Welcome to the latest installment of my series about efforts by Leonard Boswell's campaign and its supporters to make the third district primary about Ed Fallon's faults rather than the incumbent's record of service.
Boswell's staffers and supporters have criticized Fallon for the following four alleged ethical problems:
1. his work and fundraising for the Independence Movement for Iowa (I'M for Iowa)
2. the salary Fallon drew from unspent campaign funds following the 2006 gubernatorial primary
3. allegations that Fallon pondered running for governor as an independent after losing that primary
4. Fallon's stand against taking contributions from PACs while allowing PACs to encourage their individual members to donate to his campaign.
I addressed the controversy over Fallon's salary from his gubernatorial campaign in this post.
Today I'm covering the Boswell campaign's claim that Fallon considered running for governor as an independent after losing the 2006 primary to Chet Culver. Join me after the jump for more.
Boswell himself raised the issue in a recent press availability:
Democratic candidate for Congress Ed Fallon's assertion that he never weighed a third-party candidacy for Iowa governor is "disingenuous," Rep. Leonard Boswell said Monday.
"Disingenuous. I'm going to be kind," Boswell told reporters after an appearance in Altoona. "I find it a little hard to believe."
It's a useful argument for Boswell, because it reinforces the narrative of Fallon as the disloyal Democrat. (As I've written here and here, Boswell has repeatedly referred to Fallon's support for Ralph Nader in 2000.) In so doing, Boswell directs journalists' attention away from Congressional votes in which he sided with the Republican majority rather than with most of his fellow Democrats.
First, in 2006, I absolutely never, ever considered running for Governor as an independent. In fact, I firmly pledged to support the winner of the Democratic primary. After losing that primary, I volunteered extensively with the Culver campaign. You might recall that I even wrote a song asking my supporters not to write me in.
But don't take his word for it. The Des Moines Register noted that Fallon endorsed Culver two days after the primary.
As it happens, I'm one of those people who has literally thousands of e-mails in my in-box, because I don't get around to deleting them before scores more arrive every day. I searched my e-mail archives and found a message from the Fallon for Governor campaign dated June 12, 2006, which makes clear that he is supporting Culver. I also found an e-mail sent on June 19, 2006, which contains the text of a speech Fallon delivered to the Democratic state convention two days earlier. Excerpt:
I want to thank Chet Culver, Mike Blouin and Sal Mohamed for running a spirited campaign, and I want to congratulate Chet for his victory on June 6th. Chet and I have been meeting to discuss issues, and I can assure you that all of us, in fact most Iowans, have a lot more in common with Chet Culver than with Jim Nussle. Jim Nussle must not become governor.
Does that sound like the speech of someone who was considering a run as an independent?
So why does Boswell find it "hard to believe" that Fallon was fully behind Culver after losing the primary?
The sole piece of evidence is an e-mail that a Fallon campaign staffer, Lynn Heuss, wrote to the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board in October 2006 inquiring whether Fallon could draw a salary from his gubernatorial campaign. Iowa law allows such payments as long as the candidate is doing work related to the campaign. Heuss's e-mail included this passage:
"After the primary campaign, Ed Fallon continued to work on campaign-related business," [...]
"He had a great deal of clean-up on the database. Along with the administrative tasks, there was also the possibility that he would decide to run as a 3rd party candidate," an e-mail from Heuss to ethics board auditor Linda Andersen said. "And finally, he continued to push the issues that he worked on in his campaign."
Fallon has said Heuss was "a little bit careless" in her choice of words, and
Heuss has said she meant to say there was the chance Fallon would run for a different office in the future.
Boswell said he doubted that Heuss was mistaken.
"It seems like you are in pretty close communication with your (communication director)," Boswell said. "And you're taking six or seven months to close out a campaign. There's something going on."
So Boswell tries to make Fallon appear shady and untrustworthy, suggesting that an e-mail written months later by someone else is a truer reflection of Fallon's intentions than the candidate's public endorsement of Culver two days after the 2006 primary.
The irony is that since January of this year, Fallon has pledged to support the winner of the June 3 Congressional primary, a promise he repeated in a recent blog post.
For some time I have been trying to get a straight answer out of the Boswell campaign as to whether the incumbent will promise to support the winner of the primary. After getting no response from campaign manager Scott Ourth, I contacted press secretary Betsy Shelton. She e-mailed me a few days ago with the "official response" from Ourth:
Congressman Boswell has always supported Democrats and always will support Democrats.
Um, okay. The thing is, Boswell's campaign sent out a mass e-mail three weeks ago declaring, "Ed Fallon is no Democrat."
So I wrote back to Shelton right away asking her to clarify whether Boswell would rule out running as an "alternative Democrat" in the general if Fallon wins the primary.
No response yet.
I hope some journalist will have better luck getting Boswell on record about whether he would pull a Joe Lieberman if he loses the primary.