Saturday, January 30, 2010

Grassley Dancing

Do you think you can dance? Apparently, Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley isn't afraid to show off his moves. He stopped by our crew at WHO Radio's Van and Bonnie's Chocolate Breakfast.

Check it out:

Random thoughts

Sorry, I've been blog-free for a few days now. I'll try to catch up this weekend on some random happenings I've missed. I'm sure you lost sleep waiting for them, right?

Beaumont added up public appearances and news conferences and found Culver has been doing a fraction of what Governors Tom Vilsack and Terry Branstad did. But the past week has been a far different story. Culver had the busiest public weekend I can remember recently, including an appearance at a West Des Moines church last Sunday morning. It continued Monday, with his first news conference (his office said these will be weekly) of the legislative session. This took place in the third week of the session. He has another one scheduled for Monday. What does all of this mean? We talk about it on Channel 13's "Insiders" Sunday morning at 9:30a.m. What do you think of this? Should Culver be doing more like his predecessors? Or is he busy doing work outside of the public eye that can't be tracked in the numbers?

Brad Zaun's campaign sent out a release claiming the first tv ad of the campaign season in the Republican primary in Iowa's 3rd District. It's not the flashiest commercial you will likely see this season. But it's full of Republican red and talk of conservatism.

Sorry technical problems ruined our Purple Matters show this week. They are in the process of installing new software. This new technology can really be something. But from time to time, we pay the price for it. I hope to see you next Tuesday night at 8pm for our next show. In the meantime, I hope you will vote in our Purple Poll. Here's our question: What should the priority now be for our national leaders? You can vote by texting the word, matters, on your cell phone to the number, 72466. Thanks for voting.

My St. Louis Cardinals opted not to bring back their old star, Jim Edmonds. It will be disappointing to see him play (possibly) for the Brewers this year. But he will be 40 and has been a fraction of his former star self the last few years. How much did he really have left? And it didn't sound like the Cards could give him the playing time he wanted. Good luck to you, Jimmy Ballgame. I fear, though, your best games, are in the past.

It's sad to see Kurt Warner retire. He's everything, it seems, that Brett Favre. I understand Favre is a good player. He's been a great player. But I'm so sick of this drama every year whether Favre will come back. Just retire and get over it. Get over yourself. Although, what would he do with his time to get his massive stroked as much as he can get with all of this...
"I will probably retire. No, I won't. Yes, I will". Retire, Brett!

You don't any of this with Warner. Yeah, maybe I'm biased, I admit. St. Louis is my hometown. So I followed Warner's Super Bowl days with the Rams. And he later ended up in Arizona to play with the team I grew up watching, the Cardinals. Warner is such an inspiring story of a guy who doesn't give up, going from a stock boy at a Hy-Vee grocery story in Iowa to the NFL to the Hall of Fame one day. And he seems like the guy who may do his most important work the football field.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Obama Back on the Road

Cue Willie Nelson...

Barack Obama is going back on the road again. The New York Times' Jeff Zeleny (who knows Iowa well as a former reporter for the Des Moines Register) reports today that Obama will go travel more in the U.S. this year to re-connect with voters. Obama's popularity has been going down in the polls as more Americans lose their jobs and the country is in the middle of a heated fight about how to reform the health care system. No word, according to Zeleny's report, on whether Obama plans to come back to Iowa soon. But, of course, Iowa is really where it all began in many ways for him with his victory in the Iowa Caucuses.

Obama has begun his sophomore year at the White House. What did you think of his first year as president? Did he bring the change you wanted and the improvement to your day-to-day lives that you hoped? Grade the president on his performance...A,B,C,D or F.

Text the word, matters, to the number, 72466, on your cell phone to vote in our weekly text poll. After your vote, please share why you graded him the way you did at the bottom of this blog under the comments section. We will share some of your views tonight at the Channel 13 News at Ten.

Thanks for reading and thanks for voting.

Saturday Thoughts

On this Saturday in Des Moines we're watching the rain melt away some our three feet of snow cover that's been around for about a month now. It seems to be melting fast. But what a mess!

Iowa Dems and Repubs caucus this afternoon. It's an experiment to try them on a Saturday. What will turnout be like? If it's up, does that mean Iowans prefer Saturdays or does it mean the fired up protest vote is real?

