Events coming up during the next two weeks

Send me an e-mail (desmoinesdem AT yahoo.com) or post a comment if you know of another event that should be added to this calendar.

Sunday, January 18:

From Blog for Iowa (click the link for more details):

On Sunday, January 18, the Iowa City Environmental Film Festival and Sierra Club will sponsor a screening of Fighting Goliath: Texas Coal Wars.  The film portrays how Texans formed unlikely coalitions to fight the construction of nineteen coal-fired power plants being fast-tracked by the state’s governor, Rick Perry.  The film, narrated by Robert Redford, has received numerous awards.

Representatives from two groups instrumental in challenging the construction of the two plants in Iowa will lead a discussion following the film.  Mike Carberry, Sierra Club, will be joined by Carrie LeSeur, founder and Executive Director of Plains Justice, to talk about what is being done and what Iowans can do to stop construction of the coal-fired power plants.   Plains Justice, a public interest law center, was founded in 2006 in part in response to the Waterloo, Iowa Coal Plant Proposal, which has now been withdrawn.        

[…] Sunday, January 18th at the Iowa City Public Library, 123 S. Linn St., Room A at 3:00 PM.

The screening is free and open to the public.

Monday, January 19:

From Polk County Democrats:

From Vern Naffier

Come to the Pre-Inauguration Celebration

Friends:  Join me Monday night at 7 pm at the State Historical Building for an inspiring event celebrating Martin Luther King’s Birthday, Barack Obama’s inauguration, and the beginning of an era of peace, reconciliation, and social justice throughout the world. See announcement below.

RENEWING AMERICA’S PROMISE

Rebirthing King – Rebirthing America

A pre-inauguration celebration

State Historical Building

600 East Locust

Des Moines

January 19, 2009

7-8 pm

Come join the effort to reclaim the dream of America free from racism, militarism, and materialism. Come join the candlelight march for Martin’s memory and Barack’s beginning.

The Iowa Obama Presidential Inauguration Committee invites you to bring items for the DMARC Food Pantry.

Sponsored by the King Birthday Celebration Planning Committee

Tuesday, January 20:

George W. Bush’s presidency will finally end as Barack Obama takes the oath of office. What are you doing to celebrate? There must be many parties going on all over this state.

Urban Dreams Presents

Brown, Black & The Blues People’s Ball

Celebrating the Inauguration of

President Barack Obama

Together through the diversity of our community

Jnauary 20, 2009

8:00 PM until…

Hotel Fort Des Moines

1000 Walnut Street

Des Moines, IA  50309

$25 / person

Dress to Impress

Featuring Musica Latina, Soul and the Blues

A nonpartisan event open to the whole community

for more information please call 515-288-4742

The Brown, Black & The Blues People’s Ball is brought to you by

Project V.O.T.E. (Voting Opportunities Through Education).

PLease call Hotel Fort Des Moines at 515-243-1181 if interested in room reservations.

From 1000 Friends of Iowa:

There will be a Des Moines Area Metropolitan Planning Organization Public Input Meeting in the DMAMPO Meeting Room, Merle Hay Center, 6200 Aurora Avenue, Suite 300W, Urbandale, IA. Click here for more details about what’s on the agenda and why you should care.

Friday, January 23:

For bicycling advocates and enthusiasts:

Iowa Bicycle Summit

January 23-24, Des Moines

Iowa Bicycle Summit will be held in Des Moines at the Holiday Inn, Downtown, from 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Friday’s session features Steve Durrant from Portland, Oregon, a registered landscape architect and planner with over 30 years experience helping communities become better places to live. A Friday Bike Night fundraiser will feature a presentation by mountain-biking legend Gary Fisher at a dinner and silent auction. Saturday is geared for grassroots bicyclists who want to better their communities. Sessions include Safe Routes to Schools, Bike to Work Week, legislative issues and more. Primary sponsors are the Iowa Department of Transportation and the Iowa Bicycle Coalition. Participation is limited. Find out more or register at the Iowa Bicycle Summit webpage, http://www.iowabicyclecoalitio…

From the Iowa Environmental Council newsletter:

Winter Solstice Workshop: No Child Left Inside

January 23-25, Honey Creek State Park

The Iowa Conservation Education Coalition’s annual Environmental Education Workshop, Winter Solstice, will be held on January 23-25, 2009.  The workshop title is No Child Left Inside.  Winter Solstice will be held at the Honey Creek State Park Resort on Lake Rathbun. This new resort features motel rooms, a restaurant, an indoor water park, and most important for ICEC, a wonderful conference center. Our keynote speakers include: Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder; Connie Mutel, author of The Emerald Horizon: The History of Nature in Iowa; and Jim Pease and Susan O’Brien author of Environmental Literacy in Iowa. For questions about the workshop, please contact Gail Barels at gail.barels@linncounty.org or Heather Niec at adminicec@hotmail.com.

