Culver and Branstad will debate three times

Terry Branstad’s campaign announced today that it had accepted three invitations to debate Governor Chet Culver this fall:

1. Lee Enterprises/KCAU-TV/WQAD-TV Gubernatorial Debate. Time and date to be determined. Sioux City, IA

2. The Cedar Rapids Gazette/KCRG-TV 9 Gubernatorial Debate

Thursday, October 7, 2010, 7 p.m. Cedar Rapids, IA

3. Des Moines Register/Iowa Public Television Debate

October 21, 2010, Noon, Iowa Public Television Studios, Johnston, IA

Branstad’s running mate, Kim Reynolds, is also willing to debate Lieutenant Patty Judge once at a time and place to be determined. Maybe by then Reynolds will be able to explain how Republicans would have balanced the current-year budget without dipping into state reserves or using one-time federal funds.

I expect the lieutenant governor’s debate to be entertaining. Judge speaks with a lot of confidence. Reynolds is a polished speaker, but not when she gets knocked off her prepared talking points.

I expect Branstad to play it safe in the debates; he’s ahead in the polls and mainly needs to avoid any huge blunder. I look forward to watching him explain in Cedar Rapids why his own state bonding was justified, but not I-JOBS borrowing to rebuild after the largest floods in Iowa history.

If I were Culver, I would practice ways to get under Branstad’s skin the way Bob Vander Plaats did during the Republican primary debates. But that strategy can only work if Culver keeps his cool, which may be challenging given how freely Branstad lies about the incumbent’s record. Culver will have to find ways to refute phony Republican numbers without seeming to fly off the handle. A little humor might help.

AUGUST 24 UPDATE: The Sioux City debate will take place on September 14:

The Sioux City Journal and Lee Enterprises are hosting the debate with KCAU, the ABC affiliate here in the metro. The one-hour debate will air from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. on KCAU, WOI in Des Moines and WHBF in the Quad Cities. Besides the Journal, other Lee papers participating include the Quad City Times, Waterloo Courier and Mason City Globe Gazette. To give instantaneous coverage, the papers will have a live webcast and running blog during the debate.

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I-JOBS: A great program with a flawed sales pitch

The Iowa Department of Management released a report on the I-JOBS state bonding initiative yesterday. Click here for the pdf file (more than 100 pages). Governor Chet Culver’s office highlighted how much I-JOBS has invested in infrastructure, particularly in the areas of flood recovery and mitigation, as well as how many jobs have been created or retained. Iowa Republicans continue to claim I-JOBS failed, having funded only temporary jobs at a high cost.

The Department of Management’s report documents about 1,700 projects that could not have gone forward without I-JOBS money. Unfortunately, recent media coverage of I-JOBS hasn’t focused on its clear benefits. The dominant media frame has become a he-said, she-said take on whether I-JOBS has lived up to Culver’s job creation promises last year.

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More false numbers in new Branstad campaign video

Terry Branstad’s gubernatorial campaign launched a new YouTube video attacking the I-JOBS infrastructure bonding program. Like other leading Iowa Republicans, Branstad continues to exaggerate I-JOBS costs. The video claims the state bonding will cost Iowa taxpayers $55 million per year for 23 years (a total of $1.7 billion). However, when most of the I-JOBS bonds were sold a full year ago, strong investor demand and Iowa’s solid credit rating drove down the interest rate. The repayment costs are approximately $42 million yearly (from gaming revenue, not the general fund), and will add up to far less than $1.7 billion.

How long will Branstad get a free pass for math that doesn’t add up and false claims about Iowa’s finances? Your guess is as good as mine.

Branstad’s new video also suggests that I-JOBS has created no jobs and nothing of value. I explained why that’s wrong here and here.

UPDATE: Chet Culver’s campaign responded to this web ad from a different angle:


DES MOINES – Gubernatorial candidate Terry Branstad mocks recent flood victims in his newest web ad, in which he slams Governor Culver’s I-JOBS program.

“A large part of I-JOBS money goes toward flood recovery and mitigation efforts, just ask the citizens of Cedar Rapids and Coralville who depended on aid from I-JOBS to help rebuild their cities and limit damage from future flooding. But Terry Branstad continually mocks I-JOBS; the web video is just the latest representation of that,” said Culver/Judge Campaign Manager Donn Stanley.

