Terry Branstad had taxpayers foot bill for Republican campaign work

Even Terry Branstad’s admirers will tell you the man enjoys campaigning more than governing. He loves touring the state, speaking to groups, working a room. His wife says he’s been “giddy as a schoolgirl” since becoming a candidate again. Sitting governors attend many official events that indirectly serve their re-election ambitions. It’s one of the advantages of incumbency, and it’s fair game.

Using the governor’s office to raise campaign money and conduct campaign activities is a different story. That’s what Branstad and his top staffers did during the 1980s and 1990s, according to several hundred pages of documents Governor Chet Culver’s campaign released this week. I’ve posted the Culver campaign memo with highlights from the Branstad files after the jump. From the accompanying press release:

The documents illustrate how Branstad and members of his Administration participated in campaign fundraising, opposition research and candidate recruitment from the Governor’s office.

Doug Gross, Branstad’s Chief of Staff, was playing a key role in running the Republican Party of Iowa as well as Branstad’s re-election campaign from his office at the Iowa State Capitol. Another member of Branstad’s staff, Jerry Mathiasen, was helping run a Congressional campaign from the Capitol and coordinating the Republican Party’s legislative campaigns. In addition, Branstad’s State-Federal Relations Director, was spending his day working on selling fundraising dinner tables for the Republican Governors Association.

“This is part of clear pattern of dishonesty and scandal,” said [Culver campaign manager Donn] Stanley. “Already during this campaign, Branstad has admitted that, for the majority of his tenure as Governor, the books were never balanced but what’s worse is that by keeping two sets of books, he hid the truth about the state budget from Iowans. While today’s information is new to Iowans, we already knew that, as Governor, he used the state plane for political purposes and held campaign fundraisers shortly after awarding donors multi-million dollar state contracts.”

Whether this activity was illegal at the time or merely unethical is beside the point. Taxpayer dollars fund the salaries of the governor’s staff. It is inappropriate to have the governor’s staff doing campaign work for Branstad and other Republicans on the public’s dime.

The Branstad campaign’s response to this week’s document dump was telling:

“Chet Culver and his campaign can spend their time wallowing in the past, while Terry Branstad is looking to the future and committed to open, honest and transparent government,” [Branstad campaign manager Jeff] Boeyink said. “This attack is as sad and pathetic as Chet Culver’s four years as governor.”

So no denial, no apology, and no promise that Branstad’s policy staff won’t do campaign work in the future. We don’t even get the “learned from my mistakes” line Branstad pulls out whenever someone challenges his dismal fiscal record.

Iowa State Professor Steffen Schmidt told the Des Moines Register, “If I were Branstad I’d probably sleep OK tonight.” Schmidt views this treasure trove of documents as a sign that Culver “may not have too many really sharp angles to come at Branstad.” I wouldn’t be too sure about that. Culver campaign staffers have been going through about 1,000 boxes of material from Branstad’s four terms in office. I doubt they would release all the best stuff before the Fourth of July. We’ve got a long way to go before November.

Final note: Culver’s campaign raised the issue of Branstad’s abuse of power in response to the Republican’s latest tv ad, unveiled this week. The viewer sees clips from Branstad’s rallies and hears Branstad tell the crowd: “We’re all here for one reason: to give Iowans a government that is as honest, as hard-working, that is as good as the people of this state. To those communities fighting to stay alive, to the workers hunting for good jobs, to those families hoping for a better education for their kids, change is coming! For those Iowans who want honest, open and scandal-free government, change is coming! We did it before, and we can do it again!” If Branstad wants to campaign on “honest, open and scandal-free government,” he should be prepared to defend his own record.

UPDATE: The Culver campaign released this statement on July 2:



DES MOINES – Terry Branstad and his campaign must believe that he and his cronies are above the law because they have yet to admit that using the Governor’s Office to further Branstad’s own political ambitions instead of putting the people’s work first is wrong.

“Branstad has yet to admit any wrong-doing or even promise the people of Iowa that he would avoid abusing the Governor’s Office if elected again. Terry Branstad abused the power of the Governor’s Office and it’s time he admit culpability,” Culver/Judge Communications Director Ali Glisson.

