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September 9th, 2009

Vander Plaats Questioned As He Officially Enters Gubernatorial Race

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Written by: Craig Robinson
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BVP AnnouncementRepublican gubernatorial candidate Bob Vander Plaats stopped in Des Moines while on his statewide campaign announcement tour yesterday. Vander Plaats is in the midst of his third attempt to secure the Republican Party’s nomination for governor. He made his official announcement in his home town of Sheldon on Monday.

Vander Plaats announced that it would be a goal of his administration to repay the $750 million Governor Culver borrowed for his I-Jobs program by the end of his first term as Governor. State Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald told O. Kay Henderson of Radio Iowa that Vander Plaats’ proposal “wouldn’t fly.”

Treasurer Fitzgerald indicated that paying off the bond early would violate the terms of the bond agreements, meaning the state could be assessed a fine for paying off the bonds early. Fitzgerald also pointed out that the bond agreements require the bonds to be paid back with $42 million in gambling revenue every year. The State Treasurer also admitted that, even if we wanted to pay off the bonds early, the state lacks the money to do so.

Fitzgerald also warned that Vander Plaats’ proposal could put various new projects like the renovations to the Iowa Veterans Home and a new prison in Fort Madison in jeopardy if the State of Iowa reneges on its previous bonding agreements.

Vander Plaats’ plan to pay off Culver’s I-Jobs debt isn’t his first proposal that has met with scrutiny. Following the Iowa Supreme Court’s ruling on gay marriage, Vander Plaats said that he would sign an executive order that would stay gay marriages his first day in office. The governor’s staff and Attorney General Tom Miller have said that a governor does not have the authority to issue an executive order that would overturn or stay a decision by the Iowa Supreme Court.

In addition to having his policy proposals questioned by the Attorney General and State Treasurer, Vander Plaats’ primary opponent, State Representative Chris Rants, spent most of last week questioning Vander Plaats’ stewardship of Opportunities Unlimited, a non-profit residential rehabilitation service for individuals who have sustained traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, or other physical disability.

Vander Plaats regularly touts himself as a “turn-around CEO” on the campaign trail based on his work at Opportunities Unlimited, a description that Rep. Chris Rants believes isn’t fitting of his opponent. Last week, Rants pointed out that, under Vander Plaats’ leadership as CEO and Chairman of the Board, Opportunities Unlimited went from a $471,455 operating surplus to a $630,655 deficit.

Rants and Vander Plaats have gone back and forth over the accusation. One of the main points of contention is that Rants wants to look at all of the years in which Vander Plaats was either CEO or Chairman of the Board, while Vander Plaats only feels it’s appropriate to look at his first three years of service during which he served as CEO. Rants argues that it is correct to look at all of the years in which Vander Plaats was involved with Opportunities Unlimited since his salary during the years in which he was the Chairman of the Board were higher than that which he earned during his first two years as CEO. Vander Plaats was also the highest paid employee of this organization during the years he was Chairman of the Board.

This past Friday while on WHO Radio, Rants said that, “Vander Plaats is borrowing a page from Governor Culver’s play book – as long as there is enough money in reserves, you can ignore the deficits. As long as we have an AAA bond rating – you ignore the deficits.”

Rants added, “People have to ask themselves two questions: First, should we look at his full record or only from 1996-2000?” Rants told WHO Radio personality Steve Deace that if we are only looking at bits and pieces of peoples’ records, then he’d like people to only critique his record from 1996 to 2000. Rants believes that Vander Plaats’ record as Chairman of the Board does matter.

According to Rants, the second question people need to ask when looking at Vander Plaats’ record at Opportunities Unlimited is – do you care about deficits? Rants said, “If you do, then you should be concerned. If you don’t, or you buy Culver’s argument that an AAA bond rating means our deficit doesn’t matter, or Culver’s claim that because there is money in our emergency fund, that our deficit doesn’t matter – well, then pay no attention.”

While the Vander Plaats campaign wants to move away from Rants’ attacks, these accusations will likely haunt his campaign throughout the primary or until he provides data of his own that proves that Rants is mistaken. Having the State Treasurer point out that one of your main proposals regarding the I-Jobs debt isn’t even possible only gives more credibility to Rants’ assertion that Vander Plaats isn’t the candidate to get Iowa’s fiscal house in order.

With Vander Plaats currently being the frontrunner for the Republican nomination, he should prepare for more attacks and critiques of his proposals. That said, having your credibility questioned the week leading up to your official announcement, and having one of the main tenets of your campaign being called into question the day after your announcement, isn’t probably what the Vander Plaats team had in mind for their kick-off tour.

Photo by Dave Davidson

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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