Mary Andringa stepping down from Iowa Board of Regents (updated)

Saying she had “underestimated the time required to fully serve in this role,” Mary Andringa announced today she will step down from the Iowa Board of Regents, just one year into her six-year term. I enclose the official statement below, along with more background on Andringa, who has had a long and distinguished career in business and industry advocacy work. As a regent, she is best known for participating in a secret Ames meeting with Bruce Harreld and three other board members, then sending Harreld an effusive e-mail encouraging him to apply for the University of Iowa’s presidency.

Governor Terry Branstad will select Andringa’s successor on the nine-member Board of Regents, almost certainly after the state legislature has adjourned for this year. Consequently, the Iowa Senate will consider that nominee during the 2017 session.

Since 2011, state senators have confirmed the overwhelming majority of Branstad appointees unanimously or nearly so. However, Senate Democrats rejected two of Branstad’s picks for the Board of Regents in 2013. Craig Lang faced criticism for allegedly interfering with state university policies during his first term as a regent, while Robert Cramer drew fire for his record of social conservative activism, including as a member of the Johnston school board.

Branstad thinks highly of Andringa, naming her to a newly-created state economic development board a few years before appointing her to the even more prestigious board that oversees Iowa’s state universities. In fact, Branstad and his onetime chief of staff Doug Gross were said to have recruited Andringa to run for governor in 2009, a few months before GOP heavyweights persuaded Branstad to come out of political retirement. A poll commissioned by an organization linked to Gross had tested voters’ interest in female business leaders as potential gubernatorial candidates. Some news coverage in the spring of 2009 named Andringa among the possible GOP challengers to Governor Chet Culver.

UPDATE: Casting Andringa’s resignation in a new light, Ryan Foley reported for the Associated Press on April 28 that the outgoing regent “has long been a director for a national furniture company but failed to publicly disclose that relationship before its local distributor signed a major no-bid contract with the University of Iowa last year.” Excerpts from that story and from Jeff Charis-Carlson’s report on that no-bid contract are after the jump.

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Iowa Board of Regents news: Branstad appoints new members, Rastetter elected president

Governor Terry Branstad appointed two new members of the Iowa Board of Regents yesterday. Former State Senator Larry McKibben and construction business owner Milt Dakovic will fill vacancies created when the Iowa Senate did not confirm two of the governor’s three Regents appointees this year: Craig Lang and Robert Cramer. Branstad likes to appoint former state lawmakers to boards and commissions. He encouraged McKibben to come out of retirement to run for the Iowa Senate again in 2012, but McKibben lost the GOP primary in Senate district 36. I’ve posted more background on McKibben and Dakovich after the jump. Their appointments are subject to confirmation by the Iowa Senate during the 2014 legislative session.

Lang recently finished six years of service on the Board of Regents and had been board president. Today the remaining board members chose Bruce Rastetter as the new board president. Rastetter has served as president pro-tem since the summer of 2011 and has been in frequent communication with the three state university presidents. The largest donor to Branstad’s 2010 gubernatorial campaign has also been a controversial figure as a Regent, having “blurred the line” between “his role as investor in AgriSol Energy” and his position on the board. (The Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board dismissed an ethics complaint filed against Rastetter over that proposed AgriSol land deal.) Earlier this year, Rastetter asked the University of Iowa president to arrange a meeting between ethanol industry representatives and Professor Jerald Schnoor. Democrat and Linn-Mar school district superintendent Katie Mulholland will replace Rastetter as president pro-tem of the Board of Regents.

UPDATE: Democratic State Senator Jeff Danielson has already announced that he supports Branstad’s new nominees for the Board of Regents. Earlier this year, he voted against confirming Lang and Cramer.

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Harkin donating papers to new public policy institute at Drake

Senator Tom Harkin formally announced on Friday that he will donate his historical papers to Drake University. Former Iowa State University President Gregory Geoffroy will chair the advisory board of the Tom Harkin Institute for Public Policy and Citizen Engagement. Drake’s leaders hope the institute will raise the profile of the private university based in Des Moines. O.Kay Henderson and Jens Manuel Krogstad reported more details on the new institute’s mission. There will be no restrictions on academic research using the Harkin papers–which was a key reason the original plan to create a Harkin Institute at Iowa State fell apart. Harkin withdrew his offer to donate papers to ISU in February.

While things worked out well for Drake, I believe the senator’s papers belonged at ISU, a public school and his alma mater. It’s a shame that two Republicans on the Iowa Board of Regents mucked up what could have been an asset to Iowa State. Craig Lang won’t be able to serve a second term as a regent, but his legacy in derailing the Harkin Institute (which he never wanted at ISU) will live on.

Naturally, The Iowa Republican blog is still trying to portray this fiasco as a Harkin fundraising scandal. Nice try, but lots of elected officials donate papers to public universities, and it’s common for the fundraising to begin before the person retires from public service. Drake’s president confirmed Friday that donors to the new institute will be made public.  

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