New Culver ad starts conversation about Branstad's values

Governor Chet Culver's campaign released a second television commercial spotlighting Terry Branstad's record. Like the Culver tv ad that debuted last week, the new commercial mentions Branstad's dismal record on fiscal issues. It also mentions eight pay raises that Branstad signed for himself, some of them during very tight budget years:


As Governor, Terry Branstad admitted "his books were never balanced." According to the State Auditor, Terry "cooked the books." And when state unemployment hit a record high, Branstad asked for a raise. When Terry cut foster care, Branstad took another raise. When the state couldn't pay its bills, Branstad raised our taxes and raised his pay once again. Terry Branstad: Cooked books, Raised Taxes, Eight pay raises. A past we can't repeat.

A Culver campaign press release with supporting facts and citations from news reports is after the jump.

We all know Branstad wasn't a good manager of state finances, but I like the way this ad touches on his deeply flawed priorities as well. Branstad started seeking a pay raise during his very first year in office, when unemployment peaked at 8.5 percent. A few years later, this guy wasn't ashamed to take home more money even as he was cutting foster care programs.

I hope future Culver ads will underscore how cutting state assistance to vulnerable Iowans has long been Branstad's knee-jerk preference, rather than his last resort. The foster care cuts highlighted in Culver's new commercial occurred in 1987. When Iowa faced a budget crisis in 1992, Branstad brought two money-saving ideas to a meeting with state lawmakers in advance of a special legislative session: first, cut spending on foster care, and second, cut Medicaid programs that helped children buy eyeglasses and keep senior citizens out of nursing homes. During this year's campaign, when asked an open-ended question about how he would cut state government, Branstad

said he's still looking for ideas but did mention reforming the state's mental health system and rolling back Medicaid, which has been expanded to cover more people, including children. He said state employees should pay for their health insurance like private sector employees.

That's classic Branstad. Gee, I haven't figured out yet how to make the budget numbers add up, but why not change Medicaid so that fewer people qualify? While we're at it, let's stop helping tens of thousands of families send their four-year-olds to preschool.

Branstad's record of incompetence should be at the center of the gubernatorial campaign, but let's not forget about his skewed priorities.

UPDATE: Conservative blogger Gary Barrett claims the Culver ad distorts the facts on Branstad's pay hikes. The Culver campaign released a response to Barrett's post, which you'll find after the jump.

The Branstad campaign cited a Des Moines Register report from 1982 on how Branstad didn't want a pay raise and might veto such a bill. Culver's campaign leaped on that as evidence Branstad "said one thing and did another on pay raises."

Culver campaign statement of June 22, 2010:


DES MOINES - The Culver/Judge Campaign unveiled a new ad today, called "Eight Pay Raises," which highlights Terry Branstad's record of raising his own pay eight times despite not being able to pay the state's bills.  

"When Terry Branstad couldn't pay the state of Iowa's bills, he put himself first and gave himself a raise. When times are tough, Terry Branstad will always himself first," said Culver/Judge Communications Director Ali Glisson.

In fact, Terry Branstad gave himself eight pay raises as Governor. He gave himself a pay raise in 1983, despite record unemployment. In 1987, he cut foster care but Branstad still gave himself a pay raise. In 1990, Branstad had to borrow $280 million to pay the state's bills but he still gave himself another raise.

"When times were tough, Chet Culver cut his own salary and made the tough decisions to put Iowa on the path to recovery. When times were tough under Branstad, he continued to put himself first, giving himself a total of eight pay raises. The choice between the two candidates couldn't be more clear."

View the ad on


As Governor, Terry Branstad admitted "his books were never balanced."

According to the State Auditor, Terry "cooked the books."

And when state unemployment hit a record high.

Branstad asked for a raise.

When Terry cut foster care

Branstad took another raise.

When the state couldn't pay its bills, Branstad raised our taxes

and raised his pay once again.

Terry Branstad: Cooked books, Raised Taxes, Eight pay raises.

A past we can't repeat.