On Wednesday, the Culver/Judge Campaign produced 400 pages of documents showing that Branstad and his closest associates, including Doug Gross, abused the power of the Governor’s Office. Branstad raised money for his campaigns and for the Republican Party of Iowa, using official state stationery, making fundraising calls, and used various staff and state resources for these efforts instead of working for the people of Iowa.

“What Branstad did is wrong and unethical. He put himself above the law and used state resources to further his own political agenda over any efforts to help the people of Iowa.”  

To see all 400 pages of documents released this week by the Culver/Judge Campaign, visit BranstadFacts.com.

Memo: Terry Branstad’s Record of Abusing Power

TO: Interested Parties

FROM: Culver/Judge Campaign Manager Donn Stanley

RE: Terry Branstad’s Record of Abusing Power

Governor Branstad’s own campaign has put the issue of his honesty and trustworthiness on the table in this campaign. In his most recent TV ad, entitled ‘Rally,’ Branstad’s voice declares, “For those Iowans who want honest, open and scandal-free government – change is coming!”

This is obviously another attempt to besmirch Governor Culver, whose leadership has seen Iowa through the worst recession since the Great Depression to the path of recovery. For the first time, Iowa has earned a triple-A bond rating from all three major agencies. The budget has been balanced every single day since Chet Culver became Governor. And, each time an issue has arisen in the Governor’s Office, he has taken decisive action.

Branstad’s focus on “honesty” and “scandal-free” government begs the question, was Iowa under Terry Branstad scandal-free, open and honest? Would Terry Branstad put the people of Iowa before his own ambitions?

His own record indicates Terry Branstad would not.

The evidence we have gathered is part of a larger pattern of his dishonesty and scandal-ridden administration. While today’s information is new to Iowans, we already knew that, as Governor, Branstad used the state plane for political purposes and held campaign fundraisers shortly after awarding those donors multi-million dollar state contracts.

The Culver/Judge campaign has done research in the state’s archives, sorting through some of the documents from the Government offices of then-Governor Branstad and many of his closest associates, including Doug Gross and Jerry Mathiasen.

The records show an extensive abuse of power. Just a few examples include:

   * Mathiasen raised campaign cash and helped run the Lockard for Congress campaign and Republican legislative campaigns from the Governor’s Office.

   * Doug Gross organized strategy meetings to discuss Branstad’s re-election and how to pay off the debt of the Republican Party of Iowa.

   * Terry Branstad raised money for his re-election campaigns and for the Republican Party of Iowa from the Governor’s Office, using official state stationary, making fundraising calls, and directing staff to help in these efforts instead of working for the people of Iowa.

This illustrates a systemic abuse of power, used to further Terry Branstad’s own political agenda. The documents we have found show that Branstad and his staff spent years violating the public’s trust, putting Branstad’s political ambitions before the state of Iowa.

This campaign is about whose side each candidate is on. It’s about which candidate the people of Iowa can trust. Terry Branstad has shown that when given the chance he will violate our trust and use our money and time to increase his political power.

In light of these documents, it is important that his record is examined so the voters can make an honest judgment.

The evidence of Branstad’s abuse of his power is well documented in the following areas, of which a few examples are given below.

Used the power of the Governor’s office and taxpayer dollars for political fundraising

   * Use of Governor’s executive office staff to fundraise for campaigns

         o Draft fundraising letter from Doug Gross files for the RPI that focuses on the newly elected Democratic Party Chair

         o Draft fundraising materials from the Doug Gross files for the RPI fall fundraising event in 1983, Novemberfest.

         o Fundraising Correspondence between Governor Branstad and Governor Ashcroft regarding RGA contributions to his 1990 campaign

   * Fundraising using official Governor’s office letterhead

         o Letter to Richard Kautz, from the Mathiasen files, and sent out with Branstad’s signature, thanking him for contributing $200 to the Republican legislative campaign committee. The letter is on official letterhead.

         o Letter to Mike Draper, from the Mathiasen files and sent out with Branstad’s signature, thanking a foreign citizen for contributing $300 to Republican Party of Iowa. The letter is on official letterhead.

