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Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller launched his campaign for a ninth term today with events in Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, and Dubuque. His official statement, posted below, elaborates on Miller's recent response to critics of his work and highlights the following "achievements for Iowans in the last three years":
1. Miller's "leadership in negotiating the national mortgage servicing settlement with major banks," resulting in "payment of more than $40 million to Iowa homeowners and funding the Iowa Mortgage Help Hotline, which has helped thousands of Iowans with mortgage foreclosure issues." (Roughly 6,000 Iowa borrowers received checks for $1,480 as part of the settlement--hardly adequate compensation for losses they suffered because of lenders' mortgage servicing abuse.)
2. Protecting consumers against various kinds of fraud.
3. Helping to prosecute both violent and white-collar criminals, strengthening laws against child pornography and enticement of minors, improving victim assistance services to Iowans who have suffered from family violence or sexual assault.
4. Saving millions of taxpayer dollars by defending the state in various lawsuits.
5. Protecting the environment through "18 enforcement actions during the last three years involving air pollution, water pollution, and illegal solid waste disposal."
Miller also promised to work on more issues during his next term, including "abuses by for-profit colleges," "shoddy debt collection practices," "ways to strengthen human trafficking and consumer protection laws," and "the challenges of the e-cigarette." UPDATE: Radio Iowa posted audio from one of Miller's press events today.
What's on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? This is an open thread.
The Iowa Democratic Party's Jefferson-Jackson Dinner was an entertaining affair. I've posted some highlights after the jump. The "news" of the evening was Senator Chuck Schumer of New York endorsing Hillary Clinton for president, but for my money that wasn't the most interesting part of his speech.
To defend his work and "set the record straight," Miller wrote guest editorials for various publications. You can read his specific rebuttals to Cullen here. I was more interested in the list of achievements he cited as proof that "in the last few years," the Attorney General's office has "done more than ever to serve Iowans." It sounds like the kernel of a stump speech or television commercial to me. I've posted those excerpts after the jump.
Please share any relevant thoughts in this thread. I haven't heard yet about a Republican challenger to Miller, but I would not be surprised to see his 2010 opponent Brenna Findley take another shot next year. She is currently Governor Terry Branstad's legal counsel and just completed a six-week stint as the governor's interim chief of staff.
Governor Terry Branstad announced yesterday that Matt Hinch will start work as his new chief of staff on October 14. A short bio of Hinch is in the press release I've posted after the jump. He has worked as a Congressional and campaign staffer to U.S. Representative Tom Latham, chief of staff to Iowa House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, and most recently as a lobbyist for the Greater Des Moines Partnership.
Branstad's legal counsel Brenna Findley has served as interim chief of staff since Jeff Boeyink left last month to start work as a lobbyist. She's more qualified to run the governor's office than she is for her current position, so I thought she might become the next permanent chief of staff. Perhaps she is gearing up for a second bid to become Iowa's attorney general. Running for statewide office is a full-time job.
Kevin McNellis of the National Institute on Money in State Politics published a report yesterday on Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller's 2010 campaign fundraising. The report connects Miller's contributions from out-of-state law firms and people in the finance, insurance, and real estate sector with the nationwide foreclosure investigation Miller has been leading since October. Miller objects that the report "is false or misleading from the start to the finish." More details and context are after the jump.
Time for a new thread on the statewide election results. I haven't dug into the county-level returns in the governor's race yet, but Chet Culver didn't even carry Polk County, which he won with a 21,000 vote margin in 2006. Culver did carry Johnson County, but by a much smaller margin than in 2006. What happened in your area, Bleeding Heartland readers?
UPDATE: Culver carried only eight counties: Black Hawk (Waterloo/Cedar Falls area), Linn (Cedar Rapids), Johnson (Iowa City), Dubuque, Des Moines (Burlington area), Lee (Ft. Madison/Keokuk), Story (Ames), and Jefferson (Fairfield). Culver almost carried Floyd County, where Republicans easily won House district 14. I guess Charles City loves I-JOBS! LATE UPDATE: The unofficial results indicate that Culver did carry Floyd County (barely), by fewer than 100 votes.
