Department of lousy optics

When Governor Chet Culver scheduled a $5,000 a head fundraiser in Des Moines, he probably didn’t expect the event to fall on the same day he announced about $100 million in “painful” budget cuts.

Trust me, Bleeding Heartland’s resident troll won’t be the only one to use this convergence to push Republican talking points about Democrats no longer being the party of working people.

Last week Iowa legislative leaders appeared at a forum organized by Iowa Politics, and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy characterized the Voter-Owned Iowa Clean Elections bill as “flat-out bad”:

It would cause taxpayer money to rain down in districts where candidates typically spend far less on campaigns, and would cause corporations to control the parties, he said. Meaningful reform should come from federal lawmakers clamping down on political committees such as 501(c)4 groups that can raise unlimited money and use it to influence campaigns, he said.

Sure, because it doesn’t look “flat-out bad” for Democrats to schedule high-priced fundraisers while most families are tightening their belts.

Of course, the real problem with our current system of funding politicians isn’t the lousy optics, it’s how narrow interests are able to push through bad bills or block legislation that is in the public interest and has broad bipartisan support.

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement gave a few other reasons why McCarthy is “flat-out wrong”:

McCarthy also claimed that under VOICE, corporations would “control the parties” through their contributions. Currently, corporate contributions to candidates are prohibited in Iowa, and would remain banned under VOICE. However, Iowa is one of only 13 states that have no limit on what any one individual can contribute to a candidate for public office.

In fact, McCarthy took a total of $90,000 in contributions from five individuals from out of state in 2008, and all the reports aren’t even in yet. And, $351,815 of his $652,205 came directly from Political Action Committees (PACs) representing special interests. States that have systems for publicly financed elections similar to VOICE, like Arizona, Maine, and Connecticut, have not seen an influx in 527 or PAC activity trying to influence elections. Rather, more candidates are running for office, including women and minorities. And, although these kinds of groups are already here in Iowa, CCI and other organizations last year worked for and passed legislation to force 527s to report their in-state activities. This has allowed the public to see who is contributing to organizations that try to influence our public elections.

McCarthy also claimed that VOICE would cause candidates to become lazy, “Which is absurd,” said CCI member Alice Bryan of Des Moines. “VOICE candidates will actually have to work harder, going door to door meeting constituents, rather than dialing for dollars and relying on slick mailers and TV ads. A VOICE candidate who agrees to limit their spending would truly represent their constituents, not the special interests that fund campaigns.”

Public Campaign has created an online petition you can sign if you want to tell McCarthy that “VOICE would make elections in Iowa about voters and not campaign donors.”

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement has scheduled a Rally and Lobby Day for January 27, 2009,

to kick off the legislative session and push for VOICE, local control of factory farms, keeping families in their homes and protecting the rights of all workers.

If you care about this issue, mark your calendar.

UPDATE: Ed Fallon published an op-ed piece in Friday’s Des Moines Register called Illinois seat not only thing that’s for sale:

Blagojevich is a menace and needs to go to the gated community where other Illinois governors before him have gone. But America’s campaign-finance system is a far greater menace to democracy. If we can muster shock and disgust for Blagojevich, we should be utterly appalled at the pervasive role of money in politics.

Face it. What we call “elections” have become auctions. The auctioning of U.S. Senate seats occurs every six years – every two years for congressional and state legislative seats. Big donors, corporations and special interests “bid” on the candidate of their choice. In close races, the smart money bids on both candidates, and the one backed by the highest bidders usually wins.

We don’t want to believe our elected officials can be bought. But as someone who served for 14 years in the Iowa House, I say with confidence that what big money wants, big money usually gets. Rank-and-file lawmakers may be well-intentioned but often are strong-armed by legislative leaders beholden to corporate donors and special interests. As a result, the most pressing challenges of our time – climate change, budgetary reform, health care, farm policy, to name a few – see practically no progress year after year.

So, while I hope the good people of Illinois fire Blagojevich and fire him soon, I have a more pressing hope that Americans across the country get fired up for campaign-finance reform. In Iowa, Senator-elect Pam Jochum is leading the charge on VOICE (Voter-Owned Iowa Clean Elections). This bill would make it easier for rank-and-file lawmakers to stand up to party leaders, allow more citizens to run for office and give the public far greater access to the halls of power.

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Events coming up this weekend

As always, post a comment or send me an e-mail if I’ve left out any important event.

Democratic candidates, please e-mail me about your upcoming public events and/or fundraisers, so that I can include them in these posts.

