogmeier. There is no person better suited for these challenging times in state government.”

"I am very pleased that my good friend and longtime advisor Charlie Krogmeier has agreed to serve as Chief of Staff,” added Governor Culver. “His rich experience in state and local government, thorough knowledge of the state budget, and extensive management skills all make him the best person for the job."

"I am honored to have this new opportunity to serve the people of Iowa," said Krogmeier. "I am ready to go to work helping Governor Culver and Lt. Governor Judge to meet the challenges of rebuilding Iowa, balancing the budget and creating jobs across the state.”

Krogmeier was appointed by the Governor to the position of Director of the Department of Management in December 2006, and confirmed by the Senate in March 2007. The Department of Management is the executive branch's planning and budget agency and serves as the Governor's principal financial advisor.

Previously, Krogmeier directed the gubernatorial transition in 2006, and served as First Deputy Secretary of State from June of 2004 to November 2006. Prior to that he was a partner in the Des Moines law firm of Brown, Winick, Graves, Gross, Baskerville and Schoenebaum for 7 years. Krogmeier began his career in public service as a Lee County Supervisor (1979-86) followed by service as General Counsel to the Iowa Department of Transportation (1986-89) and as a Deputy Attorney General (1989-1997).

Krogmeier assumes the position of Chief of Staff effective immediately, and Dillon will serve in an advisory role through a transition period.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

2009 Legislative Session

Monday morning at begins. It seems like everyone has different opinions on just how much Iowa lawmakers will have to cut on next year's budget. But the upper end looks like about $800 million. That's about 250 bucks for every Iowan, if my math is correct (it usually isn't).

Expand the smoking ban, broaden the bottle bill, raise the pay for state union workers, increase the gas tax, cut income taxes...what should lawmakers do, besides the budget? Tell us. Tell THEM.

I was leaving the gym on my way to work today. A woman pulls up next to me (I must say this again...I was leaving the GYM). And I see her scarfing down the rest of this...

Yes, a large McDonald's fries. Good luck on the treadmill, lady!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Republicans Elect New Party Chairman

(Photo from Strawn's Facebook page. He is one of the owners of the Iowa Barnstormers, Des Moines' Arena Football League team)

Matt Strawn told us inside the Republican Party of Iowa's headquarters in Des Moines Saturday afternoon that he would use new technology to spread the party's message. Facebook, Twitter, etc. (I still haven't figured out Twitter and have only to begun to understand Facebook) And he did. It wasn't quite the wake-up I remember when Barack Obama texted to say he had picked Joe Biden as his v.p. But minutes after peers elected Strawn the new chairman, he did sent out the message on his Facebook page.

Matt Strawn is humbled and honored by his election to chair the Republican Party of Iowa.

A Republican in the room told me the room was "united". I must wonder why the man Strawn beat, former legislator Danny Carroll, did not hang around for the Strawn news conference. Outgoing chair Stew Iverson was also just that...outgoing. He also did not stick around.

Repubs have a challenge before them. They have to convince Iowans who THEY are and why Iowans should become one of them. More Iowans have decided the past few years..."no, thanks."

Strawn told me he has four goals:

1. rebuild the party
2. fund raise
3. recruit good candidates
4. communicate with Iowans and each other

Crooks and Cubs

A viewer/reader asks this hypothetical:

Dave, I have a question. What Illinois streak do you think will end first. The Cubs incredible streak of not winning theWorld Series, or the streak of consecutive Illinois Governors being arrested and sent to prison? Feel free to steal this question for the Price of Politics, I read it you could use the help.Thanks Dave,Leon the Bull Durham

Is that what people call a backhanded compliment?--"The Bull" apparently reads the blog, but also apparently, he thinks we need some help on the content. Well, Bull, thanks for the help.

Leon Durham, by the way, was a promising, up-and-coming first basemen with my St. Louis Cardinals before the team traded him, along with several others, to the hated Chicago Cubs for elite closer Bruce Sutter (Bru-u-u-u-ce). Unfortunately, he may be best remembered for letting that ground ball get past him, ultimately allowing the San Diego Padres to make it to the World Series instead of the Cubs. What a shame.

