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April 13th, 2010

Could Danny Carroll Endorse Himself?

Danny CarrollLast Thursday, Danny Carroll, a former State Representative and the current Chairman of the Board of the Iowa Family Policy Center, was the guest on Steve Deace’s radio show for two hours. Carroll was brought on to discuss a recent article in the National Journal in which both he and Doug Gross were quoted.

That article simply rehashed what most Republican activists already know. The Iowa Family Policy Center hates Terry Branstad, largely because of who is supporting his candidacy, rather than the positions he advocates for on the campaign trail. The word “hate” may seem a little strong, but if you listened to Carroll last Thursday night, there is no other word to describe it.

In the two-hour interview, Carroll made it pretty clear that he is disgusted with the current state of politics in Iowa. He ripped presidential candidates like Mitt Romney, John McCain, and Bob Dole. He called out Branstad donors like Bruce Rastetter and Gary Kirke by name and accused them of paying for access to the political system.

Carroll even sounded angry when Teresa Garmin, a former state representative who served with Carroll, called in and told him what he and IFPC were doing to Branstad was wrong. Garmin, a strong social conservative, was integral in helping pass Iowa’s parental notification abortion laws.

Like Carroll, I too get frustrated with politics, but if you want to vent your frustrations to an entire radio audience, you should at least tell them the whole truth, not just the part of the story that helps advance your political goals.

What was missing from Carroll’s rant on the radio was the fact that even Carroll himself probably couldn’t win the endorsement of IFPC due to his own past associations. I understand that a lot of things changed for Carroll after the Iowa Supreme Court tossed out Iowa’s Defense of Marriage law, but his scorched earth approach that was on display last week is a little hard to take seriously when you know the entire story.

You see, while Danny told you how bad John McCain and Mitt Romney were, he forgot to mention that he invited Mitt Romney to be his guest of honor at a fundraiser at his pumpkin farm on September 27, 2006. I know this because I was at that event. He also failed to mention that the largest single contribution he received for his 2006 re-election campaign came from Mitt Romney’s PAC.

By the time that Romney visited Carroll’s pumpkin farm, he had already signed into law the Massachusetts healthcare plan that mandated health insurance and included $50 co-pays for elective abortions. It was also already well known that Romney was running for president. In fact, Romney had already hired three Iowa staffers by September of 2006.

Carroll also enlisted the help of another presidential candidate in the fall of 2006 – John McCain. On August 15th of 2006, McCain headlined a lunch fundraiser for Carroll at The Old Glove Factory in Grinnell. The previous June, McCain’s PAC gave Carroll a contribution for $1000.

Carroll also set his sights on a couple of familiar Republican donors, namely Gary Kirke and Bruce Rastetter. He pondered about the type of wealth a person has to have to be able to write a $15,000 or $25,000 check. Ironically, Carroll received a $10,000 check from Team Iowa PAC for his 2008 campaign. The Team Iowa PAC Is essentially funded by contributions from that small group of major Republican donors in the state.

The biggest donors to Team Iowa PAC that year were Bruce Rastetter and Gary Kirke. So, while it is technically true that Carroll might not have received a personal check for those donors, it’s not like they didn’t support his campaign. It’s also important to note that Carroll accepted the Team Iowa contribution long after Mike Huckabee’s big win in the Iowa caucuses. That contribution was made in September of 2008, nine months after the caucuses.

Maybe the most surprising thing that people don’t know about Danny Carroll’s 2008 campaign is that he refused Congressman Steve King’s help. King offered to campaign for Carroll’s State House campaign and tried to give Carroll a $5000 contribution in the closing months of the campaign. Carroll refused help from Congressman King because the 5th District Congressman was too controversial and it wouldn’t play well in his district.

So, while Carroll took thousands of dollars from John McCain, Mitt Romney, and the donors he now all of a sudden can’t stand, he refused any involvement that Congressman King offered. Again, this happened in the fall of 2008, long after Huckabee won the caucuses.

When listening to Carroll on the radio, you would think that the only reason people like Kirke and Rastetter give to candidates us to advance their own business interests. Carroll also made it sound as if anyone who is supported by these donors must be sellouts. Both Carroll and Steve Deace were eager point out that Gary Kirke has gambling interest in the state and Bruce Rastetter is in the ethanol business. Both are highly regulated industries, but is it fair to scrutinize one campaign’s donors and not the others?

Bob Vander Plaats’ largest donor is Mike and Cheryl Wells. In 2009, the Wells’ contributed $102,500 to Vander Plaats’ campaign. That’s twice as much as Branstad’s largest donor gave him and represents almost 20% of the total dollars Vander Plaats raised that year. The Wells’ also are large donors to Carroll’s Iowa Family Policy Center.

Wells Blue Bunny’s CEO, Mike Wells, threatened to move its headquarters to South Dakota if the state didn’t step up with some incentives to stay, which it ultimately did in 2004. Wells’ Dairy Inc, received $2.9 million in forgivable loans from the Iowa Values Fund, but had to repay $1.25 million when the state found that the company didn’t fulfill its job commitments.

If the same high standard that is used by Carroll was applied to Vander Plaats, shouldn’t they question how Bob can say that he is against the state picking winners and losers when his largest contributor has already benefitted from state handouts? Isn’t it likely that Vander Plaats’ donors would be in his ear of Vander Plaats if he is elected?