Thursday, July 17:

Democracy for America is holding another one of its “Night School” sessions, this time featuring Professor George Lakoff:

Ever wonder why simply stating our positions on the hot button issues isn’t enough to win votes? Or why Democrats who try and adopt conservative stances on issues usually lose their elections even in conservative districts?

Professor George Lakoff has the answers and will show us how to frame the solutions during the next Night School. Thursday, Professor Lakoff will be our special guest trainer; highlighting specific thinking points from his new book “The Political Mind” and teaching the framing progressives need to know to win. Join us “Live from Netroots Nation” at a special time: 5:30pm Eastern.

The Political Mind with George Lakoff

Thursday 5:30pm Eastern Time


More information from Democracy for America is after the jump.

Rob Hubler will be at the Decatur County fair in Leon at 6:30 pm.

Friday, July 18:

Rob Hubler will be at the Carroll County fair in Carroll at 1:00 pm.

Hubler will be at the Crawford County fair in Denison at 3:15.

Hubler will be at the Mills County fair in Malvern at 6:15.

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement is holding its Statewide Convention on Friday and Saturday at the Hotel Fort Des Moines (10th and Walnut). The keynote speaker on Friday night will be John Nichols, writer for The Nation magazine. Tickets for the Nichols event can be purchased for $15 in advance or for $20 at the door. To purchase tickets, call Iowa CCI at 515-255-0800 or visit www.iowacci.org.

For more background on Nichols, read this diary posted by Whitney. To register to attend ICCI’s convention, click here.

Saturday, July 19:

ICCI’s convention continues all day at the Hotel Fort Des Moines. A particularly interesting workshop on how to win the battle over clean elections reform will be led by State Representative Pam Jochum.

The Iowa Renewable Energy Association is holding a Residential Solar Photovoltaic Workshop at the Des Moines Botanical Center from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm. It costs $100 for I-Renew members and $150 for non-members, with an optional $11 lunch. Click here for more information, or read the whole e-mail announcement from I-Renew after the jump.

Rob Hubler will be at the Buena Vista County fair in Storm Lake at 1 pm.

Hubler will be at the O’Brien County fair in Primghar at 3 pm.

Polk County supervisor Tom Hockensmith is holding the 6th Annual Hockensmith Family Picnic from noon to 3 pm at Doanes Park, Shelter #1, 451 S. Pleasant Hill Blvd. $10 per person – or – $25 per family. Directions from E. University / Hwy 163: Go South on Hickory Blvd., West on Maple Dr., then South on S. Pleasant Hill Blvd.

Sunday, July 20:

Rob Hubler will be in the Monona County fair parade in Onawa at 10 am.

Hubler will be at the Pottawattamie County fair in Avoca at 3:15 pm.

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More events at the Capitol this week

I heard that the nurse-in organized by the Iowa Commission on the Status of Women was a big success yesterday, with about 20 families represented. A friend who was there e-mailed to say:

Rachel Scott with the Iowa Commission on the Status of Women sort of organized us yesterday and wanted us to know that there’s a meeting of the subcommittee on this particular bill – HF2292 – tomorrow morning [Wednesday] at 9:15.  Here’s what she had to say:

“What I need for tomorrow is to have 3 or 4 women to come, especially those who can speak to breastfeeding/ pumping at work or who worked somewhere where a reasonable accommodation was made that they could describe.   Another great thing would be if anyone knows of a small business owner who would come and speak to how easy this is.”

It really is easy to accommodate a woman who needs to express milk, or nurse a child, occasionally during the work day. If you know anyone who can attend this hearing on Wednesday morning, please spread the word.

Rachel Scott can be reached at rachel.scott AT iowa.gov

Meanwhile, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement had their rally and meeting with the governor scheduled for today. If anyone was there, please put up a diary to let us know how it went.

Wednesday is Planned Parenthood of Greater Iowa’s lobby day. Here are the details:

Lobby Day is from 9:30 to 4 on Wednesday March 5.

Those unable to attend the entire event can meet us at the capitol between 12:15 and 3pm (you can find us on the second floor in pink and black “Prevention First” t-shirts).

The day will begin at 9:30 in the Botanical Center with a training on citizen lobbying and a briefing on PPGI’s legislative agenda.  Participants will be given a “Prevention First” t-shirt to wear to the capitol and we will break into groups based on legislative district.  We’ll have lunch and take a bus to the capitol where we will be lobbying for the following legislation:

   1.  Healthy Families Initiative: Creates Iowa’s first state fund for contraception for low-income women ( Iowa is currently 48th in the nation in contraceptive accessibility.  Over half of our counties have no family planning center)

   2. HPV Insurance Coverage:  Requires all insurance companies cover the HPV vaccine

One of our most persuasive arguments in the legislature is that voters support these initiatives.  We want to create a strong presence at the capitol and need as many supporters there as possible.  Group lobbying provides a great first-time experience in citizen lobbying.  The day will conclude with a brief reception in the Botanical Center from 3 to 4pm.