Branstad carried Wapello County (Ottumwa) for the first time. In his 1994 landslide victory, Bonnie Campbell carried only four counties: Story, Johnson, Des Moines and Wapello.
The down-ticket Democrats had a lot of ground to make up with Chuck Grassley winning the U.S. Senate race 64 percent to 33 percent and Terry Branstad winning 53 percent to 43 percent. Secretary of State Michael Mauro outperformed Culver, which he wasn't able to do in 2006, but still fell short against Matt Schultz. It's a shame to see such a competent public official lose in a wave election. Iowa will continue to benefit from his work to make voting more accessible and secure, with paper ballots. I expect the new legislature to act on Schultz's top priority, photo ID requirements, and I wonder if they will also revoke same-day voter registration.
Iowa Republicans didn't miss many targets, but I think they overlooked an opportunity by not investing in the state treasurer's race. Michael Fitzgerald won his eighth term by an unusually narrow (for him) margin: just under 53 percent to 47 percent. A few hundred thousand dollars thrown toward Dave Jamison's campaign could have won that race. Jamison didn't have the resources to improve his name identification or make his case against Fitzgerald. Last year some conservative blogger, it may have been Krusty, said Christian Fong should have challenged Fitzgerald instead of running for governor as a 32-year-old. With his background in finance, his connections to major Republican fundraisers, and his roots in both eastern and western Iowa, Fong might have outperformed Jamison.
Mr. Miller's status as a point man in the multistate investigation has been seen by many observers as a sign that the states will push for a sweeping settlement requiring lenders to implement mortgage modifications allowing homeowners to stay in their houses.
Mr. Miller, who has monitored mortgage-industry practices for years, had already begun discussions with some lenders, including Bank of America. In one meeting last week at Mr. Miller's office, he and officials from other states told Bank of America executives and outside lawyers that state attorneys general would like additional aid to be offered to borrowers, such as further principal reductions on certain delinquent loans where people owe much more than what their homes are worth, according to people familiar with the meeting.
Doubt Findley would have been interested in seeking concessions from corporations to people underwater on their mortgages.
Please share your thoughts about any of last night's election results in your town, county or beyond. Iowa City voters upheld the 21-only bar ordinance, by the way.
Feel free to comment on races from outside Iowa that caught your eye. A few U.S. Senate seats haven't been called, but the chamber seems likely to have 53 Democrats and 47 Republicans. Republicans will pick up between 60 and 70 House seats, meaning they will hold 240 to 250 seats in the new chamber (218 are needed for a majority). Republicans are on track to hold about 30 governorships, although several states have yet to be decided. Republicans swept Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania, assuring that they can replicate their successful gerrymanders of those states. Florida approved ballot measures that were designed to limit gerrymandering, but opponents may challenge those rules in court. Florida will still have a Republican governor and legislature, but if the ballot measures stand Democrats may make gains at the state level and in Congressional districts.
Democrats did better in some states (Connecticut, California, West Virginia) than in most others, but a common thread was Republican gains among independents, working-class whites and suburban voters. For instance, Joe Sestak fell just short in the Pennsylvania Senate race, losing to Pat Toomey 51 percent to 49 percent. He did as well in Philadelphia as Bob Casey did four years ago, but couldn't match Casey's performance in other parts of the state.
Television commercials on the Iowa attorney general race remain in heavy rotation statewide, and over the weekend both parties raised questions about how that advertising was funded. Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Matt Strawn demanded an investigation yesterday into loans received by Attorney General Tom Miller's campaign. The Iowa Democratic Party highlighted heavy spending in support of Republican Brenna Findley by outside groups, some of which don't disclose their donors.
The "newspaper Iowa depends upon" won't endorse a candidate in this year's races for attorney general, state treasurer, secretary of state, secretary of agriculture or state auditor, Des Moines Register editorial page editor Linda Fandel confirmed to me this week. Fandel told me the newspaper has been inconsistent about endorsing candidates for those offices in the past. She said limited staff time and resources lay behind the decision not to endorse this year. The Register did endorse candidates in the races for governor, U.S. Senate and all five U.S. House seats, as well as the Iowa Supreme Court retention vote, which the editors called the most important election in the state this year.