Branstad said the "books were never balanced." On Iowa Press Branstad said, "There never were two sets of books but the books were never balanced on generally accepted accounting principles." [Iowa Press, 6/11/2010]

Auditor Johnson said that Branstad cooked the books. The Cedar Rapids Gazette reported in June 1994 that "'It's another political ploy to cook the books so to speak to make it look good for him," Johnson said.'" [Cedar Rapids Gazette, 6/1/1994]

Iowa Unemployment reached 8.5% April 1983 Unemployment Rate, Iowa Workforce Development Website

"Gov. Branstad Says He Wants $4,000 Raise" [Des Moines Register, 4/28/83]

Nearly 10% of Iowans Unemployed, Many Forced to Accept Pay Freezes. The Des Moines Register reported in April 1983 that, "The request comes at a time when about 10 percent of Iowans are unemployed and many workers have been forced to accept pay freezes or rollbacks in salaries and benefits." [Des Moines Register, 4/28/83]

1987: Branstad Cut Foster Care Program Funding. The Des Moines Register reported in June 1987 that, "Improvements in Iowa's foster care system, sparked by the case of the Cooper children, were scaled back by Gov. Terry Branstad's veto pen, foster care backers said. ... About $2.7 million was erased from the budget that would have paid for increases in reimbursements to foster parents and group homes." [Des Moines Register, 6/12/87]

Branstad Signed Bill Increasing His Salary from $64K to $70K. [Des Moines Register, 6/9/87]

State Had to Borrow $280 Million to Pay Bills On Time. [Des Moines Register, 7/1/90]

Branstad Raised His Pay 6.6%. [Des Moines Register, 5/8/90]

Governor's Salary in 1982 Was $60,000. [Des Moines Register, 12/2/82]

Branstad Raised His Salary Eight Times.

Raise #1: FY 1984 -$60,000 to $64,000. [House File 646 (1983)]

Raise #2: FY 1988 - $64,000 to $70,000. [Des Moines Register, 6/9/1987]

Raise #3: FY 1989- FY 1989 Salary $72,692 [State of Iowa Salary Book FY 1989]

Raise #4: FY 1991 -FY 1991 Salary $76,700 [State of Iowa Salary Book FY 1991]

Raise #5: FY 1995 - Increased to $79,800 [Des Moines Register, 12/4/1994]

Raise #6: FY 1996 - Increased to $98,200 [Des Moines Register, 5/20/1995]

Raise #7: FY 1997 - FY 1997 Salary $102,040 [State of Iowa Salary Book FY 1997]

Raise #8: FY 1998 - FY 1998 Salary $105,090 [State of Iowa Salary Book FY 1998]

Culver campaign response to Gary Barrett blog post on Culver's ad:

CLAIM:  "It's [Governor's salary increases are] lumped together in a bill that's usually pretty item-veto proof."

FACT: Governors can veto pay raises for themselves and Branstad admitted it. In March 1983 the Des Moines Register reported that "the governor has the power to veto specific items in appropriations bills, such as the salary bill. He said Wednesday 'I guess I could' veto the raise for himself, adding 'I'm not saying I won't.'" [Des Moines Register, 4/28/83]

Governor Culver item-vetoed a proposed pay raise for himself. [Cedar Rapids Gazette, 5/15/2008]

CLAIM: "And when he did, up until the final years in office, he either donated the raise to charity or wrote a check to the Iowa general fund for the difference."

FACT:  The facts show that it's false to claim that Branstad donated his full raises to charity until his final years in office.

Documentation has only now been provided showing that Branstad partially donated part of a few of his eight pay raises to charity. Fact is, he could simply have vetoed these as he promised he would in December 1982 [Des Moines Register, 4/28/83]. It's pretty clear that Branstad played fast and loose with the public by claiming he "donated" all his raises until his last years.

Branstad didn't donate anywhere near the full amount of his raises in 1992 and received tax benefits from those raises in the form of federal deductibility and charitable deductions. In 1992, Branstad donated a total of "$4,478 in gifts to charity: $1,515 to their church, the $1,567 of Branstad's salary returned to the state treasury and $1,373 in unspecified charities." He clearly claimed this donation as a tax deduction on his tax returns and benefited from the raise in that manner [Des Moines Register, 4/16/93]. Also because his raises meant that he paid increased federal taxes, he would have benefited on his state tax return because Iowa has federal deductibility. By 1992, Branstad had received $16,700 in raises [State of Iowa Salary Book FY 1991 & Des Moines Register 4/28/83]. That's over ten times greater than the amount he gave back to the state and almost four times greater than the total amount he gave to charity.