         o Letter to Mike Ross, RPI – A letter from Jerry Mathiasen to the Republican Party of Iowa, on official letterhead, recommending individuals who could potentially buy tables at the Lincoln Day Dinner.

         o A note to a donor handwritten by Terry Branstad on official Governor’s Office card stock thanking a couple for hosting a Carroll fundraiser. The donor had sent it back to the Governor’s office in order to convince staff to that another letter sent by the donor ought to be shown to the Governor personally.

         o Note to call ALCOA regarding a $500 PAC contribution. Handwritten note says “Gov called 9/18/86”

   * Use of the Washington D.C. Office for fundraising

         o Memo from Phil Smith, Director of the Office of State-Federal Relations, regarding his work fundraising for the 1988 RGA dinner. It is on official state-federal relations office letterhead and a handwritten note indicated Governor Branstad called Smith back about the topic.

   * Fundraising phone calls made by the Governor

         o Fundraising phone call document

Used state resources to conduct opposition research

   * Lowell Junkins’ Legislative Record – This document, from Doug Gross’ files, summarizes gubernatorial candidate Lowell Junkins’ votes throughout his entire legislative career. The first two pages are included in this presentation – the second clearly shows a state watermark.

   * Junkins Flip-Flops – This document lists “flip-flops” by Lowell Junkins. You can clearly see that the backside of the page is the letterhead for the “Governor’s Office for Volunteers.”

   * Note to UI Professor – Doug Gross used official Governor’s Office notepad paper to send a copy of Junkins’ campaign literature to a UI professor. He asked the professor for an analysis of Junkins’ policy proposals.

Used state resources to recruit candidates for office

   * Note on official Governor’s Office transmittal slip to call Marge Rogers and ask her to run in the 68th district. The slip says “Gov called 3/19/86”

   * Note on official Governor’s Office letterhead regarding recruitment of a candidate against State Senator Boswell in 1991. A handwritten note indicates that the Governor made the call.

Used state resources to help run other Republican political campaigns

   * 1st page of the Bob Lockard for Congress Campaign Plan, from Jerry Mathiasen’s files

   * Mathiasen files – fundraising letter by Branstad for Lockard

   * Mathiasen Files – District Consolidation Analysis – one of many memos outline legislative election strategy

   * Mathiasen Files – Edited radio scripts for legislative attack ads. The first ad attacks Democrats for voting for a sales tax increase that Branstad proposed and signed. The second ad attacks Democrats in the legislature for their position on drunk driving legislation.

The documents presented above are just a small sample of the information uncovered by our campaign. In total, the documents we are releasing today consist of over 400 pages of material that clearly shows a systemic pattern of abuse of power by Terry Branstad and his closest associates. To view the documents visit BranstadFacts.com.

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  • This is a great sign for the Culver campaign

    This is a sophisticated, detailed, and substantial attack on Branstad’s past.  It’s difficult to know if it will gain traction, but with attacks like this at this point at the campaign, I’m looking forward to see what else comes out as the campaign goes on.  

    Most of Branstad’s mistakes have disappeared from our collective memory, so it’s good that Culver is reminding us with actual evidence.

    • have you looked at the site?

      I haven’t had time to review all of the documents, but it’s quite an amazing collection. So far my favorite is Mathiasen C-51, a lengthy strategy document for the Republican Iowa House and Senate campaigns in 1984. It is ridiculous to have a governor’s aide working on stuff like that.

      I also like anything that reminds people how influential Doug Gross was in the Branstad administration. Nothing turns off a certain faction in the Iowa GOP more than the idea of Gross becoming the power behind the throne again.

      • Unfortunately, no.

        I posted yesterday while at work and I don’t think I’ll have time for an in depth read until the weekend is over.  In the meantime, I’m trusting you, desmoinesdem!

    • in an ideal world

      Iowa’s major newspapers would have had investigative reporters go through the 1,000 boxes of Branstad archival material already. But since the news industry no longer invests much in serious reporting, it’s up to campaign staffers to do the grunt work.