Top staffers leaving Iowa Democratic Party (updated)

Only a few weeks after becoming the state chair of the Iowa Democratic Party, Dr. Andy McGuire is overseeing big staff changes. As first reported by Iowa Starting Line yesterday, Troy Price is leaving after a little more than two years as executive director. Excerpt from an e-mail McGuire sent to State Central Committee members after a conference call on the evening of February 17:

I want to let you all know that our executive director Troy Price and our deputy executive director Kevin Geiken will be transitioning out of the party over the next couple of weeks. Troy will continue at the party until March 3, and Kevin is planning to remain to help with the SCC retreat March 7-8. I want to thank both of them for their outstanding service to the party and wish them all the best in their next endeavors.

I would also like to announce that Ben Foecke will be coming on as our new Executive Director starting February 23. Ben came to work at the Iowa Democratic Party out of college, canvassing door-to-door for the Harkin/Vilsack coordinated campaign in 2001. He became Caucus Director in 2004, overseeing the (then) largest Precinct Caucus in Iowa history. Since 2009, Ben has worked for the Iowa Senate Majority Fund.

I will update this post as needed with further details. UPDATE: Added below the official statement from the Iowa Democratic Party.

SECOND UPDATE: O.Kay Henderson noted that Foecke worked for Mike Blouin’s gubernatorial campaign during the 2006 Democratic primary. McGuire was Blouin’s running mate during that race. Pat Rynard pointed out,

[Iowa Senate Majority Leader Mike] Gronstal endorsed and lobbied hard behind the scenes for McGuire’s candidacy, getting involved in internal party politics in a way he hasn’t before. Now one of his long-time staffers may lead the party’s day-to-day operations. As one of the only remaining elected Democratic leaders left in the state, it appears that Gronstal is taking a much more active control over the direction of the state party.


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Iowa Congressional fundraising 1Q news roundup (updated)

April 15 was the deadline for Congressional candidates to file reports on their fundraising and expenditures for the first quarter of 2013. Details on all of the Iowa incumbents and some other declared candidates are after the jump. At this writing, not every report has been posted on the Federal Elections Commission website. I will update this post as more information becomes available.

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New thread on possible challengers for Grassley

Senator Chuck Grassley already has two likely Democratic opponents (Bob Krause and Tom Fiegen), but rumors persist that a better-known Iowa Democrat is thinking seriously about this race.

I still don’t buy the rumors that Representative Bruce Braley will take on this challenge, even though Braley sharply criticized Grassley in a guest piece for the Huffington Post on Friday. With Grassley’s approval ratings still outside the danger zone for an incumbent, I would hate to see Braley give up a safe House seat and a good committee assignment to run in 2010. He is young enough to wait until either Grassley or Harkin retires.

Whether or not Braley intends to run for Senate next year, he could raise his profile and support by promising to work as hard to keep a strong public option in the health care reform bill as Grassley is working to keep one out. (Progressive activists have now raised nearly $400,000 for House Democrats who promise not to vote for any health care bill lacking a strong public option.) A joint statement on behalf of Braley’s Populist Caucus would do even more to bolster Braley’s reputation as a fighter for a strong health care reform bill.

Other names being floated on various blogs include former first lady Christie Vilsack, Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie, Lieutenant Governor Patty Judge, Attorney General Tom Miller, and Mike Blouin, a former member of Congress who headed the state Department of Economic Development when Tom Vilsack was governor. Blouin narrowly lost the 2006 gubernatorial primary to Chet Culver, so he has recent experience campaigning statewide. On several issues Blouin and I are as far apart as any two Democrats could be, but I thought displacedyankdem made a strong case for him:

Even if he’s not in the very highest tier of candidates (Vilsack, Miller, and Braley), he is:

a)several tiers higher than Grassley’s past 3 opponents

b)likely to automatically get at least 35% and likely 40% of the vote (somewhere between 7 and 12 points higher than the last 3)

c)a strong enough candidate to take advantage if there is a Macaca moment a la Jim Webb 2006

d)likely to tie down millions of dollars in GOP money

e)risk free in that he’s not giving up an office

f)just young enough to be on the edge of viability (maybe I’m making too much out of the seniority thing)

Since running against Grassley will be an uphill battle, I would like Democrats to nominate someone who doesn’t have to give up a current elected position.

On a related note, Grassley is still playing rope-a-dope with the White House, this morning backing down on his ridiculous comments about pulling the plug on grandma. I hope key people in the Obama administration finally understand that nothing is to be gained by seeking a compromise with Grassley. The Senate Finance Committee “gang of six” is taking two weeks off from negotiating, probably because delays help Republican efforts to defeat health care reform.

Share any thoughts about Grassley or the 2010 Senate race in this thread.

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McCoy to pay fine to settle ethics investigation

As you may recall, Iowa Senator Matt McCoy of Des Moines was acquitted in December on federal charges of attempted extortion. The case against McCoy was weak and raised questions about whether partisan politics influenced his indictment.

One detail that emerged from the trial was that in December 2005, Des Moines businessman John Ruan III (a Republican) wrote a $2,500 check to McCoy with the words “Mike Blouen” in the memo line. A few days later, McCoy contributed $2,500 to the gubernatorial campaign of fellow Democrat Mike Blouin.

That disclosure led to an ethics investigation, which has now been settled, according to the Des Moines Register:

A prominent Des Moines businessman and an Iowa state senator have each agreed to pay $1,250 to settle allegations that one used the other to pass an illegal campaign contribution to a former candidate for governor.

John Ruan III and state Sen. Matt McCoy will pay the fines as part of a deal to end a state ethics investigation into a series of checks between the men and the failed candidate, Democrat Mike Blouin.

The settlement, approved by the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board late Monday, includes assertions that neither Ruan nor McCoy “intended to violate or willfully violated” campaign law with a December 2005 check from McCoy to Blouin.

Charles Smithson of the ethics board called the settlement “a fair resolution of the matter for all involved” and said Blouin would not have to return the disputed $2,500 contribution because “there was no evidence that he knew anything about the underlying situation.”

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