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September 29th, 2009

Is an Iowa Gay Marriage Group in the Middle of $5.9 Million Embezzlement Case?

One IowaYesterday, Phyllis Stevens of Des Moines was arrested by federal authorities while in Las Vegas on charges that she embezzled an estimated $5.9 million from Aviva USA, a Des Moines-based insurance company. What is interesting about Stevens isn’t that she (allegedly) stole millions from her employer, it’s what she did with her money. Phyllis Stevens and her partner/wife, Marla Stevens, did all the things one would expect wealthy people to do, like purchase a $380,000 Sherman Hill home this past June. However, they also donated tens of thousands of dollars to liberal political candidates and pro-homosexual causes. Both Phyllis and Marla Stevens have been named in a civil suit filed by Aviva USA in an attempt to recover the embezzled funds.

In addition to being a financial analyst with Aviva USA, Phyllis Stevens also served at the chairperson of the Iowa chapter of Marriage Equality USA, a gay rights group. According to disclosure reports filed with the Federal Election Commission, Phyllis’ wife, Marla Stevens, is the public policy director for the LGBT Fairness Fund.

The Fairness Fund in Iowa is an off-shoot of One Iowa, the state’s largest LGBT advocacy organization. Documents filed with the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board show that One Iowa’s executive director, Carolyn Jenison, is also the chairperson and treasurer of the Fairness Fund, meaning it looks like Marla Stevens is basically employed by One Iowa. In addition to being gay rights activists, Phyllis and Marla Stevens are also very generous political donors. Since 2007, the couple had donated more than $60,000 to federal candidates across the country.

Federal Contributions by Phyllis Stevens from January 2007

Hillary Clinton – $2300
John Edwards – $1063 – $2500
Iowa Democratic Party – $1250 (Federal Account)
Barack Obama – $250
Becky Greenwald – $500 (
Rep. Dennis Kucinich – $1500 (Ohio)
Bob Olson – $1000 (Colorado)
Rep. Niki Tsongus – $2300 (Massachusetts)
Bill Richardson – $250
Ashwin Madia – $2300 (Minnesota)

Total: $15,213

Federal Contributions by Marla Stevens from January 2007

Becky Greenwald – $500
John Edwards – $2300
Rep. Dennis Kucinich – $1000 (Ohio)
Bob Olson – $2300 (Colorado)
Rep. Niki Tsongas – $2300 (Massachusetts)
Rep. Ed Perlmutter – $6900 (Colorado)
Rep. Betsy Markey – $7000 (Colorado)
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen – $2300 (New Hampshire)
Ed Fallon – $2300
Angie Paccione – $4600 (Colorado)
Rep. Andre Carson – $11,600 (Indiana)

Total: $45,400

Locally, Phyllis and Marla Stevens have also been very generous. Since October of 2005, Phyllis Stevens made $14,669.07 in Iowa political contributions. During that time frame, Marla Stevens gave $15,100. The Stevens’ were the most generous to the Iowa Democratic Party, who received over $10,000 in contributions. Last May, Phyllis Stevens created the Rainbow Equality PAC, which has made contributions to both Speaker of the Iowa House Pat Murphy and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

The contribution history of Phyllis and Marla Stevens seems to indicate that the motivation to (allegedly) steal millions of dollars from Aviva USA was, in large part, to allow them to advance their political agenda. While it is easy to track contributions to political campaigns, it is more difficult to track contributions made to 501 (c)(3) and 501 (c)(4) committees such as One Iowa. Knowing their donor history, it is safe to assume that both Phyllis and Marla Stevens made significant contributions to One Iowa and other similar organizations.

The candidates and organizations who received these contributions should return this money to Aviva USA.

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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