Rod Blagojevich is just another of Illinois' politicians to embarrass my home state. Three governors since the 1960s have gone on to prison. Perhaps, the latest, George Ryan, will be able to show Blago around. Does a person have to be crooked before he runs for governor in Illinois or does it just happen after he takes office?
So to answer your question, Bull, let's hope crooked governors break this streak before those cursed Cubs ruin their streak!

Friday, January 09, 2009

More Layoffs in the Metro; Iowa Republicans' New Chairman

My cell phone and email have been buzzing all morning long. It sounds like there may be more layoffs/reductions in the health care and media industries in central Iowa. This comes just one day after legendary Des Moines company, Meredith, announced it was cutting 250 jobs, including 100 in Des Moines. I'm not going to mention specific companies at this point until we get firmer details on this. This layoff stuff is really getting scary. It seems like everyone I know is either concerned about losing a job, having to cut a job or at least knows someone who has been affected by this pitiful economy.

Saturday, Iowa Republicans try to begin figuring out the "what's next?" for them. The State Central Committee picks a new chairman. As of last check there were six "candidates" to replace outgoing Chairman Stew Iverson (he had said he'd only do the job for 2008). I'm told by Republican sources to especially watch two people Saturday, former legislator Danny Carroll and Iowa Barnstormers' owner Matt Strawn.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Lee Enterprise Layoffs


It's a tough time for the media these days. It seems toughest for the newspaper industry. Davenport-based Lee Enterprises lost more than $800 million last fiscal year and has seen its stock price plummet (it's 56 cents as I write this). The company owns my "hometown" newspaper, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and laid off 39 people from that paper today.

Queen Face Time

Andrea Mitchell is "Queen Face Time." A new report shows she received 355 minutes of on-air time as a network evening news correspondent in 2008. 2007's "King Face Time" champion, ABC's Jake Tapper (330 minutes) came in 2nd, followed by CBS' Dean Reynolds (262 minutes).

The guy who tracked all of this clearly has no life! I wonder who would be Des Moines' "King" or "Queen Face Time"? Was anybody bored enough in 2008 to figure that out...I mean, was anyone curious enough to figure that out? Probably not.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Grassley Like's Obama's Tax Cuts; Braley Thinks Blue

Senator Chuck Grassley sounds like he thinks Barack Obama's planned tax cuts could win support from Republicans, but the overall cost of the stimulus package might be high for some pachyderms.

Eastern Iowa Congressman Bruce Braley looks like he's committed to keep coloring the country blue. Here's the release:

The DCCC today named the second of its three Vice Chairs – Congressman Bruce Braley (D-IA) will serve as Vice Chair for candidate services, responsible for the DCCC's offensive efforts including recruitment, money, and training.

DCCC Chairman Chris Van Hollen said, "The DCCC will stay aggressive this cycle and continue to challenge Republicans who are out of step with their districts. As a former chair and former member of the Red to Blue program, Bruce Braley knows first hand what it takes to be a successful candidate; his battle tested leadership will be a real asset to our candidates facing tough elections."

Congressman Bruce Braley brings his experience as chair of the DCCC's successful and effective 2008 Red to Blue Program and as a former member of the Red to Blue Program.

Vice Chair Bruce Braley said, "I'm looking forward to continuing my work at the DCCC in this new leadership role. It's critical for us to continue assisting our candidates with the money, messaging and mobilization they will need to get elected in the 2010 election cycle. I will work hard to help our candidates win their races."

Congressman Bruce Braley will serve as Vice Chair for candidate services. The DCCC's candidate services include recruiting, money, and training. A Vice Chair focusing on Member participation will be named at a later date.

