Mid-week open thread: Worst governor's appointments

I recommend Michael Gartner’s long op-ed piece about the train wreck surrounding the Harkin Institute at Iowa State University. Reading it, I learned about a scandal that shattered ISU’s economics department in the 1940s. The piece also got me wondering: did Governor Chet Culver ever make a worse appointment than putting Iowa Farm Bureau head Craig Lang on the Board of Regents?

Not content to use the Regents’ lobbyists and ISU faculty for advocacy against raw milk sales (seemingly unrelated to higher education), Lang is now interfering with freedom to research agriculture-related topics at the Harkin Institute. Surely there were Republicans better suited for this job when Culver appointed Lang in 2007. I suspect we can thank then Lieutenant Governor Patty Judge (“Iowa is an agricultural state and anyone who doesn’t like it can leave in any of four directions”) for that move.

Some excerpts from Gartner’s piece are after the jump.

All topics are welcome in this open thread, especially any thoughts about the worst appointments any Iowa governor has made.

P.S.- Iowa Republican blogger Jeff Patch scores points for pretzel logic in his attempt to cast ISU administrators as heroes expressing “serious ethical concerns” about the Harkin Institute operating as “a rogue unit blessed with the official seal of ISU approval, funded by Harkin’s campaign donors and free to engage in politicized research with no oversight or controls.”

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Catch-up thread on Branstad appointments

Governor Terry Branstad announced some important personnel decisions in the past few days, naming former State Representative Libby Jacobs to chair the Iowa Utilities Board and three new members of the Board of Regents, including Bruce Rastetter.

Follow me after the jump for more on those and other Branstad administration appointments.

UPDATE: On March 1 President Barack Obama named Branstad to co-chair the Council of Governors, “established by the National Defense Authorization Act in 2008 to strengthen further partnership between the Federal and State governments as it pertains to national security.” Branstad will serve a two-year term as co-chair.

SECOND UPDATE: Branstad announced more than 200 appointments to state boards and commissions on March 2. Bleeding Heartland covered the four appointees to the Environmental Protection Commission here; all have ties to large agribusiness.

Another name that caught my eye was Eric Goranson, a lobbyist and parochial schools advocate whom Branstad named to the State Board of Education. He has been a leading critic of the Iowa Core Curriculum (see here and here). The Under the Golden Dome Blog argues that Goranson’s appointment may violate Iowa code, which states, “A voting member [of the Board of Education] shall not be engaged in professional education for a major portion of the member’s time nor shall the member derive a major portion of income from any business or activity connected with education.” Several of Goranson’s lobbying clients represent religious private schools or Christian home-schooling parents.

THIRD UPDATE: I forgot to mention Branstad’s two appointees to the State Judicial Nominating Commission: Helen St. Clair of Melrose and William Gustoff of Des Moines. I have been unable to find any information about Helen St. Clair, but a Maurice St. Clair of Melrose was among Branstad’s top 20 individual donors, contributing more than $45,000 to the gubernatorial campaign. I assume he is related to Helen St. Clair and will update this post if I confirm that. William Gustoff is a founding partner of the Whitaker Hagenow law firm, which includes Republican former U.S. attorney Matt Whitaker and State Representative Chris Hagenow. Branstad’s legal counsel Brenna Findley also worked at Whitaker Hagenow last year.

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Don't make gay spouses adopt their own children

The Iowa Attorney General’s Office has advised the Iowa Department of Public Health that a married lesbian who gives birth cannot list her spouse on the child’s birth certificate, according to Michael Gartner’s must-read scathing commentary in this week’s Cityview. Excerpt:

[Attorney General Tom] Miller’s lawyers based their advice on the fact that the decision made no direct reference to the Iowa Code section on birth certificates, which refers to “husband.” “The Supreme Court ruling “does not authorize an interpretation of chapter 144 (vital statistics, including birth certificates) in a manner that would allow for a same-sex spouse to be automatically listed as the parent on birth certificates,” they said. And, insultingly and gratuitously, they added: “Using the adoption process is the best way to protect the interests and rights of all parties involved.”

How shameful.

For more than 125 years, the Iowa Supreme Court has consistently ruled that a child born in wedlock is presumed to be the legitimate child of the woman and her spouse – even if the woman was pregnant by another man at the time of the wedding, even if the woman was impregnated by another man during her marriage. “The law presumes that a child born in wedlock is legitimate,” the court said in 1882. More than 100 years later, in 1995, the court ruled in a similar case that “the state’s interests involve preserving the integrity of the family [and] the best interests of the child….” Yes, “the best interests of the child.”

The Iowa Code couldn’t be clearer. Section 252 says: “A child or children born of parents who, at any time prior or subsequent to the birth of such child, have entered into a civil or religious marriage ceremony, shall be deemed the legitimate child or children of both parents, regardless of the validity of such marriage.” And the Supreme Court says gays can marry one another.

Go read Gartner’s whole piece, which highlights key passages from the Iowa Supreme Court ruling in Varnum v Brien. He also points out that adopting a child involves significant time and expense.

I’m surprised that the Attorney General’s Office would give the Iowa Department of Public Health bad advice on this matter. Tom Miller strongly praised the court’s “clear and well-reasoned opinion” the day Varnum v Brien was announced. Miller’s advice helped persuade Governor Chet Culver not to seek to overturn the ruling. Assistant Attorney General Heather Adams wrote a memo reminding all Iowa county recorders that they must comply with the decision and issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

The Iowa Department of Public Health should give married spouses equal protection under the law.

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Read Michael Gartner's tribute to Tim Russert

Michael Gartner, who as NBC News president put Tim Russert in charge of the network’s Washington bureau and later in the moderator’s seat at Meet the Press, wrote a moving essay about Russert for the Des Moines weekly Cityview.

I’m not going to pull any quotes. Just read the whole thing.

UPDATE: Cityview link isn’t working, but the piece also ran in USA Today:

http://www.usatoday.com/life/p…

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