Lawsuit claims secret Harreld meetings violated Iowa law

A retired University of Iowa employee has filed suit to nullify last year’s hiring of University President Bruce Harreld, on the grounds that five members of the Iowa Board of Regents violated the state’s open meetings law, Ryan Foley reported yesterday for the Associated Press.

I enclose below more background on the case as well as the full text of the plaintiff’s court filing.

Continue Reading...

Branstad names Bruce Rastetter ally Michael Richards to Board of Regents

Governor Terry Branstad appointed Michael Richards to the Iowa Board of Regents last Friday. Subject to confirmation by the Iowa Senate, Richards will serve the last five years of Mary Andringa’s term on the nine-member board, which oversees Iowa’s state universities. Andringa announced her resignation in late April, saying she had “underestimated the time required to fully serve in this role.” (It soon emerged that she is a paid director for the Herman Miller furniture company, which received a multimillion-dollar no-bid contract from the University of Iowa last year.)

An alumnus of the University of Iowa undergraduate college and medical school, Richards has held management positions in various corporations, inside and outside the health care field. The official announcement of his appointment mentions several of those jobs as well as Richards’ philanthropy.

Richards continues a long tradition of major political donors securing spots on the prestigious Board of Regents. He made contributions totaling more than $40,000 to Branstad’s 2010 and 2014 gubernatorial campaigns. (Details on that giving are after the jump, along with the May 6 press release.) Last year, Richards gave $10,000 to Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds, who is almost certain to run for governor in 2018, as well as $2,500 to Iowa House Speaker Linda Upmeyer. He has given nearly $100,000 to other Republican candidates around the country.

Richards has been a close political ally of Iowa Board of Regents President Bruce Rastetter. In 2011, he joined a small group of business Republicans led by Rastetter, who encouraged New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to run for president. Last year, he joined Rastetter and most of that group to endorse Christie’s presidential campaign.

The Iowa Senate has confirmed hundreds of Branstad’s nominees unanimously or nearly so. During the legislature’s 2017 session, I don’t expect Richards to have any trouble winning confirmation to serve out Andringa’s term on the Board of Regents. The two appointees to that board whom senators rejected in 2013 had political baggage that Richards lacks.

UPDATE: Added below excerpts from Vanessa Miller’s latest report for the Cedar Rapids Gazette. Democratic lawmakers see the Senate confirming Richards next year.

LATE UPDATE: News emerged in early June that Branstad was considering Richards for the vacancy before Andringa had announced her resignation, so I’ve added more details below. Branstad has known Richards for far longer than Rastetter has been one of the governor’s most influential advisers.

Continue Reading...

Mary Andringa stepping down from Iowa Board of Regents (updated)

Saying she had “underestimated the time required to fully serve in this role,” Mary Andringa announced today she will step down from the Iowa Board of Regents, just one year into her six-year term. I enclose the official statement below, along with more background on Andringa, who has had a long and distinguished career in business and industry advocacy work. As a regent, she is best known for participating in a secret Ames meeting with Bruce Harreld and three other board members, then sending Harreld an effusive e-mail encouraging him to apply for the University of Iowa’s presidency.

Governor Terry Branstad will select Andringa’s successor on the nine-member Board of Regents, almost certainly after the state legislature has adjourned for this year. Consequently, the Iowa Senate will consider that nominee during the 2017 session.

Since 2011, state senators have confirmed the overwhelming majority of Branstad appointees unanimously or nearly so. However, Senate Democrats rejected two of Branstad’s picks for the Board of Regents in 2013. Craig Lang faced criticism for allegedly interfering with state university policies during his first term as a regent, while Robert Cramer drew fire for his record of social conservative activism, including as a member of the Johnston school board.

Branstad thinks highly of Andringa, naming her to a newly-created state economic development board a few years before appointing her to the even more prestigious board that oversees Iowa’s state universities. In fact, Branstad and his onetime chief of staff Doug Gross were said to have recruited Andringa to run for governor in 2009, a few months before GOP heavyweights persuaded Branstad to come out of political retirement. A poll commissioned by an organization linked to Gross had tested voters’ interest in female business leaders as potential gubernatorial candidates. Some news coverage in the spring of 2009 named Andringa among the possible GOP challengers to Governor Chet Culver.

UPDATE: Casting Andringa’s resignation in a new light, Ryan Foley reported for the Associated Press on April 28 that the outgoing regent “has long been a director for a national furniture company but failed to publicly disclose that relationship before its local distributor signed a major no-bid contract with the University of Iowa last year.” Excerpts from that story and from Jeff Charis-Carlson’s report on that no-bid contract are after the jump.

