Iowa House Republican candidate James Butler has history of abuse, misconduct

Yesterday the Iowa Democratic Party published online several disturbing documents about James Butler, the Republican nominee in Iowa House district 26. Butler narrowly won a GOP primary and faces first-term Democratic State Representative Scott Ourth. The seat covers most of Warren County, including the cities of Indianola and Carlisle (a detailed map is after the jump). House district 26 is one of central Iowa’s most politically balanced state legislative districts. As of October 2014, it contained 6,421 active registered Democrats, 6,802 Republicans, and 7,046 no-party voters.

Before the primary, I didn’t hear much about Butler beyond the information in his official bio, which highlighted his career with the Des Moines Police Department. This summer, the Republican Butler defeated in the primary, Eric Durbin, flirted with running for House district 26 as an independent, and I saw some grumbling on social media about Butler’s past. I dismissed that chatter as likely to be sour grapes coming from Durbin’s supporters.

The official documents uploaded yesterday by the Iowa Democratic Party shocked me. First, a court order of protection that Butler’s ex-girlfriend received in 2005 details physical abuse and threats by the police officer. Second, a lawsuit filed by apparently the same woman against Butler, which details further abuse, harassment, and threats, including violation of the no-contact order. Butler allegedly told the woman there was no point in calling law enforcement because he was a police officer. Third, Civil Service Commission and Polk County District Court documents related to Butler’s brief suspension from the Des Moines police over an incident in 1997, when he was working as an off-duty police officer at a convenience store. The Civil Service Commission and later the district court judge validated Butler’s suspension over severe misconduct.

As far as I’m concerned, that kind of record should be disqualifying in a candidate for political office. How is it possible the public is only now hearing about Butler’s background, two weeks before the election and nearly a month after early voting began? The Des Moines Register ran a brief story about Butler’s candidacy in March, based on his press release. Just this week, the paper ran a short profile of Butler as part of its “meet the candidate” series, again using information supplied by the candidate. Maybe I’m naive, but I would have thought the Register would be checking court records and public documents for mentions of state legislative candidates. I also would have expected Butler’s GOP primary opponent to have brought some of this information to light.

UPDATE: I forgot to raise another question: why was Butler able to remain a police officer with this kind of record?

Iowa House district 26, The new Iowa House district 26, under the redistricting plan adopted in 2011.

About the Author(s)


  • James Butler

    Almost as important why is he still a police officer

  • Butler

    Hopefully Mr. Butler does not win, but more importantly i hope he gets his anger issues under control as well.  

    Eric Durbin has some views that appeal to younger, more Libertarian voters.  Maybe he would have made a better general election candidate.  

  • Butler was falsely accused

    These were unproven allegations by a scorned ex. Ourth has very similar ones from his ex. Ourth testified against his ex for the children’s father out of spite as well. The children’s father then returned the favor by donating to Ourth. Ourth also “outed” his boss Tom Pappas as being the gay lover of Roy Dyson while he was in that congressional office. When the paper published Ourth’s allegation, Pappas killed himself. The FEC began an investigation into Pappas’ and his staff stealing campaign contributions and Ourth and the others announced he was gay so they could separate from the office and claim they were included out of spite. The investigation later resulted in the FBI Operation Ill Wind resulting in very high profile arrests.

    In 2012 Ourth took large donations through his state committee from a MO donor in order the hold fundraisers for Leonard Boswell and help the congressman get around the FEC contribution limits.

    I was working with Eric in his primary and we pulled the court records for Butler. I followed up with the sources and determined they were unsubstantiated. I also asked Jim about it and checked into his explanation. The suspension for breaking a tape was about as serious as being late for work. I knew we could take it out of context and make him look bad, but given his police service it seemed really unfair to use allegations to harm the reputation of a lifelong civil servant. We chose to focus on the issues. (But when Eric didn’t win the primary I think there were some people that regret we didn’t pretend the smoke and mirrors was a big deal.)

  • Ourth Also has Several OWIs

    Ourth fled the state while on probation for his second OWI and didn’t return until his probation was over.  He then worked on Chet Culver’s campaign staff during his official duty as a state employee during work hours.  

    • Ourth/Butler

      We’re all aware of Scott’s struggles with alcohol John, Scott is not perfect by any means, nor does he claim to be.  

      The FEC claim should be looked into.  Most Republicans these days believe that contribution limits are a restriction on free speech, I support your courage to imply that some limits are not an infringement on the 1st Amendment.  

