Vander Plaats group on radio in two races, conspicuously absent in one

Three-time candidate for Iowa governor Bob Vander Plaats has made news this fall primarily on the “No Wiggins” campaign trail. However, the social conservative group he runs is supporting some Republican Iowa Senate candidates as well.

Last week the FAMiLY Leader launched radio advertising campaigns in two competitive Senate races–but notably, not in the district where Vander Plaats’ longtime right-hand man Matt Reisetter is running.  

The FAMiLY Leader’s political action committee has raised and spent little money this year, according to reports on the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board website. The PAC has made only a few relatively small donations to Senate candidates Jane Jech and Jeff Mullen.

Instead, the FAMiLY Leader has flexed its muscles through independent expenditures in many Senate races. You can view the reports here. Vander Plaats’ group has paid for postcard campaigns supporting the following GOP candidates:

     – incumbent Senators Merlin Bartz (Senate district 26), Jerry Behn (Senate district 24), Shawn Hamerlinck (Senate district 46), and Tim Kapucian (Senate district 38);

     – open-seat candidates Mark Segebart (Senate district 6), Amy Sinclair (Senate district 14), Mike Breitbach (Senate district 28), Ken Rozenboom (Senate district 40), Dan Zumbach (Senate district 48), and Andrew Naeve (Senate district 49);

     – challengers Jane Jech (Senate district 36), Al Ringgenberg (Senate district 8) and Matt Reisetter (Senate district 30).

You’d expect the FAMiLY Leader to take a special interest in Reisetter’s race. Not only is Democratic Senator Jeff Danielson a top Republican target in a district where the GOP has a slight voter registration edge, Reisetter worked closely with Vander Plaats for years as an employee of the Iowa Family Policy Center (the 501(c)3 organization that is now under the FAMiLY Leader’s umbrella). Reisetter described his work as “mostly in the political realm with pro-traditional family candidates and campaigns.” In 2007, he worked on Mike Huckabee’s presidential campaign in Iowa, for which Vander Plaats was the state chair. Reisetter was also active in Vander Plaats’ run for governor in 2010, and later in the campaign to oust three Iowa Supreme Court justices.

When the Iowa Family Policy Center became part of the new FAMiLY Leader organization, a 501(c)4 organization created shortly after the 2010 general election, Reisetter was named FAMiLY Leader development director. He then joined Vander Plaats on a 99-county tour to build on momentum from the 2010 victories.

Side note: Andy Kopsa raised important questions here about whether the Iowa Family Policy Center violated the Hatch Act while employing Reisetter. A federal grant supported Reisetter’s salary as head of the center’s marriage-promotion efforts in northeast Iowa while Reisetter worked on Huckabee’s presidential election campaign.

Getting back to the point of this post: no Republican candidate for the Iowa Senate is more closely connected to the FAMiLY Leader than Reisetter. Yet other than spending $2,834.37 on postcards to identified conservatives, Vander Plaats’ group has steered clear of Senate district 30. They are obviously aware that the group’s issues are not tickets to victory in a district where many voters are connected to the University of Northern Iowa.

Reisetter knows it too, because he has not talked about marriage or abortion in his television advertising.

Disclosure reports show the FAMiLY Leader spent $8,671.58 on Mason City-area radio to support Bartz against Democratic incumbent Senator Mary Jo Wilhelm, and spent $9,896.58 on Council Bluffs radio to support Ringgenberg against Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal.

The FAMiLY Leader did not respond to my request for a script of these radio ads, but a listener in the Council Bluffs area indicated that the commercials refer to Senate Democrats blocking property tax relief, a constitutional amendment on marriage, and a late-term abortion ban. That is consistent with language from the FAMiLY Leader’s October 30 press releases announcing the advertising campaign (excerpts):

The FAMiLY LEADER President & CEO Bob Vander Plaats urged supporters and voters in Senate District 26 to cast their ballots for State Senator Merlin Bartz, who is in a tight race with Democrat State Senator Mary Jo Wilhelm.

With much of this election focused on Senate Republicans claiming the majority, Vander Plaats said this race is significant to how Iowa moves forward on important issues regarding the family.

To help inform Iowans in Senate District 26, The FAMiLY LEADER produced a radio ad for Senator Bartz that will air this week on KLGO in Mason City.

“Mary Jo Wilhelm has spent time representing the left-wing extremists rather than the people of her district,” Vander Plaats said. “Last session, Mary Jo and Senate Democrats blocked property tax reform, the right to vote on marriage, and a late-term abortion ban. Mary Jo even spent tax-dollars to fund abortionists, like Planned Parenthood.”

The FAMiLY LEADER Political Director Greg Baker said Bartz will defend one-man, one-woman marriage, the sanctity of human life, and religious freedom.

The FAMiLY LEADER President & CEO Bob Vander Plaats urged supporters and voters in Senate District 8 to cast their ballots for Colonel Al Ringgenberg who is in a tight race with Democrat State Senator Mike Gronstal.

With much of this election focused on Senate Republicans claiming the majority, Vander Plaats said this race is significant to how Iowa moves forward on important issues regarding the family.

To help inform Iowans in Senate District 8, The FAMiLY LEADER produced a radio ad for Ringgenberg that will air this week on KFAB in Omaha, NE.

“Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal has spent time representing the left-wing extremists rather than the people of his district,” Vander Plaats said. “Last session, Gronstal and Senate Democrats blocked property tax reform, the right to vote on marriage, and a late-term abortion ban. Gronstal even spent tax-dollars to fund abortionists, like Planned Parenthood.”

The FAMiLY LEADER Political Director Greg Baker said Ringgenberg will defend one-man, one-woman marriage, the sanctity of human life, and religious freedom.

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread.

UPDATE: I should have mentioned that the FAMiLY Leader crowd owes a special debt to Bartz for helping the Iowa Family Policy Center build a list for future direct-mail and fundraising campaigns shortly after the Iowa Supreme Court announced the Varnum v Brien decision in April 2009. Bartz used his official page on the Iowa Senate Republicans website to promote a petition being circulated by the Iowa Family Policy Center, urging county recorders not to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

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