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Sen. Danielson: Iowa Gov. Branstad appointing major donors ‘par for the course’

Gov. Terry Branstad’s appointees to two state economic development boards – and their companies’ political committees – contributed more than $216,000 to his 2010 campaign. But Branstad’s spokesman says contributing to the governor’s campaign shouldn’t be a consideration for appointments.

“Donating to a campaign should not disqualify an individual from serving in this important capacity,” Tim Albrecht said.

Branstad on Monday announced 11 appointees to the Iowa Partnership for Economic Progress board and seven to the Iowa Innovation Corporation board. The boards are part of the state’s new economic development efforts, a public-private partnership approved by legislators earlier this year.

The appointments are not subject to approval from the Iowa Senate, and include top executives at MidAmerican Energy, Principal Financial Group, Pioneer Hi-Bred and Rockwell Collins, among others.

Image has not been found. URL: http://media.iowaindependent.com/jeff_danielson_125-100x150.jpgJeff Danielson

State Sen. Jeff Danielson (D-Cedar Falls) said “unfortunately it’s par for the course” for Branstad to appoint major contributors to state positions.

For instance, Brent and Bruce Rastetter contributed a combined $181,000 to the governor’s campaign. Branstad appointed Bruce to the state board of regents and Brent to the state Environmental Protection Commission.

“Knowing that it would be difficult to make it against the law, I don’t think we can get that passed, then I believe the next step is full disclosure and transparency,” said Danielson, chairman of the Senate State Government Committee. “And as these two boards make decisions on how to spend taxpayers’ money there ought to be close scrutiny of any of the business relationships.”

Danielson said there’s no question the appointees have valuable experience as business leaders in the state. But he would have liked the opportunity for the Iowa Senate to confirm the appointments and question the nominees.

“Putting them in charge of the public money that would then be used to attract other businesses could create the potential for conflict of interests,” Danielson said. “We’ll have to judge their behavior as it unfolds.”

Sam Roecker, a spokesman for the Iowa Democratic Party, said he’s hopeful the boards will approach all ideas with an open mind. He noted Branstad has opposed economic development proposals from President Obama and Senate Democrats, such as tax cuts for small businesses.

“Democrats fought to ensure that the Iowa Partnership for Economic Progress will be held accountable to taxpayers in the state,” Roecker said. “The board members are Governor Branstad’s choice, but he will need to put partisanship aside if he wants to create jobs.”

The appointee that gave the most to Branstad is Toby Shine, the president of Shine Brothers Corporation, who shelled out $60,000 to the campaign. Close behind is John Smith, chairman of the board at CRST International, Inc., who gave $50,000.

Mary Andringa, president and CEO of Vermeer Corporation, gave $40,000. She was also the chairwoman of the governor’s campaign. And Roger Underwood, co-founder of Becker-Underwood, gave $25,000.

The MidAmerican Energy Company Effective Government Committee gave $20,000; the Master Builders of Iowa PAC gave $20,000; and the Wells Fargo and Company Employee PAC gave $15,000.

Bill Fehrman, president and CEO of MidAmerican, is on the IPEP board; Scott Norvell, President and CEO of Master Builders of Iowa, is on the IIC board; and Cara Heiden, formerly of Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, is on the IIC board as well.

Branstad raised about $10 million from 20,000 donors during his campaign, or roughly $500 per donor. The $216,000 from the 18 appointees and their companies works out to $12,000 per donor, or 24 times the average.

Here are the members of the IPEP board, and how much they gave to Branstad:

  • Bill Fehrman, President and CEO, MidAmerican Energy Company: noneThe MidAmerican Energy Company Effective Government Committee: $20,000
  • Paul Schickler III, President, Pioneer Hi-Bred, a DuPont business: $100DuPont Good Government Fund: $1,500
  • Larry Zimpleman, CEO, Principal Financial Group: nonePrincipal Life Insurance Company PAC: $5,000
  • John Smith, Chairman of the Board, CRST International Inc.: $50,000

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