Please RSVP to Susan Alexander at salexander AT ppgi.org or (515) 235-0441 or register online at http://www.ppaction.org/ppiowa…  

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Political events coming up this week

I’m going to try to flag political events for the week ahead every weekend. Please send me tips or put up a diary if you know of something interesting about to happen soon.

This Thursday is the “funnel” day, the date that will determine which bills have a chance of advancing this year and which are dead for the session. As a result, a bunch of groups are holding lobby days at the capitol this week.

On Monday, please consider helping the Iowa Commission on the Status of Women build support for a bill that would make it easier for working women to keep breastfeeding. Click the link for details about the “nurse in” at the capitol or how to contact your legislators.

On Tuesday, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement are holding their rally and lobby day. Details can be found in this diary that was posted a few days ago.

Planned Parenthood of Greater Iowa is holding its lobby day on Wednesday to push for its “Prevention First” agenda. Click the link to read a post at Blog for Iowa with more details about this event.

On Friday, Windsor Heights Mayor Jerry Sullivan, Democratic candidate for Iowa House district 59, is having a campaign kick-off event at the Ankeny Regional Airport from 5 pm to 8 pm. Weather permitting, short rides on helicopters and small planes will be available at that event. For more information, check out the Sullivan for State Representative website.

I am proud to say that I wrote a check for Sullivan’s campaign a couple of weeks ago.

I encourage everyone to support our candidates for state and local office this year. Your donations go further in those races than they do in a multi-zillion-dollar presidential campaign.

Speaking of which, I recently learned that James Van Bruggen is running against Dwayne Alons in House District 4. Van Bruggen’s campaign website is here.

You may remember Alons for his idiotic comment that global warming is not a problem in light of modern refrigeration and air conditioning, or his baffling observation that global warming may help us by making us stronger and taller, like the ancient Mayans. House District 4 leans strongly Republican, but I am very glad someone has stepped up to challenge Alons.

Local control and VOICE activists, swarm the Capitol tomorrow

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (ICCI) is holding its lobby day at the State Capitol on Tuesday, January 29.

The main issues on the agenda are local control over siting of confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) and the Voter-Owned Iowa Clean Elections bill, which would create a voluntary public-financing option for state elections.

Here is the agenda for the day:

10:30-11:15 – Rally and Legislators addressing crowd

11:15-12:30 – Lunch and individual lobbying

12:30-1 – Head over to Wallace Building

1-1:30 – Meeting w/ DNR Director Rich Leopold

1:30-2:30 – Other meetings/events

2:230-3 – Meeting w/ Gov. Culver’s Chief Policy Adviser, Jim Larew

“People Matter More, Money Matters Less”

If you attend this event, please put up a diary afterwards to let us know how it went.

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VOICE Needs your help!

From the Inbox: ICCI

VOICE needs your help!

An update from Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement

April 3, 2007

24 days left to pass VOICE!

The legislative session ends April 27.  We have a historic opportunity to pass a Voter-Owned Iowa Clean Elections Bill.  This bill would provide public financing for all state elections.  This system would allow the VOICE of everyday people to be heard on the critical issues that affect us – like our communities, clean air and water, and predatory lending. 

But we need your help!  In order to make this happen the legislature must hear from us.  We are looking for lots of volunteers to help us in the next month.  This is an excellent opportunity for us to talk, act, and get things done! 

Here’s what you can do:

Contact your state Senator and Representative.  Click here for an easy contact form with talking points.

Phone bank!  Phone banking is a great way for us to spread the word beyond our membership.  It’s a great opportunity to meet other CCI members and spread the word about this important legislation.  Food will be provided.  There will be several phone banks taking place – both during the day and at night – at the CCI office in Des Moines .  E-mail jessica@iowacci.org if you would like more information.  We need you!

Walk.  We are looking for volunteers to spend a few hours on any Saturday this month to go door to door to spread the message on clean elections.  E-mail jessica@iowacci.org if you would like to help.

Learn.  For more information on what VOICE is, visit www.voterownediowa.org. 

Contact information

For more information, go to www.iowacci.org or call 515.282.0484.