      • Limits?

        It’s not a matter of opinion on whether or not there should be limits. The law is the law. Powerhouse attorney, Kenneth McClaion maxed out donations on Boswell. He then gave thousands to Ourth for a state race.  Ourth would fly to DC and host fundraisers for Boswelll using his state committee funds (which had no limit)  when Boswell and and Latham were locked into a tight money race. McClain and and Boswell are friends from the Graceland University board. Ourth didn’t need the campaign money either. He bundles from the unions and gives a lot of the money he raises to the party.  Boswell ended up paying Ourth for the efforts after he lost the race.  

        • Yep, limits

          Yes, limits John,  You mentioned the limits first.  You mention the limits and then correctly point out that such violations are against the law.

          I was trying to pick your brain about whether you felt such limits should be Constitutional.  I already said there should be an investigation into the matter in the above comment.

          I presume this is your district for you to speak with such passion about the race.  I do admit that I volunteered for the Culver campaign, helping Scott at an event and consider him to be a friend.

          I’ve been an outspoken supporter of Leonard Boswell on this blog, but I also think quite a bit of Tom Latham’s work for the people of Iowa as well.

          • Limits?

            I’m not in the district.  Eric Durbin is my best friend and faced Butler in the primary. I think limits  cause less transparency because unscrupulous actors then find another way for the money to get through.  Then it’s harder to tell who is really influencing guys like Congressman Boswell.  

            • Clarification

              Thanks for the clarification John.  I didn’t know you were Eric’s friend.  I understand your concern about this seat now, in particular.

              I appreciate the civil discussion.  You don’t always get on the internet these day.  

  • Carpetbagging or not?

    I’m glad this came up, I wanted to draw attention that Butler’s address when he filed for HD 26 is in St. Charles IA, not in HD 26 but its neighbor HD 25. I’m not as familiar with state election laws as I am with federal laws, but is this legal, and if it’s not, how did the SOS let this happen?  

  • Letter to the Editor

    Dear Citizens of Iowa District 26,

    As James Butler’s (former Republican candidate for Iowa House of Representatives, District 26) wife, I would like to thank you for taking the time to vote in the November 4th election.  We are so thankful for those of you that voted for him, and appreciate all the support he received over the past several months.  We are especially thankful to a few key individuals who helped Jim work through call lists, door-knock, hang signs, and attend events.

    Though Jim is in District 26, I am a registered Democrat in District 39 (Grimes), where I own a home and reside during much of the work week due to the location of my job.  I stayed in the background most of Jim’s campaign due to the fact that I was a registered Democrat outside of his district.

    However, I do feel it is important to set the record straight about my husband and make sure that every voter in District 26 knows the ‘true’ Jim Butler.  The vicious rumors and nasty campaigning spread by the Democratic Party and the Scott Ourth campaign not only saddened me, but made me ashamed to say I belonged to the same party.  Shame on you Scott Ourth for stooping to that level; I am deplored by your actions. In addition to multiple mailers sent by the Ourth campaign, the letters to the editor in this newspaper also detailed rumors, speculation, and unfounded claims, one of which, I address below.

    ·         Is Jim a domestic abuser as Ourth’s multiple mailers insinuate?

    As his wife, I would know, and I can say with certainty that Jim has never once been abusive, nor tried to be.  He is gentle, loving, and one of the sweetest men I have ever met.  I have a Ph.D. in science, so I think I can objectively and experimentally determine if a man hits me…  He doesn’t.  And your insinuations Mr. Ourth are disgusting and I find them shameful.  Mailing 4 pieces of literature on unfounded accusations is borderline slanderous.  I take your insinuations against my husband as a slap on my face.  I am proud to say I am not a part of the district that elected you.

    District 26, many of you saw through the false allegations against my husband, and for those of you that did, I commend you.  For those of that didn’t, I wish you a blessed 2 years under your elected House Representative; you will certainly need all the blessings you can get.

    Kateri Butler

    • Attack ad against Ourth

      I produced and delivered an attack ad against Ourth based on his arrests, alcohol problems, gay bashing and financial misdeeds. It made him look pretty terrible. I delivered it to Sgt. Butler last week and he decided to take the high road and keep his campaign clean instead of returning an attack. James Butler is a standup guy and I have even more respect for him. I appreciate his years of service to the police force and for his service as a teacher.