I understand limits on resources. Compared to previous election cycles, the Register's newsroom staff is smaller, and its editorial pages contain less content. However, a newspaper that claims to have a statewide profile shouldn't punt on elections offering such significant contrasts to voters. More thoughts on these campaigns are after the jump.
As a result, 30-second commercials during news and entertainment programs will be all most Iowa voters see about the attorney general race. This week new ads targeting Miller and Findley hit Iowa tv screens. To my knowledge, none of the video clips have been posted online, but I taped the ads. Transcripts and descriptions of the visuals are below. UPDATE: Scroll down for a description of the Findley campaign's latest commercial.
Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller and Republican challenger Brenna Findley debated at the University of Iowa law school on October 20. I read the news coverage of the debate highlights at at the Des Moines Register blog, WCCC.com, Radio Iowa and IowaPolitics.com, but I was anxious to watch for myself. This afternoon Mediacom showed the debate, and I was able to take detailed notes, which you can read below. Both candidates communicated their central message well. Findley tried to keep the incumbent on the defensive, but I thought Miller handled her points and defended his record well. He also noted several times when her ideology or lack of experience seemed to affect her views on the attorney general's proper role.
Unfortunately, Iowa Public Television isn't showing this debate, and to my knowledge Mediacom has not posted the full video. Miller and Findley appeared jointly on IPTV earlier this month (video and transcript here), but although they touched on some of the same issues, that discussion lacked the depth and intensity of the one-on-one debate. Mediacom cable subscribers have one more chance to watch the attorney general candidates' debate on Channel 22 this Sunday, October 31, at 7 am.
I have another post in progress on this campaign, because both candidates are running new negative television commercials this week. Also, the Progress Project, which is closely linked to the American Future Fund, is up on television with an attack on Miller.
My play-by-play of the Miller-Findley debate is after the jump.
The state party's massive support for Findley is striking. Republicans have not run a strong challenger against Miller for ages. The party didn't even nominate a candidate for attorney general four years ago. Also, the Iowa GOP did essentially nothing for state treasurer candidate Dave Jamison or secretary of state candidate Matt Schultz. Jamison received contributions from several of Findley's high-dollar individual donors and some of the same political action committees backing her (including those created by potential presidential candidates), but the only direct support from the Republican Party came from some GOP county central committees. Schultz received donations from some of those presidential candidate PACs but even less than Jamison from the county central committees and "usual suspect" individual donors.
One could argue that Findley earned the party's backing through her strong fundraising. She reported far more donations in May and July than the other Republican challengers for statewide offices. Without any financial support from the Iowa GOP, Findley would still have been competitive with her opponent's contributions and cash on hand totals. She has been an energetic campaigner all year, and serving as Representative Steve King's top staffer for seven years probably opened a lot of doors for her in terms of fundraising.
Jamison raised $60,479.25 between July 15 and October 14. That was more than the $32,070.52 State Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald raised during the same period, but Fitzgerald had $94,073.48 cash on hand as of October 14 compared to $14,608 for Jamison. Schultz raised $25,903.60 since the July disclosure reports, while Secretary of State Michael Mauro raised $52,862.51. Mauro had $64,267 on hand as of October 14, while Schultz had $7,000.94 on hand and $18,174.77 in unpaid bills to himself. If I were Jamison or Schultz, I'd be upset to be ignored by the state party that gave Findley more than half a million dollars. A hundred thousand or two for Jamison and Schultz would have been enough for a bare-bones paid advertising campaign.
Bleeding Heartland readers, share your own thoughts about the Iowa Republican establishment's strong support for Findley in this thread.
Final note on the attorney general's race: Findley and Miller debated yesterday in Iowa City. You can read about the highlights at the Des Moines Register blog, WCCC.com, Radio Iowa and IowaPolitics.com. Unfortunately, the debate won't be broadcast on Iowa Public Television, but Mediacom cable subscribers can watch it on channel 22 at 2 pm on October 26 and 11 am on October 31. In the Cedar Rapids/Iowa City market, Mediacom subscribers can watch the debate at 7 am on October 24, 8 pm on October 25 or 7 am on October 31.
Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller started running television commercials this week. I didn't see the video on YouTube or his campaign website, but I taped it during the lunchtime newscast on KCCI. UPDATE: The video is now available on YouTube:
Male voice-over: His number one priority: protecting Iowans. Attorney General Tom Miller [photo of Miller, words "Tom Miller Protecting Iowans" on screen]
582 dangerous criminals sent to prison for life--Tom Miller. [Words "582 in prison for life--Tom Miller Attorney General" on screen]
84 sex predators and rapists kept in prison beyond their original terms. [words "84 predators and rapists kept in prison" on screen]
And he continues to lead the fight in the legislature for tougher laws on sex predators--Tom Miller. [photo of Miller, words "tougher laws on sex predators, Tom Miller Attorney General" on screen]
A mortgage hotline helping twelve thousand Iowans struggling to keep their homes. [words "12,000 home owners helped" on screen]
Cracking down on crime, standing up for Iowans. Tom Miller: A tough crime-fighter, a proven attorney general.
They certainly mentioned his name a lot of times, which is important for an incumbent who's not in the news every day. I would like Miller to emphasize his consumer protection work, but I'm not surprised he went with the "tough on crime" angle. Republican attorney general candidate Brenna Findley is running tv and radio ads emphasizing her commitment to locking up sex predators (which implies the incumbent is not doing that job).
The mortgage help hotline is important, and Miller should talk more about that kind of work before the election.
Speaking of foreclosures, the Attorney General's Office announced today that Miller "is leading a 49-state bipartisan mortgage foreclosure working group, as part of a coordinated national effort by states to review the practice of so-called 'robo-signing' within the mortgage servicing industry." The Wisconsin-based Daily Reporter has more on that effort. I've posted the press release from the AG's office after the jump.
UPDATE: The Iowa Student Bar Association of the University of Iowa College of Law is sponsoring a debate between Findley and Miller, now scheduled for October 20 at the law school in Iowa City. Law students will submit the questions in advance.
Republican attorney general candidate Brenna Findley has been one of the hardest-working challengers in Iowa this year. For months, she's been campaigning across the state, and she's raised lots of money, helped by her close ties to Representative Steve King and an enthusiastic booster in Terry Branstad. Findley launched her introductory television commercial this week and has had a radio ad running since mid-September. In contrast, 28-year Democratic incumbent Tom Miller has been mostly invisible on the campaign trail.
Findley's introductory tv and radio ads are after the jump, along with some other recent news from the attorney general's race.
It's been months since we've had new public nonpartisan polling of Iowa general election matchups, but three Republican polls have come out in the last ten days. None of them hold good news for Iowa Democrats.
After the jump I summarize results from statewide polls done by Rasmussen Reports and Voter/Consumer Research for The Iowa Republican blog, as well as a Victory Enterprises poll of Iowa's third Congressional district race.
What's on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers?
I learned from the Cedar Rapids Gazette that above-average temperatures across Iowa this summer have mitigated flooding somewhat despite heavy rainfall in June and July. Let's hope for dry weather in the coming week, especially in areas that have flooded recently and of course along the RAGBRAI route.
"When people are stopped for a criminal violation or traffic violation, if they cannot show they are here legally, they ought to be detained and turned over to the federal government for deportation," Branstad said.
Branstad cautioned, however, that he didn't want Iowa taxpayers to be left paying the bill for the process.
"I think the challenge is getting the federal government to fulfill their end of the deal," Branstad told a group of about 25 people at the Lied Public Library. "I don't want the local property taxpayers to have to pay for them to be in a county jail for month after month after month. They need to step up and do their part of it."
Arizona passed their law because the federal government didn't uphold the rule of law and it was hurting states like Arizona. So they had to take their own course of action there. Their murder rate was way up, they were experiencing a crime rate that they hadn't seen recently and real people were being hurt.
