Bobby Kaufmann telling new story about obscene gesture

State Representative Bobby Kaufmann gained extensive media coverage in January for raising his middle fingers at the end of a speech to a conservative audience at the Iowa capitol. At the time, Kaufmann told reporters he was trying to convey widespread frustration with federal government policies and national problems.

But the Republican lawmaker told a different story at a recent meeting with constituents. Now he is claiming his "double-finger" was directed at specific individuals who have supposedly threatened his family.


Kaufmann spoke to the Convention of the States Rally on January 25. The group advocates for state legislatures to pass resolutions calling for a national constitutional convention. Kaufmann chairs the Iowa House State Government Committee, which has introduced the bill that would express Iowa's support for such a convention.

Shane Vander Hart of the Iowa Torch website filmed the speech. The two recurring themes were supposed federal government overreach and Kaufmann's contempt for political correctness. In fact, he told the group he was "going to wing it" because he tends "to be too politically correct" when he speaks from notes.

"I ran for office for basic freedoms," Kaufmann said. "I ran for office to make sure that a federal government does not dictate your daily lives, but the way the founders intended it, that you dictate theirs."

The Republican posited that he and many in the audience would have been with George Washington's troops crossing the Delaware during the Revolutionary War. He then identified "eerie" similarities between today's federal government and King George's tyrannical rule. My transcript:

You've got a federal government filled with hubris that just oozes with contempt for the average American. They think they're better than us, they think they're smarter than us, and they think that they should control us.

Well, the founders gave us an opportunity, the politically correct version to push back, and that's the Convention of the States.

But we in Iowa are a citizen legislature. We're not career politicians. I'm a farmer by trade, and most of us have real jobs out with real people. So I don't always like to subscribe to political correctness.

So politically speaking, we do have the Convention of States to push back. But for me the citizen, and on behalf of what I believe is many of you and what our founders would do, when it comes to these gun grabbing, freedom hating, over-regulating civil liberty violating tyrants, here's my message: [raises both middle fingers] 

It's not every day that an elected official does something like that in a public setting. So local and some national media picked up the story.


KCCI-TV's Cynthia Fodor followed up with Kaufmann on January 27. He was clear about the target of his obscene gesture.

Kaufmann told KCCI's Cynthia Fodor that his fingers were pointed at the federal government and that he did not plan to use that gesture. Kaufmann says his intention was to send a message to the federal government that Iowans are frustrated with open borders, rampant crime and out-of-control inflation.

When asked if he had any regrets, Kaufmann said, "Zero. I just regret I didn't do it earlier."

Also on January 27, Kaufmann gave a live interview to WHO-TV's Dave Price. He again indicated that he was expressing an opinion about federal government policies, and also admitted that he was seeking attention. You can watch the whole live segment here.

Kaufmann explained, “What I did was quite simple. I channeled what many, many, many people in my district and in this state have been thinking and wanting to do, and wanting to say. I just happened to be the one to do it, to say it, and to gesture it."

He claimed he had received support from many constituents who said, "Thank you for standing up to a tyrannical federal government. Thank you so much for being our voice."

When Price pressed him on whether the state capitol was the right place for that kind of expression, Kaufmann again indicated that he was reacting to the federal government.

It’s very appropriate because of the following. Right now the federal government is creating a dangerous environment for families. You’ve got people who are wondering if their kids’ educational savings accounts are going to keep dwindling, their 401ks, their retirements, wallets, their paychecks. You’re seeing the dollar bill not go nearly as far as it used to. You see rampant open borders. You see soaring crime across the country. [...]

We've tried being nice. We've tried asking the federal government to fix all of this, but it just keeps getting worse. [...]

When you are having your own federal government come down on you with illegal mandates and spending money like drunken sailors, the time for nice is over, and the time to say things that catches attention is now. And clearly what I said caught some attention, thankfully.

A minute later, Kaufmann again claimed "the people back home" were "overwhelmingly" telling him, "Thank you for standing up to a federal government that is far overreaching into our lives."

However, Kaufamnn soon began spinning a very different tale to the people back home.


The Tipton Conservative and West Branch Times covered Kaufmann's recent public statements in their March 2 editions, I learned from Deb VanderGaast, a Democratic candidate for Iowa Senate district 41. The articles are available only to subscribers. They mention that Kaufmann discussed his controversial speech in a column he submitted to area newspapers in late January.

Only days after telling Des Moines-based journalists that he was sending a message to the tyrannical federal government, Kaufmann wrote that he wanted to explain "the bluntness of my comments last week when talking to the radical political forces attacking the Legislature and me personally." He described being accosted at a local business when he was with a toddler, and said the FBI was investigating threats to harm some of his relatives.

"I will not be bullied by threats and my response, although perhaps too blunt for some, will not soften."

Let's be clear: violent threats are unacceptable, regardless of any political disagreement. I'm glad Kaufmann's disdain for the federal government doesn't extend to the FBI, and I hope investigators are able to find and hold accountable anyone who has voiced any intent to harm him or members of his family.