Saturday, January 24:

For those who enjoy public art:

Design a Dragonfly on Ice at Iowa Lakeside Laboratory

January 24, West Lake Okoboji

Filmmaker Chad Branham will design this year’s Artslive’s People Project on Saturday, January 24, on the ice in Miller’s Bay, beginning at Iowa Lakeside Laboratory. This ephemeral art project will line people up on the ice on West Lake Okoboji, in the shape of a giant 100 foot dragonfly. This design will take over 225 people to complete. Once everyone is in place the dragonfly will be photographed from an airplane by Judy Hemphill. Due to limited parking at Lakeside, participants are asked to gather at Peace Corner, at the corner of Highways 9 and 86, at 12:30 pm, and take a shuttle bus to the project site at Iowa Lakeside Laboratory. People are encouraged to dress warmly and, if possible, in bright primary colors.  To sign up to participate, or for more information about participating in this year’s ArtsLive People’s Project, contact Jen Johnson at (712)332-6502 or jen@activeokoboji.org, or visit artslive.com.

Tuesday, January 27:

From Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement:


Jan. 27, 2009  

BIG Rally & Lobby Day

Mark your calendars and plan to be at our Rally & Lobby Day at the State Capitol Tuesday, Jan. 27. We need you there to show our legislators that thousands of Iowans will be holding them accountable this legislative session to issues like local control, clean elections, homeowner protections and the rights of all workers.

Decisions made at the Statehouse impact us every day. This is our chance to put our issues at the top of the legislative agenda. Join with us today – click here for more information and REGISTER TODAY!

Friday, January 30:

From Polk County Democrats:

The Ankeny Area Democrats and The Polk County Democrats Present An Inauguration Celebration Dinner At The Iowa State Historical Building

Friday, January 30, 2009

Catered by Baratta’s Restaurant

Social Hour begins at 6:00 PM

Dinner at 7:00 PM

Live music through the Musician’s Union

Tickets $25 per person

Tickets include chicken / pasta dinner and sides, soft drinks, coffee, iced tea or water

Semi-formal attire encouraged, but not required

Tickets available by calling Tamyra at 515-285-1800 or Mary Oliver at 515-964-1227

Email polkdems@gmail.com or Ankenyareadems@msn.com

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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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A contest Iowa has no hope of winning

At Talking Points Memo, Josh Marshall just opened nominations for the second annual “Golden Duke Awards,” “given out for excellence in corrupt acts, betrayals of the public trust and generalized shameful behavior.” You have until December 17 to submit nominations in the following categories:

Sleaziest Campaign Ad

Best Election Season Fib

Outstanding Achievement in Corruption-based Chutzpah

Best Scandal — Sex and Generalized Carnality

Best Scandal — Local Venue

Best Scandal — General Interest

Click here to view last year’s Golden Duke winners.

Talking Points Memo also has launched a contest to determine the most corrupt state. Reader WO named the short list:

I think it’s pretty clear that the only three serious contenders are Illinois, Louisiana, and Alaska. My money would be on the young upstart, Alaska, over the grizzled corruption veterans of Illinois and Louisiana, but who knows. Statistics should play a part in the contest, but style points are important, too. Cash in the freezer is pretty impressive, as is trying to shake down the President-Elect.

One of Marshall’s readers in New Orleans argues here that Louisiana is the “all time champ”.

A reader in Arizona explains why that state should be a finalist.

Another reader makes the case for Nevada.

Marshall also received a bunch of e-mails nominating New York, New Jersey or Rhode Island. He explained here why those states are not in the same league as Illinois, Louisiana or Alaska:

I know there are a lot of hurt feelings out there. A lot of people feel slighted on behalf of their states. But while a number of these states have impressive histories of corruption, as I told a few emailers, a lot of it really comes down to a case of ‘what have you done for me lately?’ […]

Sure, there’s plenty of crooks in New York and New Jersey and Rhode Island. And Massachusetts has its moment. But I’m just not sure any of them can put the kind of serious and recent per capita muck on the table as these three other worthy states. Certainly not when it comes to governors and federal officeholders.

I think we can all agree that Iowa is never going to win any (mock) awards for political corruption.

Historically and today, our problem is not so much law-breaking by elected officials but the “legal corruption” that stems from the influence of money in our system. So, we get state lawmakers traveling on the dime of the Iowa Healthcare Association, which represents nursing homes, and then lobbying Congress and state officials to reduce regulation of nursing homes.

Similarly, we won’t get any legislative action to give counties zoning authority over agriculture (which would allow greater regulation of large hog lots), even though Governor Chet Culver as well as the Iowa Democratic and Republican party platforms ostensibly support “local control.”

Iowa is not a particularly corrupt state, but we should not let our squeaky-clean image blind us to the influence of money in politics, even here.

To get involved with solving this problem, check out the Voter-Owned Iowa website. Public Campaign’s site has tons of information on how “clean elections” systems work in other states.  

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