The latest round of statewide and state legislative candidate financial reports are available on the website of the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board. For most candidates, these reports cover money raised and spent between June 2 and July 14. Some of the candidates didn't file a June 4 disclosure report, and in those cases the latest filing covers the period from May 15 to July 14.
Fundraising numbers for Democratic and Republican candidates for statewide offices are after the jump. In addition to money raised and spent and cash on hand figures, I've listed the largest donors for each candidate. I am working on a post about the noteworthy fundraising figures from Iowa House and Senate candidates. John Deeth hit some highlights at the Des Moines Register blog. It's important to remember that leadership committees for both parties will also spend a lot of money in the battleground legislative districts.
The biggest surprise to me was Republican Brenna Findley's haul in the attorney general's race. She raised $124,078 since January 1 and has $95,528 on hand. Incumbent Attorney General Tom Miller clearly wasn't focused on raising money, bringing in just $15,748. Because he started the year with nearly $90,000 in his account, he still has more cash on hand than Findley ($105,200), but Findley has a larger donor base (more than 700 donors).
As a long-time top staffer for Representative Steve King, Findley probably benefits from his donor contacts. It can't hurt that Terry Branstad is talking up Findley at every campaign stop too. Deeth concludes, "We may have found our downballot sleeper race for the general election." I don't think Findley has a chance against Miller, who has been elected attorney general seven times. But she will be able to run a statewide campaign and raise her profile substantially. Miller will have to take this race seriously. His campaigning skills may be rusty, since Republicans gave him a pass in 2006. However, he has a strong record, and it's worth recalling that he was returned to the attorney general's office in 1994, an atrocious year for Iowa Democrats.
In all the other statewide races, the incumbents have huge financial advantages over their challengers. Secretary of State Michael Mauro has raised $30,021 since the start of the year, more than his three Republican opponents combined. Mauro has just under $128,000 on hand, whereas Matt Schultz and George Eichhorn both have more outstanding bills than cash on hand, and Chris Sanger has only about $400 on hand. Deeth has more on who's given to Schultz and Eichhorn. Speaking of this race, I learned recently that the Secretary of State Project has endorsed Mauro.
State Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald hasn't raised much money so far in 2010 ($4,179), but he started the year with nearly $114,000 and spent almost nothing, leaving about $117,770 cash on on hand. Two Republicans are running against Fitzgerald, and their campaigns have less than $10,000 cash on hand combined. Story County Treasurer Dave Jamison has broader support than James Heavens of Dyersville, who loaned his campaign most of the money raised.
Republican Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey raised nearly $40,000, and even though he spent quite a lot for this early in the campaign ($53,920), he still has $247,535 on hand. Democrat Francis Thicke raised $58,439, including a $10,000 contribution from the candidate, and has an impressive number of donors (at least 300). He spent a little more than $25,000 and has $33,320 on hand. Corporate interest groups will make sure Northey has tons of money to spend. Thicke will have to run a more grassroots campaign.
Share any thoughts about the statewide races in this thread.
"This was not an easy decision," Miller said [in a prepared statement]. "My office has rarely withdrawn from a case in this manner. However, I believe the need for public confidence in the criminal justice process outweighs any other consideration."
Miller did the right thing. A longtime aide in the Attorney General's Office, Donn Stanley, has just taken over as campaign manager for Governor Culver. Although no one from the Culver campaign appears to be a target in the criminal investigation, there is clear potential for a conflict of interest. Republicans would have screamed about a cover-up if an investigator from Miller's office found no wrongdoing by the governor's campaign. Brenna Findley, the Republican candidate for attorney general, has been calling on Miller to step back from the investigation.
On Tuesday the Racing and Gaming Commission held a lengthy hearing about four applications for new Iowa casinos. Culver has publicly supported new casinos for a long time and sent commissioners a letter in March urging them to approve all four applications. A decision is expected on May 13. My hunch is that only the casino proposed for Lyon County in far northwest Iowa will be approved, because it is unlikely to draw business away from any of Iowa's existing casinos. The nearest population center is Sioux Falls, South Dakota.