As of yesterday, 44 of Iowa’s 99 counties are under disaster proclamations because of flooding in June or July. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee noted today that Republican Brad Zaun, the GOP nominee against Representative Leonard Boswell, has a record of opposing government assistance for flood victims. At an IowaPolitics.com forum in March of this year, Zaun suggested that Americans have forgotten about “personal responsibility” and gave this example: “We lost that as a country, we expect when there’s a flood or something that’s going on, the government to come in and help us.” Like all other Republicans in the Iowa House and Senate, Zaun voted against the bills that created the I-JOBS infrastructure bonding program in 2009. I-JOBS included $100 million to rebuild the University of Iowa campus, $46.5 million to rebuild sites in Cedar Rapids, Linn County, Palo, Elkader and Charles City, plus $118.5 million in “competitive grants available for reconstruction of local public buildings and flood control prevention.”
Zaun told the Des Moines Register that the DCCC took his remarks out of context, adding, “Obviously the people who are affected by the [Lake Delhi] dam break, I would obviously expect the government to play a role in that… there’s certainly is a role for government when there’s big disasters like this.”
What would that role be, Mr. Zaun? You voted against recovery funding after the biggest flood disaster in this state’s history. The Des Moines Register’s Jason Clayworth observes, “Republicans have previously said their opposition [to I-JOBS] was primarily due to their concern about long-term debt and not a sign of opposition against flood mitigation or recovery.” Fine. Let Zaun spell out how he would have paid to rebuild the University of Iowa and Linn County landmarks, let alone finance flood mitigation efforts elsewhere, without state borrowing. We didn’t have hundreds of millions of dollars lying around in 2008 and 2009, because the worst recession in 60 years brought state revenues down.
Zaun wants to have it both ways: he brags about opposing I-JOBS but doesn’t want voters to think he’s against government aid when there’s a “big disaster.”
Speaking of incoherent campaign rhetoric, Zaun’s comment about flood relief at the March forum was part of his answer to a question about new financial regulations. After lamenting the lack of “personal responsibility” in this country, Zaun concluded, “there needs to be some changes with our banking system, but its not with more government red tape and I would not support that current bill [under consideration in Congress] that you’re talking about.” I would love to hear details about the banking system changes Zaun would support.
Getting back to flood recovery, I still wonder what Representative Steve King has against the federal flood insurance program. Unfortunately, property owners around Lake Delhi are unlikely to benefit from that program, because Delaware County had declined to participate.
UPDATE: Boswell’s campaign released this statement on July 27:
“It is unfortunate that Senator Zaun made such insensitive and out-of-touch comments, especially as Iowans are experiencing widespread flooding across the state for the second time in two years. He has a long record of repeatedly voting against helping Iowa’s families, small businesses, and farmers in the aftermath of the 2008 floods. Iowans pay taxes into their local, state, and federal governments with the expectation that when a disaster strikes their investment will pay off. They trust that they will have a place to go, someone to counsel them, and a way to rebuild their homes and businesses. After all, this is their tax dollars – their government. I know that my conscience would never allow me to stand idle as these families, small business owners, farmers, and communities suffer following a natural disaster. This November Iowans will have to choose whether they want to elect a representative that will stand by them in times of need and fight for their fair share of their tax dollars, or someone who turns his back on his constituents.”