Are Bruce Rastetter and the Iowa GOP laying a trap for Tom Harkin?

(I'm skeptical than any prominent Republican would want to take on Harkin this year, but this diary has original research and is worth promoting. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

A number of signs indicate that Rastetter has been be quietly gearing up for a campaign for quite awhile. His involvement in Iowa Future Fund, the shady 501(c)(4) that ran anti-Culver ads, was my first clue. (I first posted about Rastetter and IFF/IPP at Bleeding Heartland here.)

Another clue was that someone privately registered “” and “” in early December 2007. 

An even bigger clue was that Rastetter hired Nicholas T. “Nick” Ryan in January 2007. Ryan had just come off a stint as campaign manager for Jim Nussle's failed gubernatorial bid.

Bruce Rastetter is CEO of  Hawkeye Energy Holdings, Iowa's largest ethanol producer and the third largest in the nation. In September, the Cyclone Conservative commented that “a Rastetter candidacy would also be attractive because Rastetter would carry a tremendous amount of gravitas on renewable fuels and agriculture issues.”

CC also speculated that Rastetter's $1.75 million gift to Iowa State University was a political ploy to garner favorable publicity for Rastetter, the candidate. Sounds plausible to me.

If Rastetter runs, Iowa Dems can expect an enormous amount of money to be poured into his campaign, both on and off the books. The  probable reason for the secrecy about Rastetter's intentions is to catch Tom Harkin and Iowa Dems off guard about how stiff Harkin's competition will be in terms of the candidate and money.

Richard O. Jacobson, founder of Jacobson Companies, is chairman of Hawkeye Energy. Jacobson kicked in $50k to Nussle in '06.

Rastetter is very close to Peter M. Castleman, chairman of J. H. Whitney & Company, a private equity firm based in Connecticut. Rastetter is also linked to Whitney partner, Russell Stidololph, through Altenergy LLC. Nick Ryan uses

Thomas H. Lee Partners, a Boston private equity firm, has a majority stake in Hawkeye Energy. Expect financial support for Rastetter from the THL partners.

At one point, Rastetter and his partners at J. H. Whitney planned to make a $200 million investment in Iowa wind farms but not much as been mentioned about it recently. I am particularly curious about the wind farms because I read yesterday that T. Boone Pickens is investing $10 billion to create a chain of wind farms that stretches from Texas through the Great Plains. 

If Pickens is behind Rastetter, Iowa Dems are in big trouble. In 2004, Pickens contributed $1 milion to Swift Boat Vets and $2.5 million to Progress For America, another 527, that raised $48 million. The DCI Group, the premier Republican slime shop, was behind PFA.  

I strongly suspect that Iowan, Brian Kennedy, is managing Iowa Future Fund/Iowa Progress Project. Kennedy, a DCI Group exec, is co-founder of PFA. More on the link between the DCI Group, the Iowa Future Fund and its affiliate, the American Future Fund here.

Kennedy made a failed primary bid for an Iowan congressional seat in 2006. He is also the former chairman of the Iowa Republican Party.   

The website lists 400 Locust Street, Suite 330, Des Moines, IA 50309 as its address. I checked the online phonebook and couldn't find an organization specifically listed in Suite 330 but I did find Summit Capital Group at Suite 480.

Summit Capital, a Rastetter company, is the one that employs Nick Ryan. Although Ryan claimed he was first employed by Summit Capital in January 2007, Summit Capital was only registered with the Iowa Secretary of State on February 21, 2007.

The Arag Group, curiously enough, is also listed at 400 Locust St, Suite 480.

That's it for me and Bruce Rastetter for the moment but first a question. If I am right about Rastetter running, did Rastetter violate any campaign laws by raising money without declaring his candidacy? Me, I'd go after Rastetter with a chainsaw if I were an Iowa Dem.

(Crossposted at TPM Cafe)  

Update: As senateguru noted in the comments, the deadline to register for the June senate primary has passed. But let's take a look at the candidates who did register: George S. Eichhorn, Christopher Reed and Steve Rathje.

Steve Rathje is the only candidate to register his campaign committee with the FEC. Since he registered in September 2005, he has raised $123k which came mostly from relatives, friends and Rathje personally. At 3/31/08, Rathje had a whopping $7k in cash on hand.

Compare Rathje's fundraising to that of Harkin's 2002 opponent, Greg Ganske. At 3/31/02, Ganske had $1.3 million in cash on hand and had spent $800k in the first quarter of 2002 alone. Ganske ultimately spent a total of $5 million vs Harkin's $8 million.

Interesting that Rathje's website is on the National Republican Party's server of choice, Smartech. Smartech was host to the off-record email accounts of many White House staffers and many of the so-called “missing” emails went through Smartech's servers.

Conventional Iowa wisdom is that the Republicans won't run a strong candidate against Harkin but this field of candidates is so pathetic, it lends strength to my argument that Rastetter could very well make a surprise run. I just don't know enough about election law to know if it is doable.  What if all three primary candidates dropped out?

If anyone can tell me more about Harkin's likely opponent, I'd appreciate it. I'd appreciate it even more if anyone knows how the prospective candidate will raise a few million bucks to run a respectable race.   

About the Author(s)

mrs panstreppon

  • Interesting perspective

    Definitely something to look into.

  • Am I missing something?

    Wasn’t Iowa’s filing deadline March 14?  How could another Republican legally join the race at this point?

    • I don't know the details

      but some have suggested that a more prominent Republican could get into the IA-03 Congressional race, even though only Kim Schmett filed in time for the March 14 deadline. Perhaps the GOP would be able to name a candidate at their state convention?

      Anyone know the answer?

  • If there's smoke...

    …there’s usually fire.

    It certainly seems like he’s gearing up to challenge someone.

    The only other possibility besides either challenging Harkin or Braley this cycle would be that he’s laying some super early groundwork for a 2010 run on Culver. Which, now that I think about it, makes some sense seeing he’s in on the IFF anti-Culver ads.

  • the more I think about this

    The more I think that he is probably laying the groundwork to run in 2010–either for governor against Culver, or for Senate in the unlikely event that Grassley retires.

  • I posted an update in my diary to reply to comments...

    Bruce Rastetter may very well be gearing up for an 2010 race but what about this one? As I posted in the update to my diary, no one has raised any money at all to date to run against Harkin.

    Is it plausible that the Republicans will throw in the towel altogether this year and not spend any money campaigning against Harkin? Harkin’s 2002 opponent spent $5 million.

    • I think they've finally given up

      They’ve put resources into challenging Harkin three times and come up short. In 1996 they had a lousy candidate. In 2002 they thought they had a good candidate, and it was a great year for the GOP nationwide, but Harkin still won by a pretty large margin.

      I think they are writing off this race.

  • Let's Hope the Republicans

    actually do spend some money on Iowa. Only to lose it to Harkin of course. If we can make enough of these contests tempting enough for them to spend money they don’t have, then they won’t know where to put their money and it will be spread thin across many states as opposed to putting it all into defending their seats.

  • Market to Market

    IPTV’s farm news program Market to Market featured Rastetter tonight in its discussion of ethanol.