Monday, Governor Chet Culver begins what a news release said, "Governor Culver will hold the first of his weekly press conferences of the legislative session." Reporters have been asking since Culver took office for weekly news conferences like his predecessors held (although Tom Vilsack seemed to get away from the Monday morning gatherings later in his second term). Culver's first weekly press conference will begin the third week of the legislative session.

So much for the first real Republican faceoff as official candidates in the race for governor. Apparently, Terry Branstad has "scheduling conflicts" and won't share the stage with Rod Roberts, Chris Rants and Bob Vander Plaats at the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association Summit. Eastern Iowa Democratic Congressman Bruce Braley does make an out-of-district appearance at the event.

What did you think of Conan's farewell last night? I thought it was a classy departure. Although, I didn't really get the Freebird tribute at the end. What did you think?

And, no, I don't get this Mark McGwire steroids stuff. Why can't he just say, "Yes, I did steroids. I thought they would help me. Ironically, they may have actually hurt my body and caused me so many injuries. I'm really sorry that I took them. I wasn't honest with my fans. I wasn't honest with my family. And I wasn't honest with myself. I'm sorry. And I will work the rest of my life so that kids don't repeat my stupid mistakes." Is that really so hard to say? Forget about your Hall of Fame chances right now. You've probably already blown it anyway. Remember, you cheated?! Worry about the kids about whom you say you care most. Remember them?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Supreme Court Ruling

There were an assortment of statements expressing that came down after the U.S. Supreme Court ruling Thursday that struck down the campaign finance law. Here are the ones I received in my inbox today.

Democratic Senate Candidate Roxanne Conlin was the only one to use her statement to attack her opponent (I didn't get a response sent from Senator Chuck Grassley).
(DES MOINES) – Following is a statement from Democratic Senate candidate Roxanne Conlin regarding today’s Supreme Court decision:

“The last thing Iowans need is to give the special interests more influence in politics—and it’s why I’m so disappointed in today’s Supreme Court decision.

"Senator Grassley has nearly $2 million in PAC and lobbyist money already in his campaign coffers. During his 50 years in elected office he’s carried the water for Wall Street, even using billions of taxpayer dollars to bail them out. He enriched the pharmaceutical industry when he authored legislation that increased drug prices for consumers and profits for them.

"Because of today's decision corporations who have foreclosed on our neighbors homes, charged credit card rates that would shame a loan shark and polluted our water and air will have an even greater voice in our political process. The special interests will have a louder voice at the expense of everyday Americans."
Attorney General Tom Miller is still working on it...
We are analyzing the Court’s decision and its impact on Iowa law, which must be consistent with the Court’s decision today.

The decision relates specifically to independent expenditures by corporations and makes it unconstitutional to ban such expenditures. The portion of Iowa’s statute that prohibits corporations from making independent expenditures that expressly advocate that voters should vote for or against a specific candidate is unconstitutional under the Supreme Court’s decision today.

The Court’s decision does not specifically address direct corporate contributions to candidates’ campaign committees, but the rationale of today’s decision raises questions in that realm, and we will review those questions over the next few days
Secretary of State Michael Mauro doesn't seem to be much of a fan of the ruling.
“Today’s Supreme Court ruling removing the restriction on corporate election donations opens up an already flawed system in which special interests and powerful big business will gain greater control of the political agenda. Now more than ever, campaign finance reform needs to be addressed on the state and national level,” stated Mauro.
“It has been evident for years big money and special interests have influenced campaigns, crowned candidates and controlled policy agenda at the expense of the public. The court’s decision will take misleading campaign advertising to unprecedented levels. I urge legislators to take a serious and objective look at true campaign finance reform that puts politics back on a level playing field for everyone seeking public office.”
Democratic Congressman Leonard Boswell not only didn't like it, but he proposed a constitutional amendment to do something about it.
Washington, D.C. – Today, Congressman Leonard Boswell introduced a constitutional amendment to restrict corporations and labor organizations from using operating and general treasury funds to bankroll federal campaign advertisements in response to the Supreme Court’s 5-to-4 ruling today that overturned 20 years of campaign law.

“I have introduced this important legislation today because the Supreme Court’s ruling strikes at the very core of democracy in the United States by inflating the speech rights of large, faceless corporations to the same level of hard-working, every day Americans,” said Boswell, a founding member of the Populist Caucus. “The Court’s elevation of corporate speech inevitably overpowers the speech and interests of human citizens who do not have the coffers to speak as loudly.”