Culver Will Wait Til End of the Month for Budget

Governor Chet Culver will chew on the numbers a bit longer before he releases his budget plan for the next year. He apparently will wait until the end of the month. His office says the Gov wants to wait for President-Elect Barack Obama to take office first (January 20). Obama has pledged to help states out with some federal cash to help them rebuild infrastructure. That could obviously help state leaders make the numbers work a little easier as they put together what will be a tough budget. His office helps me remember Culver issued his budget with his Condition of the State address last year. His first session in office, he delivered it the end of January (Tom Vilsack was still the Gov for the Condition of the State).

Speaking of the budget... two things stick out from today. Three things, I guess.
Number One...Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal said leaders will be "saying no" a lot to people who want more money for existing programs or any money for new ideas.
Number Two...House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy was not in attendance at a statehouse news conference today (House Speaker Pat Murphy and Senate Prez Jack Kibbie were). Murphy said McCarthy had the flu.
Number Three...Kibbie at one point said "we will spend more money than last year". As you might guess, that got our attention pretty quickly. When Radio Iowa's Kay Henderson questioned his words, Kibbie later corrected himself with the obvious statement that "we'll spend less next year". Too bad. That would have REALLY made this an interesting session!

My Cardinals are now saying arbitration may limit them. Funny, because at the beginning of the season, I remember them saying they were knocking $30 million off the books when several players' contracts expired. $10 million of that may go toward raises due to arbitration. That leaves $20 million for new signings. Sounds like now there's some funny math going on. I realize money may be tight in a bad economy. But Cardinal fans expect to have a chance at winning it all each year and I don't see them flipping open their wallets for a team that's skimping in this economy.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Duffy Cartoon Criticizes Culver

Duffy is back, at least he was today. And he had a little message, in his own way, for Governor Chet Culver. Brian Duffy worked for The Des Moines Register for about a quarter of a century before the newspaper fired him in what it called a cost-cutting move. Apparently, the Iowa Progress Project found some money in its budget for him. The IPP isn't exactly a fan of Culver or most democrats for that matter. A spokesman told me a Duffy cartoon may not be a one-time thing.

Here's the rest of the release:

Christmas has come and gone yet state employee stockings continue to be filled.
Some state employees are luckier than others. For those not under union contract, they get lumps of coal in the form of layoffs and pay freezes. For AFSCME and union members, they get built in raises and promises of job security. Culver announced last week that non-union state employees wouldn’t be receiving deserved bonus, raises, or promotions. Layoffs are to be expected.
For the complete story on Culver's preferential money-saving plan click
The Culver cartoon will be featured on our website Share the link with friends, family, and colleagues! You can also share this cartoon by using our “Forward to a friend” feature found below.

Santa may have brought some criticism for the Gov. But he didn't seem to bring my Cardinals much of anything. Royce Ring? Seriously???

Saturday, January 03, 2009


The Associated Press has collected what it calls "Bushisms". Perhaps, these words isn't the bestest moments for George W Bush.

"I know the human being and fish can coexist peacefully." September 2000, explaining his energy policies at an event in Michigan.

"Rarely is the question asked, is our children learning?" January 2000, during a campaign event in South Carolina.

"They misunderestimated the compassion of our country. I think they misunderestimated the will and determination of the commander in chief, too." Sept. 26, 2001, in Langley, Va. Bush was referring to the terrorists who carried out the Sept. 11 attacks.

"There's no doubt in my mind, not one doubt in my mind, that we will fail." Oct. 4, 2001, in Washington. Bush was remarking on a back-to-work plan after the terrorist attacks.

"It would be a mistake for the United States Senate to allow any kind of human cloning to come out of that chamber." April 10, 2002, at the White House, as Bush urged Senate passage of a broad ban on cloning.

Here are some more...

Culver Tells State Workers about Budget Cuts

An Iowa state employee forwarded me this email that Governor Chet Culver sent out.

Dear Fellow State Employee,

Over the last few weeks, I have ordered all state departments to reduce spending. This will have an effect on state employees, and the services you provide Iowans. I want to take this opportunity to tell you directly why I took these actions, and what the next steps will be as we respond to the national economic situation.

