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Iowa Politics Roundup: Senate Candidate Conlin Attacked Over Ties to Lobbyist PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Iowa Politics
Written by Lynn Campbell   
Friday, 28 May 2010 13:26

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Tom Fiegen used a second televised forum Thursday night to attack opponent Roxanne Conlin, this time about her connection with a Monsanto lobbyist and her job as a trial lawyer.

About halfway through the forum (sponsored by IowaPolitics.com, Mediacom, the Cedar Rapids Gazette, and the League of Women Voters of Johnson County), Fiegen was asked about flood relief -- an issue key to residents of flood-ravaged Cedar Rapids -- but instead decided to use the moment to launch the attack.

"I want to address the special interests," said Fiegen, a former state senator. "One of the things that Roxanne has run on is she's not taken any money from lobbyists. But one of her BFFs, that's best friends forever, [is] a gentleman by the name of Jerry Crawford. ... Since then, Jerry Crawford has received $150,000 as a registered federal lobbyist from Monsanto."

Conlin maintained that she is not taking any money from lobbyists. "I am suing Monsanto and that's not just any lawsuit," she said. "It is a nationwide, class-action against Monsanto for anti-trust violations. And most people think that that's the lawsuit that caused the federal government to look into Monsanto's potential violations of the anti-trust laws. I'm an anti-trust lawyer, and I'm not going to even respond to your cheap shot."

This was not the first time that Conlin has been attacked over the issue. Last December, the third Democratic U.S. Senate candidate, Bob Krause -- who had a delayed flight from Arkansas and was not able to make it to Thursday night's forum -- raised the issue of Conlin's tie to the Monsanto lobbyist. Conlin acknowledged earlier this year in an interview with Blog for Iowa that she and Crawford are close friends, and that she has known him more than 50 years. But she said she found the criticism "hysterical" and "silly" because she's suing Monsanto.

Thursday night's forum also marked the second time that Fiegen attacked Conlin over special interests. At a debate Monday, he questioned the $20 million in tax credits that she and her husband received since last year to build low- and moderate-income houses.

Conlin came to Thursday's forum armed with new numbers to defend the tax credits that she and her husband received. She said the low-income-tax-credit program that Conlin Properties participates in created nearly 1,600 units and 2,400 jobs. "The money doesn't come to us," she said. "It's an equity-financing device."

The two candidates also discussed abortion, immigration, and President Barack Obama's reaction to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

"I feel impatient," Conlin said. "I watch the TV and see that oil gushing out of there, and I think, 'Good grief, there must be something more that can be done.' But this was really a failure that happened in so many different ways. I would like to see the president move his office to New Orleans and be there on the ground helping however he can with that problem. We need to see him; we need to know he's there; we need to know he's engaged."

But Fiegen said he thinks criticism of Obama over the oil spill is unfair. "Certainly, Democrats are in charge, but I don't believe the president is a geologist, and I'm not sure that his presence in New Orleans would help."

Grassley Holds Big Fundraising Edge in Senate Race

In the race for the U.S. Senate, incumbent Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) outraised Des Moines Democrat Conlin more than two-to-one in the pre-primary fundraising period and has more than six times as much cash on hand.

Grassley reported $423,936 in donations taken in from April 1 to May 19, while Conlin brought in $181,553. Grassley also has nearly $5.6 million waiting for whoever emerges from the three-way Democratic primary in which Conlin, who has $870,643 on hand, is the perceived front-runner.

Conlin's campaign manager stressed that her contributions were from 1,168 individuals, and that 80 percent of the contributions were $100 or less. Her campaign has emphasized that it does not accept money from political action committees or Washington, D.C., lobbyists.

Grassley took $150,450 from PACs during the period, and has accepted more than $2.75 million from the groups this election cycle.

Numbers for Democratic U.S. Senate candidates Krause and Fiegen were not immediately available.