“Corporations already have an active role in American political discourse through million-dollar political action committees and personal donations to campaigns,” Boswell said. “The legislation I introduced today will prevent the Wall Street corporations that received billions in taxpayer bailout dollars from turning around and pouring that same money into candidates that will prevent financial regulation on their industry. No American should have to turn on the TV and see AIG telling them how to vote.”

H.J.Res. 68 would disallow a corporation or labor organization from using any operating funds or any other funds from its general treasury to make any payment for any advertisement in connection with a federal election campaign, regardless of whether or not the advertisement expressly advocates the election of defeat of a specified candidate in the election.
Republican Congressman Steve King sent out the only statement I saw from the Iowa delegation in favor of the ruling.
“The First Amendment to the Constitution clearly states that Congress shall make no law ‘abridging the freedom of speech.’ The Constitution protects the rights of citizens and employers to express their viewpoints on political issues. Today’s Supreme Court decision affirms the Bill of Rights and is a victory for liberty and free speech.”
What did you think of the ruling? Is it free speech? Will it give big business and unions too much say over people with opinions, but without money, to fight against their spending?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

National Republicans Mischaracterize My Story

My story became a story this week. And I don't think it was an accurate one. The National Republican Congressional Committee used my story that included Iowa 3rd District Democratic Congressman Leonard Boswell. It claimed Boswell didn't know the Massachusetts senate race was close. That is not true at all. All Boswell told me was that he wasn't involved in the race personally. And he said he DID realize it was competitive.

Here's the misleading release from the NRCC:

All –

According to WHO-TV’s Dave Price, Leonard Boswell seems to be unaware of the surprisingly competitive nature of the special election occurring today in Massachusetts:

Some Iowa leaders are closely watching the Massachusetts' U.S. Senate seat formerly held for decades by Ted Kennedy. If Democrats hold onto the seat, that could allow them to keep their 60 seat filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. That would allow them to dictate terms of debate on the national health care reform bill.

But a Republican win could leave Democrats one seat short. Congressman Leonard Boswell, a Democrat in Iowa's Third District, said, "They tell me it's a race. I don't know. I've not been involved in any way. I hear it's a race and we'll just have to wait and see."

(Dave Price, “ELECTION IMPACT: Iowa leaders watching Massachusetts Senate race,” WHO-TV, Jan. 19, 2010)

Given the amount of media attention the Massachusetts Senate election has been receiving, it’s shocking that a political animal like Boswell has not heard about what’s going on in the Bay State.

So where has Leonard Boswell been?

Well, we know from this Craigslist ad that he wasn’t out looking for signatures for his nominating petition.

As Hotline On Call reports, Boswell is willing to pay $2 “for each of the 1,740 signatures he needs to get on the ballot as a Dem.” According to the ad, Boswell is looking for signatures in Polk County, home to the state capitol of Des Moines, suggesting that Boswell’s support has taken a hit in the heart of his own district.

The Iowa Republican blog notes the last incumbent who had petition problems didn’t fare well in the general election:

In 2006, Republican Congressman Jim Leach struggled to collect the necessary signatures in Iowa’s 2nd District. Leach, a 30 year incumbent, was defeated that fall by Dave Loebsack, who, ironically, had to be nominated at his district convention because he failed to collect enough signatures.

(Craig Robinson, “Boswell Struggles to Collect Polk County Signatures,” The Iowa Republican, Jan. 19, 2010)

Will Boswell’s petition problems foreshadow an electoral defeat? Only time will tell.

Purple Matters

If you live in central Iowa, good luck getting around today without falling on your a#$! It's picturesque to see looking out your window. But seeing all that ice glaze in person isn't nearly as fun.

Here's what happened on my Purple Matters internet show Tuesday night. We talked with 3rd District Republican candidate Jim Gibbons about what the Massachusetts Republican senate upset means, what it's like to have to take on so many fellow Republicans in a primary, what kind of "X" factor the tea partiers will be this year and why Iowans should push out a long-time incumbent like Democratic Rep. Leonard Boswell.

Sec of State Michael Mauro also talked about why incumbents across the country should be worried (he's one of those incumbents up for re-election this fall), why he is intrigued with the Saturday caucuses in Iowa this weekend and whether moving to that day is a good idea and what he thinks of the Republican criticism of what he has and hasn't done on the job.

