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Iowa Politics Roundup: Vander Plaats Attacks Branstad in First Debate PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Iowa Politics
Written by Lynn Campbell   
Friday, 09 April 2010 14:02

Sioux City businessman Bob Vander Plaats came out swinging in this year's first Republican gubernatorial debate, attacking opponent and former Governor Terry Branstad on everything from raising taxes to bringing gambling to the state to appointing two of the Supreme Court justices who wrote the decision legalizing same-sex marriage in Iowa.

"Leadership is also about being honest," Vander Plaats said Wednesday. "Governor Branstad, some of the results are: raising taxes not once but twice; increasing fees 30 times; bringing in gambling, parimutuel betting, the state lottery; growing the size of government two and a half times. Those are also results that we need to be honest with the people of Iowa about."

Branstad defended his 16-year record as governor, saying that he reduced the unemployment rate from 8.5 to 2.5 percent and cut taxes by $124 million, and that when he left office in 1998, the state had a $900-million surplus. "Iowans want results, not rhetoric," he said. "I was the governor that put in place a fiscal plan that got us a balanced budget based on generally accepted accounting principles and gave us a $900-million surplus when I left office. I want to do that again."

On gambling, all candidates spoke out against Democratic Governor Chet Culver's call for the Iowa Racing & Gaming Commission to approve four new casino licenses. Representative Rod Roberts (R-Carroll) said this is the wrong way to stimulate the economy, and the state should be looking to the private sector instead. Branstad said the state can't gamble its way to prosperity by adding four more casinos.

"It's wrongheaded; it doesn't make sense," Branstad said. "I believe we've got enough gambling in Iowa and we should not be expanding it. I believe that Iowans are the ones that are hurt when we get too much gambling in our state. Iowans do support the gambling we have, but they don't want to see an expansion."

Vander Plaats continued his attacks on Branstad after the debate.

"I have to admit I was shocked that the man who signed the legislation that brought gambling to our state and oversaw the opening of 15 casinos would suddenly take exception with Chet Culver for proposing to do one-fourth of what he did," Vander Plaats said in a news release. "He can call it an attack when someone raises the issue of his role in bringing gambling to our state, but the facts are the facts. His newfound belief that Iowa has enough gambling just doesn't square with his record."

Branstad and Roberts on Wednesday joined in criticizing Vander Plaats' plan to issue an executive order to put a stay on same-sex marriages, saying it would be unconstitutional and would discredit the governor.

"I wish it was as simple as what Bob Vander Plaats says," Branstad said. "No state has restored one-man-one-woman marriage by an executive order. That's going to get you in court, and you're probably going to be held in contempt of court or at least overruled by the court. That doesn't make sense. We don't want to discredit the governor. We want to get results."

Branstad, who as governor signed the Defense of Marriage Act, said Iowa should do what 31 other states have done, which is by a vote of the people to pass a constitutional amendment restricting marriage to the union of one man and one woman.

"I don't agree with Bob's decision to use the executive order," Roberts said. "I don't believe it's constitutional. I do think it will create conflict. I think the governor should work hand-in-hand with the legislative branch of government to deal with the judicial branch in terms of where we can find areas we could perhaps limit the appellate authority of the court."

But Vander Plaats stood firm that he'd issue that executive order, saying the governor is the chief magistrate of Iowa. "The constitution backs us up," he said. "That's why David Barton, a constitutional historian, says the executive order is the right way to go. ... As a leader, you need to lead. And part of that leadership is defending that constitution."

Governor Signs Bill to Respond to Campaign-Finance Decision

Iowa on Thursday became one of the first states to respond to the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Citizens United V. FEC, which found that corporate spending in elections cannot be limited under the First Amendment.

Senator Jeff Danielson (D-Cedar Falls) said the bill signed by Culver gives citizens a "fighting chance" in knowing who is communicating with them.

Danielson, who floor-managed the bill in the Iowa Senate, said the new law holds corporations to the same rules as citizens when it comes to political expenditures.

"We don't ask them to do anything different than what we as candidates do or what current political-action committees do or some of our other independent-expenditure laws that have been on the books," Danielson said. "We simply took Iowa's best practices and applied it to this new situation."

The law requires corporations to obtain an affirmative board vote before ads can run for or against a candidate or issue. The ad must also include who paid for it, the name and address of the corporation, and the name of the chief executive officer. Expenditures over $750 must be filed with the Iowa Ethics & Campaign Disclosure Board within 48 hours of when the cost is incurred, and violations are serious misdemeanors.