Branstad has called the I-JOBS program a “folly.” [1]  The video, released by the Branstad campaign today, is goofy and is, at best, inconsiderate after this weekend’s flooding around Lake Delhi given how critical I-JOBS funding has been in rebuilding from the 2008 floods.

Stanley continued, “Despite this weekend’s flooding, the Branstad campaign continues to mock I-JOBS. It shows just how arrogant and out of touch Branstad and his campaign are. I certainly do not believe that mocking I-JOBS and the flood victims shows the kind of serious leadership Iowans need in tough times.”


[1] Iowa Press Citizen, 6/2/10.

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Exploring Paul McKinley's fantasy world (part 2, w/poll)

Last week I highlighted the half-truths and misleading arguments that underpin Iowa Senate minority leader Paul McKinley’s case against Democratic governance in Iowa. I wasn’t planning to revisit the Republican leader’s fantasy world until I read the July 16 edition of his weekly e-mail blast. McKinley claims to offer five "big ideas" to "make Iowa again a state where jobs and prosperity can flourish."

His premise is absurd when you consider that CNBC just ranked Iowa in the top 10 states for doing business (again), and number one in terms of the cost of doing business. Many of McKinley’s specific claims don’t stand up to scrutiny either, so follow me after the jump. There’s also a poll at the end of this post.

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Exploring Paul McKinley's fantasy world

If Iowa Senate Minority Leader Paul McKinley believes the spin he serves up to journalists and the Republican Party faithful, he must have an active imagination.

I don’t know which is most detached from reality: McKinley’s take on Iowa’s finances, his views on “state sovereignty” or his election predictions.

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Branstad still pushing false claims, wrong priorities

One day after Terry Branstad won the Republican nomination for governor, his accountability problem was back on display. Speaking to the Iowa Association of Business and Industry’s annual convention in Ames yesterday, Branstad told the audience, "I want to get rid of the present incumbent because he’s driven the state into the biggest budget deficit in history."

In the psychological field, projection is “a defense mechanism that involves taking our own unacceptable qualities or feelings and ascribing them to other people.” I’m not qualified to offer any professional diagnosis, but Branstad’s the guy who really did keep two sets of books to hide illegal deficits. It’s incredible to hear him keep making that false claim about Governor Chet Culver’s administration. The governor and Iowa’s legislative leaders haven’t run up any budget deficit, let alone the largest deficit ever. If Culver were running deficits, Iowa wouldn’t have a top-level credit rating or be considered one of the states “least like California” in terms of fiscal problems.

How long will Branstad keep getting away with making stuff up about Culver’s record? Your guess is as good as mine.

In other news, Branstad promised the Association of Business and Industry crowd that if elected, he wouldn’t allow key priorities of organized labor like the prevailing wage or collective bargaining bills to become law. I doubt ABI has to worry about that, since Iowa Democrats haven’t delivered on those issues during the past four years.

Culver visited a Cedar Rapids preschool yesterday and blasted Branstad’s “20th Century thinking” on preschool funding:

“This is an investment we cannot afford to not make in the future,” Culver said about the preschool initiative. He said he budgeted $90 million this year for the program and $115 million next year. […]

“While we want to continue to fund preschool … Terry Branstad wants to take that away,” Culver said. […]

The fiscal 2011 funding will assist an additional 150 school districts and school district collaborations under the statewide voluntary preschool program, he said. It is projected that during the 2010-2011 school year about 21,354 four-year-olds will be served by the preschool program in 326 school districts across the state.

Many Iowa families could not afford early education for their children without the state program. Culver is right to pound Branstad for his screwed-up priorities. Culver also criticized the Republican for wanting to go backwards on state-funded stem cell research, women’s reproductive rights and flood recovery funding for the Cedar Rapids area. Like everyone else in the Iowa GOP, Branstad has criticized the I-JOBS infrastructure bonding initiative but not explained how he would have paid for the flood reconstruction and prevention projects Iowa needs.

Branstad told Todd Dorman of the Cedar Rapids Gazette that he would not try to repeal the I-JOBS bonding, but “also compared I-JOBS to the Greek debt crisis.” Give me a break. The professional investor community drove down the interest rate of the initial I-JOBS offering because of Iowa’s solid fiscal condition and plan for repaying the bonds. In fact, I-JOBS was one of the top 10 “deals of the year” in 2009 according to Bond Buyer, the daily newspaper of public finance.

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