We finish up with our new sensation (I'm calling it that to see if it catches on:), "7 things inside my head"...the fast, furious and fun grilling of a guest.

Watch it here.

Our Purple Poll question of the week is, how would grade President Obama on his first year in office? Text the word, matters, to the number, 72466, on your cell phone to vote.

Thanks for voting and thanks for reading.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Body Scanners

There's been a lot of talk about body scanners ever since the underwear bomber tried to strike on Christmas Day. Supporters say the scanners would offer another sophisticated measure of protection for us when we fly. Critics don't want strangers taking a peak at their privates. What do you think? It's our Purple Poll question the week. Dial the number 72466 on your cell phone and then text the word, matters. You will get a return text giving you a few options. Then reply with your vote on whether you want to see body scanners on your next flight. Thanks for voting.

Here's a story Al-Jazeera did on the story (I picked this one because the reporter has a cool accent:)

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Number Crazy

On a sunny Saturday in Des Moines, I'm thinking about some numbers...

$30 million...NBC is reportedly paying Conan O'Brien $30 million to go away. Hmmm...I work for NBC. But I like my job:)

$1.5 million...Former Iowa Governor Terry Branstad raised $1.5 million for his campaign for governor.

$2.6 million...Current Governor Chet Culver's campaign then sent out a release that said he had about $2.6 million in the bank. I can't tell by the release how much of that money he raised during 2009 and how much he carried over from his other years as governor. But I assume all the numbers will get a little clearer this Tuesday when the campaigns have to file their disclosure reports.

Hundreds...Governor Culver is changing his projections again for how many jobs his $830 million I-JOBS bonding plan will create. He and his office first said 30,000. Then, the projection dropped into the 20-thousands. Now, according to the Des Moines Register, the governor's projects have dropped into the "hundreds".

8,000...Governor Culver claims there are 8,000 new green jobs since he became governor. But the Des Moines Register found most of those jobs actually started before Culver took office.

3...The gay magazine, The Advocate, ranks Iowa City as the third gayest city in America.

February 17...St. Louis Cardinals pitchers and catchers report for spring training. Play ball!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Condition of the State

It's nearing midnight and I'm just getting a moment for a few observations of Governor Chet Culver's third condition of the state address. So here we go:

Culver called the condition of the state "resilient". It sounded a bit different to me, so I checked. The last two years, he called the state "strong". I thought that's what Tom Vilsack used to say, too. What's the difference in the words? Perhaps, nothing. Perhaps, something. But the resilience of Iowans was a bit of a theme in Culver's address.

Culver urged the legislature to act on the findings of the panel looking into whether tax credits are working. He didn't seem to give an opinion, particularly on the most controversial, the film tax credits. Afterwards, his office said he will leave it up to lawmakers to figure it out.

Culver wants to take money out of the road use fund (which goes toward fixing up the state's crumbling road system) to put toward troopers, who saw their funding cut previously. The idea was met with silence in the house chamber when he announced it. Afterwards, Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal said his party is mixed on the idea. Not quite a ringing endorsement.

But Gronstal seemed to be willing to help Culver put back some money in schools, along with the 2% allowable growth increase on their funding.

That's it for now. I'm out of gas.

Thanks for reading.

Purple Matters 1/12/10

How did Governor Chet Culver do in his big speech Tuesday? What's it like to be a black woman in a mostly white room and state? What's it feel like to walk through one of those body scanners? And what do I think of Big Mac?

Those were some of the topics we talked about during this week's Purple Matters internet show on

We also had the results of our weekly Purple Poll. Here was the question: Should gay couples be able to adopt? The vote was lop-sided. I hope you'll sign up for our weekly Purple Poll. It's pretty simple you text the word, matters, to the number, 72466. Then we'll send you the question of the week and you text back the answer. I hope you will check it out.

And Iowa Representative Helen Miller tells us what she thought of Governor Chet Culver's condition of the state address. She likes some of what she heard. But she's not so sure about a couple ideas he mentioned.

Watch it here.

So what is it like to go through a body scanner at the airport? A metro woman unexpectedly found out on a trip back from Russia. She shares her experience. What do you think? Should we have those scanners that just might show some of your most private parts to the screener checking you out? Is a little peep show worth trying to keep us safe from underwear bombers?

Watch that part here.