Kaufmann fleshed out the new official line during a February 26 "listening post" in West Branch. Gregory Norfleet covered the story for both the West Branch Times and the Tipton Conservative. Constituent Clara Oleson asked Kaufmann for an apology, saying his obscene gesture “felt directed toward me” and others who shared her political views.

The lawmaker refused to apologize: "You don’t get to tell me what the gesture meant." He asserted there are "two open FBI investigations" related to alleged threats from "far-left activists," adding, "See, this is the problem: Somebody takes what they heard on the news and pretends like they think they know what’s going on because that’s not even close to being accurate."

"What they heard on the news" was probably Kaufmann's own justification for flipping the bird. But I digress.

At the West Branch listening post, Kaufmann described alleged bomb threats against his relatives and verbal abuse from a "deranged man" at an area gas station, while a toddler was with him.

"If he had gone a step further, I would have knocked him out with my fist. Because you don’t do that to another individual.

"As I was giving a speech, those same people showed up at that speech, Clara. They were the recipient of that double-finger and they’re lucky that’s all they got. Because when you threaten to blow up my 1 1/2-year-old nephew, you’re lucky I don’t knock you out on the spot, as I’m sure any of you would do. [...]

"And to believe that you know what was in my heart based off of some really haphazard, false media coverage is false. And in the middle of a speech when the people who were doing the things that I just described showed up, they’re darn lucky that’s all I did to them."

Again, threats and verbal abuse are not acceptable, especially when directed at a child. But how can Kaufmann complain about "haphazard, false media coverage" when journalists gave him air time to explain exactly what he meant by his obscene gesture?

Watch that speech at the capitol again. It's obvious from the context that Kaufmann was not flipping off specific individuals who had targeted his family.

Watch Kaufmann's unedited, live segment with WHO-TV's Price. He connected his attention-seeking behavior to what the federal government was doing. He didn't say supportive constituents had the wrong impression when they thanked him for "standing up to a tyrannical federal government."

Why he's pushing a different story now is a mystery. Kaufmann did not respond to Bleeding Heartland's emails seeking clarification. Perhaps he received more blowback from constituents than he let on in the immediate aftermath of his stunt.

P.S.– In January, I suspected Kaufmann's crude gesture was designed to divert attention from his recent legislative work. Shortly after lawmakers convened in January, he bragged about being "pro-landowner" and said he was drafting a bill that would require more landowner approval before allowing the use of eminent domain for pipelines. He said he was "discussing the issue with stakeholders in the two proposed carbon pipelines that would cut through Iowa."

The following week, Kaufmann caved to those stakeholders.

After careful thought, I have determined that now is not the right time to make changes in the current process while two carbon capture pipeline projects have already signed up hundreds of willing landowner participants and continue to negotiate voluntary easements. Changing the rules on the use of eminent domain would send the wrong message to potential supporters in Iowa, who are necessary for these projects to follow through on their commitments to landowners. They need to have confidence that Iowa is a great place to do business and that you can count on a stable legal, regulatory, and tax structure.

By raising his middle fingers in public, Kaufmann ensured he would be known as the in-your-face, not politically correct guy. Not the person who claimed to be "passionate" about limiting eminent domain but lacked the courage to stand up to wealthy, powerful interests.

Top image: Screenshot from The Iowa Torch video of Bobby Kaufmann's speech to the Convention of the States rally.

  • I assumed Kauffman had caved in to pressure... change his mind about eminent domain, but I thought the pressure had likely come from members of his own Republican caucus, rather than directly from the pipeline/ethanol industries. But it amounts to the same thing.

  • I spoke with Kauffman recently

    I few months ago I got Bobby on the phone about the CO2 pipeline because Summit wants land on 3 of our farms. When I told him I was one of the people who helped stop the Rock Island Clean Line he asked me "Aren't you going to thank me for stopping RICL?" What a strange question. First while Kauffman lobbied to stop RICL it was actually stopped because only about 8-11% of the people on the ground signed voluntary easements. They didn't sign because our group (Preservation of Rural Iowa Alliance) got plat books and called people all across the state, we held our own meetings in every county. Bobby Kauffman did not stop RICL, we did.

    On February 19 The Iowa Standard had an excellent article about the money and the all-in-the-family top GOP support of the pipeline. Kauffman stood down on eminent domain because he knows who butters his bread and it isn't the People.

  • I owed Bobby Kauffman thanks...

    ...because years ago, he tried to help some Iowa landowners who were going to have their land taken to build new lakes that were officially intended to be drinking water sources, but had been transformed into plans for large lakes because local business communities wanted flat-water recreation. Using eminent domain to provide drinking water is one thing. Using it to provide fun for boat owners is another.

    I knew a few of the landowners and saw a few of the beautiful natural areas that were slated for drowning, including a rare original prairie. I was tired of eminent domain being finagled in this state. I was also tired of Iowa's endless obsession with building new fake lakes, which inevitably drown riparian natural areas. So I was grateful to Bobby Kauffman.

    When I heard that Kauffman was going to work to prevent eminent-domain misuse for the carbon pipelines, I was ready to be grateful once more. Unfortunately, I never got the chance.

    I thanked Kauffman long ago for his fake-lake work. But I glumly suspect that I may never have reason to thank him again.

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