The focus of Roxanne Conlin’s campaign for the United States Senate is pretty simple. First, take on special interests groups and political action committees that have too much influence in American politics. Second, remind people that her opponent Senator Chuck Grassley has held elected office for over fifty years.
Those are the two issues that create the foundation of Roxanne Conlin’s campaign, and that strategy makes a lot of sense. The current political environment should make any incumbent nervous, let alone a U.S. Senator who is finishing his fifth term.
Conlin has also said that she will not take contributions to her campaign from lobbyists and political action committees. Truth be told, she doesn’t need to accept contributions through those sources because they are unlikely to give to a Grassley challenger anyway. Furthermore, she is independently wealthy and can fund her campaign with the millions of dollars she received in the Microsoft settlement.
While Conlin’s strategy to draw a stark contrast between Grassley and herself is wise, thus far, she has not shown the discipline required to make it a credible campaign issue. For example, when Conlin announced her candidacy, she said, “I will not accept financial contributions from political action committees or lobbyists.” Then 10 days later, Conlin said, “I make an exception for state lobbyists,” while looking at Jerry Crawford. Crawford, an Iowa democratic powerbroker, had just introduced Conlin at a campaign rally before a Democratic Party event featuring Vice President Joe Biden.
Conlin’s “Crawford Exception” seems like the typical loophole only a skilled trial attorney would find for a client. When Conlin announced that her campaign didn’t have a problem taking contributions by non-federal lobbyist, she lost the stark contrast that her campaign is built upon. Complicating matters is the fact that Crawford is now a federal lobbyist for Monsanto. Crawford was hired because of his close friendship with Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.
If Conlin is really going to fight against special interests, she should start by fighting the ones that exist in her own campaign. She should close the loophole that allows her campaign to accept contributions from non-federal lobbyists. She should also return any contribution that Crawford might have given her campaign, and she should ask that Crawford’s involvement in her campaign cease immediately.
If she cannot prevent special interests groups from permeating her campaign, how can Iowans expect her to fight special interests in Washington, D.C.? Conlin’s “principled” stance to prevent special interests groups from donating to her campaign is really no different than President Obama promise that no lobbyist would work for his administration. They are great sound bites and rhetoric on the campaign trail, but neither candidate was serious about following through with their promise.
The only thing that makes Roxanne Conlin a credible candidate is the size of her bank account. So far, everything else is a joke.
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