Textbook case of burying the lede in an Iowa caucus story

It's a perfect subject for local tv news: a crime story with an Iowa caucus angle.

A 15-year-old girl found a campaign worker from Alabama banging on her Ankeny family's back door early Wednesday morning.

Chloe Steward told KCCI she heard her dog barking around 3 a.m. and went to investigate. She said she found a man trying to get into the back door. [...]

Police said Benjamin Foster was arrested and charged with public intoxication and trespassing. He was taken to the Polk County Jail.

Iowa political strategist Eric Woolson is a consultant for the Pawlenty Exploratory Committee. He confirmed to KCCI that Foster is employed by the Pawlenty Exploratory Committee. [...]

The Steward family said Foster was drunk and was trying to get home to a friend's house in Johnston. They said he vomited in their backyard and scared their daughter.

Campaign veterans know that as a staffer, you never want the news to be about you, especially when the police get involved. KCCI posted a statement from the exploratory committee in which Foster apologized and took "full responsibility" for his actions, while Woolson said Foster was on a two-week unpaid suspension. I would guess he will soon be an ex-employee of the exploratory committee, or at least moved to a different state. In his next position, Foster should remember to arrange for a ride home when he plans to go out drinking.

Iowa politics junkie that I am, I was most interested in this part of the KCCI story: "Ankeny Police Chief Gary Mikulec said Foster told the officers he was staying at 6905 Jack London Dr., in Johnston." The Polk County Assessor's website indicates that property is owned by Erik and Michael Helland. That would be Iowa House Majority Whip Erik Helland, who represents House district 69, covering suburban and rural areas in northern Polk County. I don't know for sure that it's his primary residence, but it appears to be the only property he owns in Polk County.

Pawlenty did a fundraiser for Helland last year, and Helland has spoken favorably about Pawlenty's prospects in the caucuses. I haven't seen any formal endorsement, but if Helland is letting a Pawlenty staffer stay in his home, it sounds like he's fully committed.

A detailed roundup of Iowa caucus news is in progress. Meanwhile, share any relevant thoughts in this thread. Anecdotes about boneheaded moves by campaign staffers are particularly welcome.

I find myself unable to resist the temptation to link to Helland's recent close encounter with a live mic.

UPDATE: Both Tyler Kingkade and Bleeding Heartland user xjcsa noticed that Helland's legislative web page lists 6905 Jack London Drive as his home address. Many other news accounts have noted that Helland was arrested last summer on a DWI.

  • your site

    Hi -- I couldn't find an email address on your site . . . I'm working with UW-Madison and American University, compiling a database of hyperlocal news sites.  We'd like to include yours...  can you write back to me and I can fill you in?


    Wendy Swanberg


  • Yep, that's Helland's address...

    His legislative web page lists that as Helland's home address.

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