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March 26th, 2009

The Cost of Transparency: 2 years, $841k

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Written by: Craig Robinson

The Taxpayer Transparency Act passed the Iowa House today by a vote of 96-3. Three Republicans voted against the measure; Rep. Scott Raecker (R-Urbandale), Rep. Christopher Rants (R-Sioux City), and Rep. Ralph Watts (R-Adel).

The legislation was a project of Iowans for Tax Relieve and supported by a number of Republican legislators. In the original press release sent out by Iowans for Tax Relief they state that other states have been able to implement similar projects for around $40,000.

The estimated cost for the project from the non-partisan legislative fiscal service came in at $841,000, and it would not be functional until 2011.

Rep. Scott Raecker has written about his “no” vote on his website. Raecker says, “During debate, the floor manager of the bill stated that she intends to have an amendment attached in the Senate that will not allow the database to be built if the money is not appropriated. The Majority Party then disclosed in debate that they have no commitment to fund the bill this year.”

So even if the Senate passes this bill and the Governor signs it into law, we still might have a transparency website. And if they do fund it, it would cost twenty-one times more than Iowa’s for Tax Relief anticipated when they introduced the project.

Rep. Christopher Rants said, “the bill is about as transparent as a blindfold.”

“Your state government is spending millions of dollars on disaster recovery – with little to no oversight (remember the carpet and the cookies). Your state is spending hundreds of millions of federal stimulus dollars with virtually no accountability for the money. Your state is almost a billion dollars in debt with plans to go further in the hole. But all of that will be intentionally shielded from view by the taxpayers under HF 801, the self-proclaimed transparency act,” said Rants

Rants added, “While I appreciate the noble motivations of my friends and colleagues, I can’t be a part to pulling the blindfold over the Iowa taxpayer’s eyes. If I pay a political price for that vote, then so be it.”

Those who supported the bill, Democrats and Republicans alike, believe the transparency web-site should be able to be up and running with existing resources. They point to the following states as examples.

Fiscal Note: $310,000
Actual Cost: $0 Accomplished with existing resources.

Fiscal Note: $400,000
Actual Cost: $8,000 Although, some say it was actually accomplished with existing resources.

South Carolina and Missouri both created transparency sites with existing resources.

For the record, it didn’t cost a dime to post the lists of potential bonding projects to my site. I have been trying to get a list that includes projected costs for each project but have been unsuccessful this far. I’ve been told that when putting together the list of projects, Governor Culver’s staff didn’t ask for the cost of the projects. This was just a “if we had all of the money in the world, what would you want” wish list.

How can we expect state government to build a taxpayer transparency website, if we can’t even get a list of potential projects and their costs, from the Governor’s office while he is traveling around on his shovel-ready tour? They are asking Iowans to take on $750 million in debt, but will not let the people see the price tags of the projects that he is promoting.

We need transparency, and we need it now. And it shouldn’t cost almost a million bucks.

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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