As you know, we are in the midst of an economic challenge that is historic in its scope. While its cause comes from actions on Wall Street, supported by misguided federal policies from Washington over the past eight years, the result has been an economic recession that is hitting Main Streets and factories and farms and families – and state governments - across the nation.

And as we speak, 43 of our states are either in or headed towards a deficit. Iowa’s Constitution does not allow our state to operate in a deficit. This means cuts in spending are needed to balance our budget.

This process began this fall, when the state’s revenues fell short of predictions. As a response, I directed agencies to cut expenses and unnecessary travel, and to freeze state hiring.

But maintaining a balanced budget and staying in front of this national economic crisis requires continued and shared responsibility throughout state government, as well as in communities statewide.

Last week marked another important step in this process. On Friday, the Revenue Estimating Conference lowered revenue projections for both fiscal years 2009 and 2010.

At that time I indicated I would take action to cut spending in the current 2009 budget by an additional $60 million. I was advised then that this amount would be an appropriate, measured response to the REC action. It would allow my office, state budget planners, the respective state departments and the legislature to begin focusing on the task ahead of putting together a 2010 budget.

However, after further review of our revenue projections and budget commitments along with several meetings of my budget team, I am convinced that $60 million in additional adjustments to the current budget is not enough to prepare us for the challenges before us.

The REC indicates that revenue estimates for both 2009 and 2010 may be reduced even more in April. My Council of Economic Advisors predicts that the bottom of this economic downturn has not yet reached Iowa. And economic trends, both nationally and internationally, continue to bear bad news.

As Governor, I hear these warnings. I will protect our State’s fiscal position, and I will do so without raising taxes on Iowans.

Therefore, over the next few weeks, I am going to take the following steps:

First, I am directing the Department of Management to immediately revise its projected balance sheet for the General Fund in order to adjust for the recent REC action and make other adjustments based upon DOM’s best projections of income and expenditures. This means the State will have a projected negative ending balance on June 30, the end of our current fiscal year.

Therefore, next week I will make across-the-board reductions in General Fund expenditures to assure there will be no State budget deficit at the end of fiscal year 2009. I will sign an Executive Order to implement an across-the-board cut of 1.5% to the general fund, or $91.4 million.

I will ask for one exception to this across-the-board cut: the Correction Officers and Troopers who are on the frontlines and are essential to our public safety. I will ask the legislature to “backfill” an appropriate amount of funding to make sure essential positions are not cut.

In addition, I will ask the legislature to approve transferring approximately $10 million to the General Fund from accounts and funds in state government that have balances that exceed the amount needed for the current fiscal year.

These actions are in addition to $77 million in reduced spending that I announced on December 9. Together, these cuts represent nearly $180 million. This will have an impact on programs that the State provides.

As you can imagine, this is not what I want to do, but as Governor I believe that this is what must be done.

Nonetheless, we are in a better position than most states. We have more than $620 million in cash reserves that will help us through this situation. We have a AAA bond rating that allow us to do some things that other states cannot.

And I am confident that, in January, President-elect Obama and Congress will immediately go to work on an economic stimulus package that will make a difference to critical financial issues facing all States, such as funding for Medicaid, improving our infrastructure, creating new jobs, and rebuilding our economy.

We did not cause this economic crisis. But the responsibility falls to us to respond to it. We have endured challenges in the past, and we have succeeded. Our long history of fiscal responsibility, coupled with the actions I have taken, gives me optimism and confidence about what the future holds for our state. Our Iowa values of resilience, strength, and common-sense will sustain us through this, and any, challenge.

Finally, as this year comes to a close, I want to thank you for your service to our state. From floods and tornadoes, to the economic situation we now face, state employees have always risen to the occasion. So, even as we meet these unexpected challenges, on behalf of the First Lady, and the Lt. Governor, I want to wish you and your families a safe holiday season, and best wishes in the New Year.


Chester J. Culver
Governor of Iowa