Last week, we debuted the segment, "7 things in my head". It went so well, we brought it out again. This time, not so good. It's 7 rapid fire questions, fun/personal/professional/whatever they may be, to a person, so he can't think about it...just react. Well, technology got the best of us. But here it is and my disgust and hope for Mark McGwire.

Watch the final part here.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Leno on a little later

It seems like what used to be whispers about some prime-time unhappiness are now turning into much louder talks about a prime-time to late-night shakeup for NBC and possibly others.

NBC didn't want to lose Conan O'Brien a few years to another network, so it promised him Jay Leno's "Tonight Show". But when Leno's deal ran out last year, it didn't want to lose Leno, especially to another network. So then NBC gave Leno his own prime-time show at 9pm central. Ratings sank a bunch compared to the other dramas NBC used to air in that time slot. Why does it matter? Because even in this world of remote controls, (I remember when I and my siblings were my dad's personal remote control) some people still watch at 10pm what they had been watching on the same channel at 9pm.

So if Leno's numbers tanked from the previous 9pm shows, it meant a lot fewer people were staying tuned for the 10pm news on NBC stations. And that show needs to make a lot of money for local stations. So a 30% hit to those news ratings, as some stations have claimed, means a major loss of cash.

What should NBC do about all of this? There's growing speculation, that after the Olympics, NBC will move Leno back to his original time slot at 10:30 central. He'll only do a half-hour show this time and then have Conan come on after him at 11pm. Presumably, NBC will then re-program the 9pm hour with dramas that more people would watch. This would seem to be quite a meal of eating crow, or peacock, for NBC. Stay tuned.

What do you want to see happen? Do you watch Jay at 9pm? Do you watch Conan at 10:30? Do you want the shows back where they used to be? Do you even care what NBC does?

Friday, January 08, 2010

Random thoughts

Random frigid Friday thoughts...

Someone reportedly broke into the funeral parlor-turned Republican Party of Iowa headquarters in Des Moines. Maybe they were trying to find out where the bodies are buried.

The University of South Florida's head football coach just got canned for accusations that he roughed up one of his players during the season. Former USF coach/current Univ of Florida coach/former Iowa State coach Dan McCarney is reportedly one of the choices for the job. A lot of people in Iowa will be rooting for him to get another chance at a head coaching job. Good luck, Mac.

St. Louis Cardinals' manager Tony LaRussa floated the idea of expanding the Cards' new hitting coach Mark McGwire's new role to include pinch-hitting late in the season. Not-so-Big-Mac-anymore-would be 47 by the end of the season. What is this all about? As a co-worker said, is this just a hope that Mac could hit a clean home run?

For the 13th straight year, Iowa's public school enrollment has fallen. How is that possible? And when will state leaders get together to do something about this? They can't possibly think this is a good thing, can they?

We're headed to the see the Lion King as the Des Moines Civic Center tonight. In these temperatures, I may actually splurge on valet parking.

Stay warm:)

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Obama Breaking Campaign Promise?

Promises, promises...

Remember this one?

Or this one?

Or, perhaps, this one?

Critics are coming after President Barack Obama hard right now on what they say is his broken promise that he would openly televise the health care negotiations so the public could watch.

The website,, put together a bunch of clips from the campaign trail of Obama pledging openness on the issue. Watch them here:

What do you think? Fair or unfair? Be honest...

Branstad for Governor

Terry Branstad is running for governor. No, seriously, he is. Who knew?:) Branstad will begin his announcement tour in Des Moines on Tuesday, January 19th. Branstad hasn't announced a time or specific place yet. But here's the release with some of the early info:

URBANDALE) – The Governor Branstad 2010 Committee today via Twitter released the dates of Gov. Branstad’s upcoming announcement tour, and the 17 cities he will visit during the swing.

“This tour is just the beginning,” said Gov. Terry Branstad. “I plan to visit all 99 counties, just as I did as governor. I look forward to meeting with Iowans as we discuss my positive vision for leading Iowa’s comeback.”

The tour will begin in Des Moines on Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2010 and wraps up on Friday, January 22, 2010.