Carroll’s new approach to politics is interesting when you consider that he leads a Christian organization. Nobody has a problem with IFPC’s endorsement of Bob Vander Plaats. As an organization, it is their decision who and when to support a candidate. What surprised a lot of people, including myself, is that they felt it was necessary to attack Vander Plaats’ chief opponent instead of just putting their support behind him.

IFPC’s anti-endorsement of Branstad received far more media attention than the statement of support Vander Plaats received. However, attacking Branstad at the same time they endorsed Vander Plaats makes one question whether or not they believe that Vander Plaats can win.

If IFPC really believed that Vander Plaats could win with its supporters backing him, the anti-endorsement of Branstad wouldn’t have been necessary. It also wouldn’t be necessary for that organization’s chairman to take to the radio and denounce the people who are supporting Vander Plaats’ opponent.

It seems like IFPC felt the need to create a legion of supporters who are not interested in helping elect Bob Vander Plaats, but rather ensuring the destruction of his chief opponent. Just like a military trains its soldiers in the skills of survival, IFPC and others have made the gubernatorial primary a battlefield where its supporters are willing to kill their opponents because they are told that, if they don’t, they will not survive.

The tone and tactics that are being employed in the gubernatorial race by IFPC and others doesn’t seem to be in line with the Biblical teachings that Carroll’s IFPC and Vander Plaats profess. In fact, in section one of Focus on the Family’s Truth Project, a Bible study that Carroll and Vander Plaats have completed, Christians are instructed about how they should operate in these critical times.

The Truth Project quotes 2 Timothy 2:24-26 which says, “The Lord’s servant must gently instruct his opponents…“in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.”

Are Carroll, IFPC, or other like-minded individuals, gently instructing their opponent in hopes of leading them to the truth? When I went through the 12-week study, this verse jumped out at me for a obvious reasons. It makes me question what the purpose of IFPC and its leaders really is. Do they want to advocate for Biblical principles and work to change hearts and minds, or are they simply a political machine that applies the same tactics they claim to detest so much?

The Truth Project also quotes Colossians 4:5-6, which says, “Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned as it were, with salt, so that you may know how you should respond to each person.”

Again, it seems as if IFPC and others have chosen to skip over this portion of the first tour of the Truth Project. At a time when Carroll and IFPC should be out there changing hearts and minds, they are absorbed with chasing votes for their gubernatorial candidate.

I have yet to hear anyone from IFPC or any other pro-family organization in this state stand up and take responsibility for the loss of traditional marriage in Iowa. Organizations like IFPC and the Iowa Christian Alliance failed to protect traditional marriage in this state. They were caught completely off guard with no plan on April 3rd of last year. Shouldn’t their lobbyists have made sure that there was a marriage amendment on file in both legislative chambers? Yet, they conveniently place blame on everyone except themselves.

Gay marriage wasn’t a big issue when Terry Branstad left the Governor’s office in January or 1999, yet he did sign the state’s Defense of Marriage Act. Should we be upset with Branstad, who was a private citizen for the last decade, or the two organizations that failed to protect marriage in this state? They can be angry at the Courts all they want, but traditional marriage was lost on their watch, not Branstad’s.

Carroll offered an ultimatum that would spare the GOP from the looming gubernatorial civil war. Carroll said that the Republican Party could be unified if Terry Branstad and Doug Gross go to the steps of the Iowa Supreme Court and endorse Bob Vander Plaats’ candidacy. We all know that’s not going to happen.

Once again, it seems like one of Iowa’s prominent pro-family organizations has taken its eye off the ball. They could have used their endorsement of Vander Plaats to build a throng of people who are passionate about restoring traditional marriage to the state. Instead, they have assembled a group of mercenaries.

If Bob Vander Plaats is not successful in the primary this June, what does IFPC do next? Their endorsement of Bob Vander Plaats will not be what put them in a difficult predicament. It will be their own actions.

An organization like IFPC should always put an emphasis on the issues, not a particular candidate. They have continued to place all of their eggs in one basket and are likely to have nothing to show for it. If their focus would have been on the issue rather than a candidate, that wouldn’t be the case.

We must all remember that our Constitution gives all political power to the people of this state. When the people go to the poll on primary day, they will determine who the Republican nominee is, not a political power broker, or a handful of donors. While I might not always agree with the will of the people, I will respect their decision, and I hope people like Danny Carroll do, too.

Photo by Dave Davidson

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About the Author

Craig Robinson
Craig Robinson serves as the founder and Editor-in-Chief of TheIowaRepublican.com. Prior to founding Iowa's largest conservative news site, Robinson served as the Political Director of the Republican Party of Iowa during the 2008 Iowa Caucuses. In that capacity, Robinson planned and organized the largest political event in 2007, the Iowa Straw Poll, in Ames, Iowa. Robinson also organized the 2008 Republican caucuses in Iowa, and was later dispatched to Nevada to help with the caucuses there. Robinson cut his teeth in Iowa politics during the 2000 caucus campaign of businessman Steve Forbes and has been involved with most major campaigns in the state since then. His extensive political background and rolodex give him a unique perspective from which to monitor the political pulse of Iowa.




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