December 9th, 2009

Frew is More Qualified to Be Culver’s Campaign Manager than his Chief of Staff

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Written by: Craig Robinson
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FrewYesterday’s story about Governor Culver’s Chief of Staff ordering a subordinate to intimidate a Des Moines Register reporter should disturb all Iowans, not just Republicans. Yet, what is the most disturbing development in this entire ordeal is how John Frew, Culver’s Chief of Staff, responded to my request for comment on the matter.

Frew is the most powerful state employee in Iowa. He earns a salary of somewhere in the neighborhood of $160,000. I emailed Frew four simple questions in regards to the information that had learned in its open records request. Below is the email that I sent Mr. Frew.

Mr. Frew,

I am seeking comment in regards to an article that I am writing about Erin Seidler’s threat to withhold information and not respond to questions from Jason Clayworth of the Des Moines Register unless he removed a blog post that contained unflattering pictures of the Governor.

Is it common practice for members of the Governor’s office to make threats to reporters?

Do you think Ms. Seidler’s actions were out of line for a person in her position?

Does the Governor’s office pressure other reporters to modify or delete news stories that are unfavorable to the Governor and his administration.

What, if any punishment was there for Seidler’s actions?

Thank you,

I look forward to your response.

Craig Robinson

Chief of Staff Frew responded with the following.

Craig, I considered the posting of those photos to be a mean spirited attempt to damage the personal reputation of Governor Culver. You and I both know that there is no other explanation. Petty personal attacks are to be expected from industry-specific media such as The Iowa Republican, but never from the mainstream, independent media. Fortunately, the Des Moines Register agreed and withdrew the photos. It’s a good rule for you to consider adopting. We’ve never met, but if you happened to be someone who has a physical or mental impairment, or happened to weigh more than others think you should, I would be just as disappointed if someone ran a photo of you with an unflattering perspective. Let me know as I would be happy to defend you should the same thing happen to you. P.S. Erin’s actions were at my direction. Have a great day.

John Frew
Chief of Staff
Governor’s Office

While I can understand that Frew might have been annoyed by The Iowa Republican’s open records request as well as my questions in regards to Seidler’s actions, I was shocked and appalled by the tone of his response to my questions. The questions that I posed to him were respectful and not out of line. There was no partisan tone to the questions that were asked of him. To be honest, I did not even expect to receive a response from him.

Frew answered my question about the Governor’s office bullying a reporter by bullying me. In some ways, Frew’s response to my email is no different than how the White House treats FOX News.

While Frew might not want to acknowledge that is an actual news site, the amount of traffic this site receives on a daily basis would say otherwise. TIR is on pace to break 1 million page views by the end of this year. When compared to other Iowa on-line newspapers, TIR finishes in the top three in terms of traffic.

I would also point out that, while our slogan is “News for Republicans, by Republicans,” this site is not a Republican cheerleading site. In fact, some might say it is harder on Iowa Republicans than it is on Iowa Democrats. Even being a right-of-center, Republican news site, TIR has shown the ability to cover Democratic events in a fair and respectable manner.

For example, When President Obama toured Trinity Structural Towers in Newton, TIR was there and provided coverage of the event. Just this past month, TIR covered the Iowa Democratic Party’s Jefferson Jackson Dinner with Vice President Joe Biden in attendance. TIR’s coverage of that event was fair. TIR was the only news outlet who provided video coverage of Roxanne Conlin’s speech before the dinner. IDP’s Executive Director Norm Sterzenbach is a stand-up guy for allowing TIR to cover the event. There is no way that TIR would be allowed to cover those two particular events if the site was based solely on petty personal attacks as Mr. Frew insinuated in his response.

Mr. Frew was brought in to serve as Governor Culver’s Chief of Staff to right the ship. Unfortunately, the only thing he has brought to the table is intimidation. We shouldn’t really be surprised. Mr. Frew isn’t an experienced, skilled manager of state government. He’s a political operative who worships at the altar of negative attacks.

Frew was not hired to because he knows how to run state government more efficiently, curtail spending, and close billion dollar budget gaps. He was hired to get Governor Culver re-elected.

A 1995 article in the Denver Westword describes the type of politics that Mr. Frew employs. The article states, “Frew listed five possible ways a candidate can respond to being attacked. If he’s smart, said Frew, the candidate will either attack the source, ignore the attack entirely or simply say, ‘Yes, I did it.’ What the attackers hope for, however, is that the candidate will play right into their hands by saying either, ‘Yes, I did it, but it’s not what you think’ or, in effect, plead no contest by saying, ‘I didn’t do it, but I won’t do it again.’”

Obviously, Frew decided to attack the source instead of simply answering my questions. Frew seems more suited to be Culver’s campaign manager than his Chief of Staff. As an Iowa taxpayer, I would rather see his salary paid out of Governor Culver’s campaign account than out of the state’s general fund. I hear there is an opening in Culver’s campaign. Maybe then the Governor could hire someone who is focused on fixing state government to be his Chief of Staff. What a novel concept.


About the Author

Craig Robinson
Craig Robinson is the founder and editor-in-chief of, a political news and commentary site he launched in March of 2009. Robinson’s political analysis is respected across party lines, which has allowed him to build a good rapport with journalist across the country. Robinson has also been featured on Iowa Public Television’s Iowa Press, ABC’s This Week, and other local television and radio programs. Campaign’s & Elections Magazine recognized Robinson as one of the top influencers of the 2012 Iowa Caucuses. A 2013 Politico article sited Robinson and as the “premier example” of Republican operatives across the country starting up their own political news sites. His website has been repeatedly praised as the best political blog in Iowa by the Washington Post, and in January of 2015, Politico included him on the list of local reporters that matter in the early presidential states. Robinson got his first taste of Iowa politics in 1999 while serving as Steve Forbes’ southeast Iowa field coordinator where he was responsible for organizing 27 Iowa counties. In 2007, Robinson served as the Political Director of the Republican Party of Iowa where he was responsible for organizing the 2007 Iowa Straw Poll and the 2008 First-in-the-Nation Iowa Caucuses. Following the caucuses, he created his own political news and commentary site, Robinson is also the President of Global Intermediate, a national mail and political communications firm with offices in West Des Moines, Iowa, and Washington, D.C. Robinson utilizes his fundraising and communications background to service Global’s growing client roster with digital and print marketing. Robinson is a native of Goose Lake, Iowa, and a 1999 graduate of St. Ambrose University in Davenport, where he earned degrees in history and political science. Robinson lives in Ankeny, Iowa, with his wife, Amanda, and son, Luke. He is an active member of the Lutheran Church of Hope.

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