Daily Archives: July 21, 2009

Stupid System

Christian Fong’s campaign for governor sent out a news release today trumpeting that the Cedar Rapids Republican raked in $100,000 in campaign donations in the three weeks since he jumped into the race.

Swell. Then I sent a reply to Victory Enterprise’s Brian Dumas, who sent the release, asking  if he has a  list of donors and donations. He replied:

We do, but we will file when required by law and at that time you’ll be able to review the disclosure and see the numbers are accurate.

Unfortunately, the time required by law is Jan. 19, 2010. So trumpet in July, check back in January.

Of course, it goes without saying, that the real story is exactly who gave to Fong and how much they gave.  And, obviously, 1,000 $100 donations would say one thing about Fong’s campaign and four $25,000 donors would tell an entirely different story.

Instead, we get a big number and some happy talk about how Fong’s campaign is off and running.

To be fair, Fong’s campaign is simply playing a time-honored game, by the rules as written. But I say it’s the rules need changing.

Every time I hear people talk about complex campaign finance reforms and tight limits and public financing, I roll my eyes. All I want is a system where candidates, especially statewide candidates,  are required to report often. Once a month. Maybe once a week.

Why should a half-dozen-and-growing field of GOP gubernatorial hopefuls, and Democratic Gov. Chet Culver, be able to shake the money tree all through 2009 and not report a dime until 2010? They shouldn’t.

Paid for by Ranting Hacks for Openness.

Fong’s release is below:

Fong Raises $100,000 in three weeks.

For Immediate Release: July 21, 2009 Contact: Marlys Popma 515-238-6564

(Cedar Rapids, IA) The campaign of Cedar Rapids businessman Christian Fong (R) announced today it had crossed the $100,000 mark in financial contributions. Fong launched his campaign three weeks ago.

“Despite an economic recession and a multi-candidate field, Christian has surpassed his initial targets in regards to fundraising. The $100,000 number is not commitments or pledges, but checks that have been written. Christian’s vision of restoring the Iowa Dream is being well received and Republicans are responding,” said Marlys Popma, Fong campaign manager.

Popma continued, “Considering Christian entered this race with no donor base, crossing this early threshold is a clear indicator that the campaign is off and running. We know we have a long way to go to reach our internal primary fundraising goals, but our quick start is extremely encouraging.”

Christian Fong graduated from Underwood High School in Southwest Iowa at the age of 16 and then attended Creighton University, graduating at age 19. After college, he and his wife, Jenelle, located in Cedar Rapids and Christian started work at AEGON. Fong put his career on hold to attend Dartmouth, earning his MBA. He and his family returned to Cedar Rapids, where they reside today and attend River of Life Ministries church. When the floods of 2008 hit Cedar Rapids, Fong founded and still serves today as the CEO of Corridor Recovery, a non-profit flood relief organization that coordinated recovery efforts. The Fongs have three children.



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1. Why do we keep misplacing top state government officials in this country? First, it was the governor of South Carolina. Now, we can’t account for Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Marsha Ternus in the wee hours of July 12.

Was she home while a seven-pack of 19-year-olds drank beers and partied loudly on her property? Did she know her husband was outside getting busted for interfering with the busting of said beer party? Was she hiking the Appalachian Trail? She’s not saying.

So you can vote, go to war and enter into a legally binding contract, but you can’t down some brews around a bonfire at the chief justice’s house? What kind of country is this?

2. Why would anyone think that remodeling office space for county officials is a higher priority than creating a facility to house juvenile justice programs?

Linn County Supervisor Jim Houser thinks offices are a priority. Supervisor Brent Oelson says juvenile justice should rule. Both projects are seeking I-Jobs bonding bucks. This will be a good chance to see if I-Jobs is really interested in critical infrastructure projects or handing out pork to politicians.

3. Why did House Speaker Pat Murphy think it was a good idea to say he’s backing state Rep. Kerry Burt, who is now under state  investigation, “100 percent?”

 Burt, a Waterloo Democrat, has been accused of providing an incorrect home address in a scheme to save about $37,000 in tuition for his kids at the Price Lab School at UNI. He’s also awaiting trial on a drunken driving charge. Innocent until proven guilty, of course. Still…

“I support Kerry Burt,” Murphy said. “He’s been a very good legislator in his first term of the Legislature. … I’m 100 percent with him.” Murphy told The Des Moines Register.  Really? 100 percent?  Wouldn’t 65 percent make more sense? How about 40? Just until this unpleasantness gets cleared up.

At least Gov. Culver had the sense to say he’s “very troubled.”  

4. Why do Republicans think the smartest plays on health care reform are to accuse Democrats of moving too fast and call for delay?

The issue has been around for decades. It’s been studied and debated to death. The GOP did next to nothing during the 12 years it ran Congress, including 8 with W. in charge. And now it’s all  moving too fast?

“All right guys, as long as Americans remain stupid and forgetful, our strategy can’t fail.” And as long as you have Michael Steele out delivering those talking points, it’ s a slam dunk.

5. Why is my 4-year-old ill-suited to be a spokesperson for Dubuque tourism? She can’t pronounce Dubuque. Instead, she says “The Puke.”  She thinks it’s a lovely city, however.


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Column — Republicans Thinking Retro

Republicans trying to figure out how best to chase Chet from Terrace Hill are feeling nostalgic yearnings.

They’re thinking about going back to the ’90s, when one of their guys held the veto pen and the ribbon-cutting scissors and could call out the National Guard.

That guy was Terry Branstad. And maybe, just maybe, it’s time to put that four-term band back together for a 2010 encore.

A poll commissioned by TheIowaRepublican.com showed Branstad clocking Democratic Gov. Chet Culver 53-37. Culver beats GOP hopefuls such as Bob Vander Plaats and Chris Rants. But a retro rival could take him down.

“I learned a long time ago that you never want to say never. But my focus is here at Des Moines University,” Branstad, DMU’s president, said Monday. “It’s flattering. But you know, a poll is a poll.”

There’s just enough wiggle room there to make this intriguing. But is this really the way Republicans want to go?

It’s always tempting for a party lost in the weeds to look backward to get its bearings. Democrats went through it earlier this decade. That sentimental journey led many to think a back-to-the-future presidential candidate such as Hillary Clinton would be just the ticket. Early polls confirmed their leanings. The Clinton brand was still unbeatable.

But elections are about what’s next, not about nostalgia. Clinton found that out. Branstad could get the same lesson.

He would be formidable and favored early, but it’s unlikely that the growing sea of GOP candidates would simply part to make way for a Branstad candidacy. The former governor would almost certainly find himself surrounded in a competitive primary and beset by fresher voices, hungry to be the future of the party.

Frankly, a noisy primary focused squarely on the future is what the Republican Party in Iowa needs. And when the dust settles, Republicans should present Iowans with a new release, not an ’80s classic.

I came of age during the Branstad years and covered the final two years of his tenure. He understood Iowa, had sound political instincts and is still widely admired.

But his 16 years were also marked by serious budget problems and ugly fights with lawmakers, even after the GOP took control of the Legislature in 1996. The Branstad years weren’t all sunshine and cupcakes, no matter how good they look in the rearview mirror.

And in 2010, Republicans will be better off keeping their eyes on the road ahead.


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