The cities are as follows, in alphabetical order:

Cedar Rapids
Council Bluffs
Des Moines
Mason City
Mt. Pleasant
Orange City
Sioux City
Storm Lake

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Purple Matters show 1/5/10

Pretty sure we were probably missing some Hawkeye fans for our Purple Matters internet show tonight:) Why would they schedule the Orange Bowl during our show? But we still had a good time. Hawks fans, you can catch the archived version. It's almost as good:)

We started off veering away from politics for a bit. For all of us who "chubbed up" a bit over the holidays and, perhaps, made a little healthier diet part of our new year's resolution, we brought in an expert. Anne Cundiff (sister-in-law of former Drake University star placekicker Billy Cundiff--we talked about that, too) is a dietitian at one of the Des Moines Hy-Vee stores. She offered some help that won't cost you a ton and won't mean giving up everything you like to eat.

Here's the link to this part.

University of Iowa Professor Ellen Lewin left her Hawkeye Orange Bowl watch party to talk about her new book. It's called "Gay Fatherhood". It's about, well, I guess, the title makes it rather obvious. But she interviewed about 100 gay men on the challenges of trying to adopt. The topic of gay adoption will also be our Purple Text Poll powered by Catchwind for this week. Text the word, purple, to 72466. It will send you your choices on whether you think gay couples should adopt. We will announce the results during next week's live show at 8pm central on

Here's the link to this part.

And we started a new segment this week. It's called "7 things inside my head". We talk to people you may know and ask them fun, personal and professional questions to give you a little insight into what they are all about. And we do it rapid-fire, so hopefully, they don't have time to over-think it. They just say what's in their head.

Here's the link to the final part.


I'm still trying to fully figure out what I think of my St. Louis Cardinals dropping some major cash to re-sign left-fielder Matt Holiday. 7 years for about $119 million. That's some serious money and a major commitment to a 30-year-old. They line up one star for years to come. Now can they find the dough to convince the star of all stars, Albert Pujols, to re-sign alongside Holliday? I sure hope so.

Thanks for reading. And thanks for watching. As always, I welcome your thoughts.

Huffington Coming to Des Moines

Arianna Huffington will post in Des Moines this May. The founder of the progressive website, the, is headlining the annual fundraiser for Planned Parenthood of the Heartland May 4th at Hoyt Sherman Place in Des Moines. 515.235.0408 for ticket info.

You might remember Huffington ran for governor as an Independent in California in 2003. And even if you don't like her politics, she has that cool Greek accent:)

Grassley Questions Cash for Clunkers

Iowa Republican Senator Chuck Grassley wants to check the math of the Cash for Clunkers program. You will remember fellow Iowan, Democratic Congressman Bruce Braley, was one of the architects of the bill. Here's the release and letter from Grassley:

Grassley seeks accounting of Cash for Clunkers administrative costs

WASHINGTON --- Senator Chuck Grassley is asking the Secretary of Transportation to for an accounting of the administrative costs for the $3 billion “Cash for Clunkers” program set up on a temporary basis last year to help consumers buy new, more fuel efficient cars.

Grassley said he based his request on consultation with the Inspector General for the Department of Transportation. “Cash for Clunkers was set up very quickly, and there hasn’t been an accounting of the administrative costs of the program. There also hasn’t been publicly available information about how contractors were picked to process the thousands of transactions that the program generated. My concern is the waste, fraud and abuse that may have resulted from the vulnerabilities that can come with such a quick start,” Grassley said.

Grassley also asked the Secretary of Transportation to say when or if the Department took recommendations from the Inspector General about problems with the way the information technology system was set up in the Cash for Clunkers program. Recommendations were made, but it’s not known if they were implemented.

“It seems taxpayers deserve a full report for the money that was spent on this program in the event that a similar program, maybe for a different purpose, is set up in the future,” Grassley said.

The text of Grassley’s letter of inquiry is below.

January 5, 2010

The Honorable Raymond H. LaHood
U.S. Department of Transportation
1200 New Jersey Ave, SE
Washington, DC 20590

Dear Secretary LaHood:

Recently, my staff spoke with the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) to discuss the “Cash for Clunkers” program. As Ranking Member of the Committee on Finance (Committee), it is my constitutional duty to conduct oversight into the actions of the Executive Branch, including the activities of the Department of Transportation (DOT).

The Consumer Assistance to Recycle and Save Act of 2009 (CARS/Program) was passed as part of the Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2009 that was introduced in Congress on May 12, 2009 and signed into law on June 24, 2009. In essence, CARS was intended to help consumers pay for new, more fuel efficient cars or trucks from a participating dealer when they traded in less fuel efficient vehicles. This legislation originally provided for $1 billion for auto dealers and on August 7, 2009 the President and Congress appropriated an additional $2 billion for CARS.