Continue Reading...

New IA-Sen Republican candidate speculation thread

Republicans thinking about running for Iowa’s open U.S. Senate seat next year are still in a holding pattern, waiting for Representative Steve King to make up his mind. Bret Hayworth of the Sioux City Journal just dropped his “King Meter” from 63 to 58, reflecting only a slightly better than 50-50 chance that King will run for Senate. If Bleeding Heartland had a King Meter, it would have started at zero and stayed there.

Today former GOP gubernatorial candidate Doug Gross predicted that neither King nor two other prominent Iowa Republicans will run for the Senate in 2014.

Continue Reading...

Branstad appoints new economic development boards

Governor Terry Branstad promised during last year’s campaign to transform the Iowa Department of Economic Development into a public-private partnership. Yesterday he named 18 leaders of Iowa companies to two new state economic development boards.

The list of appointed board members are after the jump, along with background and the full text of Branstad’s executive order creating the Iowa Partnership for Economic Progress board.

Continue Reading...

Weekend open thread: Job news edition

Last week’s horrible nationwide jobs report for June is another danger sign for the U.S. economy. Charles Lemos put the numbers in perspective here. The U.S. unemployment rate doesn’t appear to be rising, but that’s mainly because discouraged workers have stopped looking for a job. Other pieces of the economic picture aren’t looking great either, and some analysts think we are on the brink of a double-dip recession.

In terrible news for central Iowa, Wells Fargo announced on July 7 that it is “eliminating Des Moines-based Wells Fargo Financial and 3,800 positions nationwide.” From the Des Moines Register report:

Wells Fargo Financial will eliminate 2,800 positions in the next six months. The majority of those will come with the closing of 638 Wells Fargo Financial stores around the country, including 12 in Iowa. Only 14 of the initial layoffs will be in the Des Moines headquarters.

Wells Fargo also will eliminate an additional 1,000 positions in the next 12 months, most of those positions in Des Moines, said David Kvamme, president of Wells Fargo Financial. […]

Currently, Wells Fargo Financial has approximately 14,000 team members throughout the country, and 3,500 in Des Moines. The remaining 10,600 jobs will transition to other Wells Fargo units, including mortgage and community banking.

Laid off employees will receive 60 days’ working notice and a severance package.

Affected Wells Fargo employees also are encouraged to apply for other jobs throughout the company. Wells Fargo currently has more than 400 open positions in the Des Moines area, Kvamme said.

Wells Fargo is Iowa’s largest bank in terms of deposits and Central Iowa’s largest private employer with about 12,900 employees in the Des Moines area.

The Des Moines area is far from the worst place to do job-hunting; unemployment and the cost of living are pretty good compared to other medium-sized cities. Still, that’s a lot of people who will hit the job market at the same time.

Here’s some good news from the past week: the Iowa Utilities Board adopted “rules to encourage the development of more small wind generation systems across Iowa,” the Newton Independent reported.

One prominent Iowan got a new (unpaid) position this week, as President Obama appointed Vermeer Corporation president and CEO Mary Andringa to his 18-member export advisory council. Heavy-hitter Iowa Republicans tried to recruit Andringa to run for governor last year, and she is a chair of Terry Branstad’s campaign.

The celebrity job story of the week was of course LeBron James abandoning the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Miami Heat. I haven’t watched an NBA game in years, but I think James should have stayed in Cleveland, or at least not humiliated his hometown on nationwide television. A couple of good takes on the unprecedented dumping via tv special: Bill Simmons for ESPN and Matt Taibbi for Rolling Stone.

Some enterprising person was able to make google searches for “Terry Branstad” turn up ads for cheap drugs from Canada. The ads look like they are coming from Branstad’s official campaign website. Luke Jennett of the Ames Tribune got the scoop. As of Sunday morning, the problem still hadn’t been fixed.

This thread is for anything on your mind this weekend.

UPDATE: Who else watched the World Cup final? I was rooting for the Netherlands, but at least it wasn’t decided by penalty kicks. Spain scored a goal in the final minutes of extra time to post its fourth straight 1-0 victory. (Paul the psychic German octopus was right.) I’m happy for Spain, because they looked like the better team for most of the game, but it’s incredible to think that they are the World Cup champions after scoring eight goals in seven games.

Continue Reading...
View More...