Attorney General Tom Miller told the Des Moines Register on Friday that his campaign needed to borrow $95,000 from two state employees that he oversees for his personal campaign’s “cash-flow purposes.”
Obviously, the Des Moines Register and some other news outlets, don’t understand why state employees loaning huge sums of money to their boss’s re-election campaign is problematic, unethical, and likely illegal.
Miller told KCCI, “There’s nothing to it. These are two people that work for me. They are also friends, trusted friends that are heavily involved in the campaign. They lent us the money so we could buy TV ads based on the money we would collect in the last week of the campaign. We’ve collected that money and we’re going to pay them back next year.“
By Miller’s campaign owing two of his subordinates $95,000, one has to question if Miller could punish his two deputies if something would happen to warrant it? On Saturday, Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Matt Straw raised additional questions in a press conference.
Since Miller controls the wages to these employees, Strawn questioned how Iowa taxpayers would be assured their tax dollars are not being used to repay a campaign debt if these employees receive a raise or bonus. Strawn also wants to know if Miller, or anyone in his office, used official resources to arrange the campaign loans.
The Iowa GOP announced that it would file a public records request to determine if official resources were used to arrange these campaign loans. These are all important questions, but the focus of the discussion needs to be on whether or not Miller broke the law.
Strawn cited Iowa Code, section 721.2 which says, “Any public officer or employee, or any person acting under color of such office or employment, who knowingly does any of the following, commits a serious misdemeanor… Demands that any public employee contribute or pay anything of value, either directly or indirectly, to any person, organization or fund, or in any way coerces or attempts to coerce any public employee to make any such contributions or payments, except where such contributions or payments are expressly required by law..
Miller and his two employees are also subject to the federal Hatch Act. The Hatch Act makes it illegal to ask subordinate employees to help with his reelection campaign.
What’s at issue here is that the $95,000 Miller received from two of his deputies was a loan, not a contribution. Had Miller’s two deputies made contributions to his campaign, there wouldn’t be much to take issue with. However, since they made loans to his campaign, it is reasonable to conclude that Miller asked his employees for the money and negotiated the terms of the loan, and that is where he gets in trouble.
It is highly doubtful that anybody, let alone two employees, would come up to Miller out of the blue and offer his campaign loans in the amounts of $20,000 and $75,000. Loans don’t just happen, they are negotiated, which is why Miller is likely violation of the Hatch act.
The media needs to ponder the following question. What happens if one of these two employees were to miss an important deadline and two sex offenders are released on a technicality? Could Attorney General Miller really fire them if he owes them money? At the very least, his campaign owing money to an employee will upset the balance between Miller and his subordinates.
Iowans needs an Attorney General who isn’t under the influence of owing his employees money. Iowa needs an Attorney General who actually follows the laws instead of breaking them when his campaign is in peril. Miller might have saved his re-election campaign by accepting these loans, but he destroyed the creditability of his office in doing so.
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