In 1990, Branstad donated $1,662 to charity; he had received $12,692 in raises by that time. [Des Moines Register 4/16/1991, Des Moines Register 4/28/83, State of Iowa Salary Book FY 1989].

In 1994, Branstad donated $1,822 to charity, he had received $16,700 in raises by that time. In April 1995, the Des Moines Register reported that "Charitable contributions totaled $1,822, more than two-thirds of which went to their church, St. Augustin's Catholic Church in Des Moines." [Des Moines Register, 4/19/1995]. By 1994, Branstad had received $16,700 in raises [State of Iowa Salary Book FY 1991 & Des Moines Register 4/28/83].

Branstad's pay raises increased his personal financial well-being, even when he "donated" them to charity. In November 1984, the Postville Herald reported that Branstad donated his "increase in take-home pay totaling $2,194.40" [Postville Herald, 11/21/1984]. This was only 55% of his $4,000 pay raise. Thus, he didn't donate the portion of his pay raise that went to federal taxes, which he would have received part of back from the state because federal taxes can be deducted from state returns.  Therefore, it's obvious that Branstad benefited financially even from this one raise. He may have also received additional tax benefits associated with charitable contributions.

Culver campaign statement of June 23:


DES MOINES - - In an attempt to discredit the Culver campaign's new ad, "Eight Pay Raises," the Branstad campaign accidentally pointed out that Branstad flip-flopped on pay raises.

"The Branstad campaign has already proven time and again that they don't know the facts about their own candidate's record. With their response today, they have shown that they cannot accurately cite sources," said Culver/Judge Communications Director Ali Glisson.

The Branstad campaign cited an article with the headline, "Branstad Wants no raise, might veto others' raises." [Des Moines Register, 12/2/1982]

That article is in no way sourced in our ad. To see all of our sources, please visit

Glisson continued, "That article is in no way cited in our campaign's latest ad, but it seems the Branstad campaign just embarrassingly let Iowans know that Terry Branstad was against pay raises until he was for all eight that he eventually received. We do not dispute that in 1982, Branstad said he does not want a raise but he eventually took eight different pay raises."

"Terry Branstad thinks he can avoid the truth, but the facts are clear.  When times were tough, Chet Culver cut his own salary. When times were tough under Terry Branstad, he gave himself a raise."  

To view the ad and all of the background cited in the ad, visit


The headline in our ad, "Eight Pay Raises," reads:  "Gov. Branstad says he wants $4,000 raise." It goes on to state that he is "reversing his position of just four months ago, Gov. Terry Branstad said Wednesday he wants a $4,000 raise bringing his annual salary to $64,000 in 1984-1985."[Des Moines Register, 4/28/83]

  •'s June

    and we've already had 3 negative ads from Culver/Branstad.

    This is going to be a REALLY negative campaign season, isn't it?  Gonna be a long 4 months.

    • Branstad has gone negative

      in most of his campaigns. I'll never forget his ad saying that Bonnie Campbell hasn't prosecuted a single sex offender as attorney general...not even child molesters. It was "true" because the attorney general doesn't prosecute sex offenders--county attorneys do.

      I'm sure Culver would prefer to be in a more comfortable position where he doesn't need to run negative ads, but the Republican candidates have been beating up on him all over the airwaves for months.

      • This may sound bad given that Culver is the sitting Governor

        But what do you think the name recognition gap between Culver and Branstad is.  Even though Chet's dad was also a Congressman and a U.S. Senator I still assume Branstad holds a higher name identification.  The ads are good, but this is a main reason why Chet should highlight specific proposals and accomplishments.  

        • interesting question

          I would think their name recognition is about the same, but you could be right.

          Culver absolutely is going to need ads highlighting his accomplishments and the fact that Iowa has fared relatively well given the economic challenges.  

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