Mid-week open thread: Iowa Republican infighting edition

This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

Jennifer Jacobs' latest piece speculating on GOP candidates for Iowa's U.S. Senate seat includes a classic comment from former Mitt Romney strategist and marriage equality supporter David Kochel: "When I hear names like Steve Deace and Bob Vander Plaats for Senate, it reminds me of the bar scene in 'Star Wars.'"

Jacobs also mentioned one name I hadn't heard before in this context: State Senator Mark Chelgren. He is up for re-election in the Democratic-leaning Ottumwa area next year, so he would have to give up his Iowa Senate seat in order to seek the GOP nomination for the U.S. Senate.

This week an anonymous group calling itself "Iowa Republicans for Truth" declared war against The Iowa Republican blog and its publisher, Craig Robinson. More details are after the jump. I enjoyed the Iowa .Gif-t Shop's take on the kerfuffle.

UPDATE: In the comments, Bleeding Heartland user conservative demo mentioned Ed Tibbetts' piece for the Quad-City Times on the battle brewing inside the Scott County Republican Party. I've added excerpts below.  

You can read the full e-mail about "Greed and Corruption at TheIowaRepublican.com" here. Jennifer Jacobs wrote up the story for the Des Moines Register, focusing on the bad blood between Robinson's site and the current leaders of the Republican Party of Iowa. The Iowa Republican has published numerous stories and and commentaries painting Iowa GOP staff in an unflattering light.

The crux of the "Iowa Republicans for Truth" attack is this: "NextGen PAC," an organization fronted by Sandy Greiner, paid The Iowa Republican blog at least $3,750 in "professional fees" per month for seven months during late 2009 and early 2010. At the same time, Robinson wrote commentaries more favorable to Terry Branstad than to Bob Vander Plaats, his main rival for the 2010 gubernatorial nomination.

Robinson told Jacobs, "TheIowaRepublican.com is a business and NextGen PAC was a political entity that advertised with us over three years ago." Let's get real. Traffic on that blog was probably not high enough to justify advertising fees totaling $27,000 over seven months.

"Iowa Republicans for Truth," whoever they are, promised to report on "the thousands of dollars being funneled to TheIowaRepublican.com by the big government forces of Nick Ryan and the American Future Fund." This should get interesting, because during and after the Iowa caucus campaign, Robinson wrote many commentaries favorable to Rick Santorum at the same time Nick Ryan was making lots of money from the Santorum operation.

UPDATE: From Ed Tibbetts' story published in the March 8 edition of the Quad-City Times:

Chairwoman Judy Davidson, who is seeking a third two-year term, faces a contest, and so do other executive committee members. Some of the challengers were supporters of Ron Paul's presidential bid, although they say they are running independently. [...]

Michael Elliott, a Davenporter who has been a leader of a local liberty group, plans to seek one of three vice-chair posts. He said others also are seeking positions on the executive committee. He argues the panel has been too exclusionary for too long. [...]

A nominating committee has recommended a slate of candidates, with Davidson as the chair. But party rules allow nominations to be taken from the floor, and at Tuesday's meeting, Elliott and others intend to have their names placed in nomination.

Anthony Woolever, a 29-year-old chiropractor from Davenport who also is an Iraq War combat veteran, is seeking the chairmanship. He thinks electing a young person such as himself would show the party is seeking to reach young voters. His background, he said, also would appeal to small business owners and veterans.

Woolever, who was a Paul supporter during the 2012 presidential caucuses, said the Republican Party ostracizes people who don't walk in step with its candidate. He said that happened to supporters of Paul and Rick Santorum. [...]

Davidson has been involved in local party politics for more than a dozen years, and she has been recognized nationally for her work. In 2011, Campaigns and Elections magazine called her one of Iowa's most influential party leaders.

Davidson thinks what is happening locally is somewhat akin to the divisions at the state level, where former Paul supporters have assumed leadership positions at the expense of more traditional Republicans. [...]

Branstad has endorsed Davidson and her team. Tim Albrecht, a spokesman for the governor, said they are "proven messengers, fundraisers and winners, and the governor believes they are the right team to lead us to victory next November."

Elliott, who has been at odds with some local Republicans since running as an independent for county auditor in 2008, makes the argument that the 2010 election victories were more because of tea party enthusiasm, which he said he and his supporters offer.

SECOND UPDATE: The Sunday Des Moines Register carried this piece by Jennifer Jacobs on how the Republican Party can improve its performance with moderates.

Leading conservative thinkers point out that although a 5.8 percentage point loss in Iowa blindsided Mitt Romney's presidential campaign, it drew 55,000 more Iowa Republicans to the polls than the John McCain campaign did four years before.

They see that as evidence they don't have a problem with their base: It's independents and newcomers they need to snag, often in the middle of the liberal to conservative spectrum. [...]

"We must agree that we can disagree amongst ourselves, and do so while respecting the opposing viewpoint," said Iowa operative Chad Airhart.

Romney's Iowa caucus campaign manager, Sara Craig, who refers to herself as proudly conservative, said: "Unfortunately, there are times that I do not feel the current Republican Party represents the issues I care about most. This can and should be fixed, or there won't be a path forward for the GOP." [...]

Iowa political strategist Robert Haus said Republicans shouldn't be "lighter versions of the Democrats."

"We promote opportunity," he said. "We protect life, private property and the right to defend them."

But Haus doesn't think same-sex marriage and abortion should be at the forefront going into 2016.

"The Democrats want us and bait us into fighting the culture battles," Haus said. "We have to realize the bait on that lure has a very sharp hook under it."

Tamara Scott, Iowa's committeewoman on the Republican National Committee, said strong positions against abortion and same-sex marriage are part of the GOP platform, and she was pleased that party activists who met with Priebus wanted to keep that message.

"You will not attract new people to the party when your foundation is cracking," Scott said.

  • Iowa Republican

    I think Craig Robinson politics are pragmatic enough to back Branstad over BVP.  I don't think that one had extra sugar attached to it.

    The Santorum support strikes me as potentially less genuine.  I had no idea that the scuffles with the Ron Paul people were so fierce over there, it is hugely entertaining.  I dislike the Ron Paul people far more than the more reasonable wing so I do like to read the Iowa Republican.  

    I'm not going to worry about the clown car for the Harkin seat until King says no.  

  • Bruce Rastetter

    NextGen PAC/American Future Fund have been bankrolled by Bruce Rastetter, who was rewarded for his largesse with a seat on the Board of Regents, which he exploits for his personal profit by advancing his personal agribusiness empire.

    At the same time, TheIowaRepublican.com can suddenly afford to pay Jeff Patch to write nothing but desperate character assassination against Senator Harkin and the Harkin Institute - the same Harkin Institute which should have had the freedom and credibility to keep the public informed on agricultural issues, until it was torn apart by - you guessed it - the Board of Regents.

    Is anyone awake out there?

  • Apparently in Scott Co. as well

    The QC Times this morning ran a long story about the family squabble going on in the Scott County Republicans.

    Same stuff about the Paul Branch and Teabaggers feeling left out in the cold while the "in crowd" does the "why-some-of-our-best-friends-are _ _ (insert name of your pet outsider)"  rationale.

    Gotta love it.

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