Pursuant to the legislation, the DOT had only 30 days after the date the legislation was enacted into law to engage contractors and stand up the Program before the first rebates were issued. It is my understanding that the original legislation provided $50 million to cover the costs of these contracts, but no specific funding provision for the contractors was included with the additional $2 billion that was provided for the Program. To date the Administration has not provided an accurate accounting of the administrative costs related to the Cash for Clunkers program and I believe that the American taxpayer deserves more information, not less, and that information needs to come sooner rather than later.


In addition to auditing the individual transactions of the Cash for Clunkers program, I am interested in the corporations and executive branch agencies that received contracts from the DOT to process thousands of transactions generated by CARS. It seems to me that the Administration chose an inherently risky approach to developing and implementing the Cash for Clunkers program and spent millions to get it up and running in record time with little regard for proper oversight and accountability; thus creating an environment ripe for waste, fraud and abuse.

It is my further understanding that the DOT contracted with the following corporations/agencies to support either directly or indirectly the Cash for Clunkers program:

Citibank, N.A.;
Affiliated Computer Services (ACS);
the Internal Revenue Service (IRS); and the
Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in Oklahoma City, OK.

In light of this, I have the following questions about the contractors and the contract(s) they received pursuant to CARS. For each question throughout this letter, please respond by first repeating the enumerated question followed by the appropriate answer:

1) Please confirm that the list above is complete and if not please provide a complete list of the contractors and executive branch agencies that received funds to assist in the implementation of the Cash for Clunkers program?

2) Please set forth how much each of these contractors received to date and the anticipated total that they will receive once the books are closed on CARS?

3) What type of contract did the contractors receive? (e.g. time and material contracts, fixed price contracts, cost and cost plus contracts, or all others contracts)

4) Please explain whether or not other types of contracting vehicles were considered and what was the reasoning for choosing one type of contract over another?

5) Please describe in detail the process used to select the corporations/agencies identified in the response to question 1 above?

6) What, if any, bonuses were (are being) paid to the contractors upon completion of their respective contracts?

Vulnerabilities to the CARS IT System

The CARS legislation also included a provision requiring the Secretary of Transportation to consult with the OIG to “establish and provide for the enforcement of measures to prevent and penalize fraud.” It is my understanding that the OIG pointed out a number of possible vulnerabilities, especially with the IT system, which experienced significant problems in the Cash for Clunkers program. In light of this please respond to the following questions:

1) What was the overall effect of the IT disruptions on the implementation of the program?

2) Please provide documentation of the DOT’s IT vulnerability and testing recommendations.

3) Please describe in detail the criteria the DOT used to determine allowed costs versus disallowed costs for the IT system?

OIG Recommendations and Related Implementation

Furthermore, it is my understanding that the OIG made a number of recommendations and pointed out many additional program vulnerabilities. However, I am concerned that the DOT may not have fully complied with the OIG consultative provision as the CARS program was being implemented. Therefore I would like clarification of the role the OIG played and the actions taken by the DOT to respond to those recommendations.

1) What vulnerabilities were identified for the DOT by the OIG?

2) At what point in the process did the DOT ask for this information from the OIG and how was it requested?

3) How were the OIG concerns and recommendations incorporated into the Cash for Clunkers program as it was being implemented? Please be specific.

In cooperating with the Committee’s review, no documents, records, data or information related to these matters shall be destroyed, modified, removed or otherwise made inaccessible to the Committee.

Accordingly, please provide the requested information regarding the Cash for Clunkers contractors and the OIG recommendations electronically in PDF format to by no later than January 25, 2010. Your prompt attention to this request is greatly appreciated and should you have any questions, please contact Janet Drew or Brian Downey of my staff at (202) 224-4515.


Charles E. Grassley
Ranking Member

cc: The Honorable Calvin L. Scovel, III
Inspector General
U.S. Department of Transportation
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20590

Boswell Retirement

Iowa Third District Democrat Leonard Boswell has heard the rumors or at least heard about them for the last few years now. Boswell turns 76 this Sunday. Will he retire? The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza wrote today about retirements in Congress and mentioned Boswell as one of two Congressmen to watch.

Boswell announced on election night in 2008 that he would run again in 2010. And he told us again Monday that he was running again this year. He said he just hadn't held his big, official announcement yet. Boswell was first elected to Congress in 1996.

Woolson, Campaign Manager

Dissing the old boss? Maybe that's too strong. But it is a bit interesting. Two guys in the thick of the governor's race are running against their former bosses. A news release from Bob Vander Plaats' campaign this morning made me think of it. Eric Woolson had been handling the communications' side of the campaign. Now, he'll run the whole campaign. It's interesting since Woolson used to work for Vander Plaats' rival, former Governor Terry Branstad. Here's the release:

DES MOINES – Iowa political veteran Eric Woolson, who managed Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee’s presidential campaign to victory in the 2008 precinct caucuses, has taken on the role of campaign manager for Sioux City GOP gubernatorial candidate Bob Vander Plaats.
“Eric Woolson has a record of results – and that’s exactly what we expect of him as he assumes responsibility for the day-to-day operations and success of this campaign,” Vander Plaats said today. "The foundation for a winning campaign has been set through much hard work and diligence by our team in 2009. We now look to Eric to successfully lead us over the finish line on June 8. He's the right person at the right time."
Woolson has been a leader in the fields of journalism, politics and public relations in Iowa for more than three decades. He was Gov. Terry Branstad’s communications director and press secretary during Branstad’s final term in office. He served as Iowa communications director to George W. Bush during the 2000 presidential campaign and was the communications director for the Doug Gross for Governor campaign in 2002.
Woolson, a Norfolk, Va., native who has lived in Iowa since 1972, was also a member of the Iowa press corps for 20 years. He started his newspaper career in Boone in 1976 and worked for newspapers in Madrid, Guthrie Center, Webster City and Keokuk before joining United Press International in 1983. He wrote for the Waterloo Courier for 11 years, including nine as its political reporter/columnist and two years as its editorial page editor.
In 2002, he founded The Concept Works, a West Des Moines firm that provides public and government relations counsel, marketing services and crisis management for corporate, political and individual clients.

Tim Albrecht is the other interesting story. He used to be Chris Rants' communications guy (back when Rants was still "Christopher"). Now, Albrecht is handling communications for Branstad. Politics sure is interesting, isn't it? Game on.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Rathje for Congress

Who says Republicans and Democrats can't think alike? Iowa 2nd District Republican Candidate Steve Rathje seems to be borrowing a campaign phrase from Hillary Clinton. He sent this message out to Facebook friends. Can you find the failed Clinton campaign phrase?

Steve Rathje Pool the pennies, nickels and dimes folks. If we're going to win, we're going to need every cent we can muster. I couldn't be more fired up than I am now. So let's get off our tails, lock arms and take this country back. No more whining, no more complaining, either you're in it to win it or you're not. I'm taking back ...what's rightfully mine! How bout you?

Here's the original:

Just kidding. Here's your trip down memory lane.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Romney to Iowa

Mike Huckabee. Then, Sarah Palin. Now Mitt Romney. Let the 2012 reunion tour continue. The Boston Globe reports Romney will come back to Iowa to promote his new book, "No Apology". The paper said he will have two stops in Des Moinesa and Iowa State. The book is supposed to be a critique of the Obama presidency. Here are the details.

Romney's people, by the way, say they won't try to compete with the large crowds Palin attracted (Palin drew thousands at a book-signing in Sioux City). His people say Romney and Palin are two different people with two different styles.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Questions for 2010

As I finish a mostly unproductive day of watching bowl games, I'm full of questions for the year ahead. Here they are in no apparent order...

How much better will the economy be by next new year's day? It WILL be better, right?

Will 1 of the 4 remaining Republican candidates for governor drop out before one month from now?

What will the biggest issue on voters' minds be next fall? Is the economy a no-brainer pick right now?

How much will the same sex marriage debate play in the Iowa elections?

How nasty will the legislative session be this year? Will the governor and Democratic leaders get along?

What job will Hawkeye Coach Kirk Ferentz be rumored to want?

What will the unexpected issue be that surfaces during the legislative session?

Will at least one Iowa congressman get upset in the fall election or will incumbents prevail like they usually do?

Will any Republican achieve the 35% threshold to claim the nomination in the gubernatorial primary?

Does a Democrat have a chance to upset Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley?

Will my Cardinals push back the Cubs and take the division again? I sure hope so!

What do you think? What questions do you have for 2010?