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October 17th, 2010

Fair Courts for Us

By Nathan Tucker

That is the name of yet another organization that has been formed to defend Iowa’s partisan “non-partisan” judicial system, and the name could not be more appropriate.  Rather than saying “fair courts for Iowans” or “fair courts for all,” the name reads “fair courts for us.”  A search of the group’s supporters reveals exactly who the “us” refers to—the same liberal Democrats who not only dominate the state judiciary, but also the commissions who nominate the judges.

Former Republican Governor Robert Ray, one of the co-chairs of the organization, said in a statement that “Iowans fought hard five-decades ago to take politics out of the judiciary.”  He praised Iowa’s current system as “far and away superior to those states where judges are elected every four years.”

Joining Ray as co-chairs are Art Neu, a former Lieutenant Governor under Ray, Sioux City attorney Dan Moore, a Republican and former secretary and treasurer of Bob Vander Plaats’ gubernatorial campaign, and Christie Vilsack, the wife of former Iowa Governor and current U.S. Secretary of State Tom Vilsack (D).

Despite this seemingly bipartisan makeup of the group, a search of its campaign disclosure forms reveals that the group is bankrolled by Democratic partisans.  The party affiliation and campaign contributions for two of the group’s donors, Melissa How and Charles Beatty, could not be determined because they live in Nebraska and Minnesota, respectively.  The rest are of the group’s contributors are as follows:

  • Elizabeth Nelson, a registered Democrat, has previously given $250 to Democratic Senator Tom Harkin.
  • Kent Lyon, also a registered Democrat, has given $40 to the Iowa Democratic Party.
  • John McCright, the sole registered Independent, has given $150 to the political action committee of the Iowa Bar Association.  The Iowa Bar did not donate to this endeavor, doubtless because they are preoccupied with their own partisan campaign to retain the three Iowa Supreme Court justices up for a retention vote this year.
  • The Iowa Academy of Trial Lawyers has contributed $10,000 to Fair Courts for Us.
  • William Graham’s party affiliation could not be determined, though he has previously given $250 to state Democratic senator Staci Appel, $500 to the Fairness Fund which, according to its website, “is an Iowa based political action committee committed to electing fair-minded and pro-equality candidates to state offices,” and $500 to Ed Fallon’s failed bid for the Democratic nomination for governor in 2006.
  • Michael Gartner, a Democrat, has donated $8,000 to Democratic Secretary of State Michael Mauro, $67,000 to the Iowa Democratic Party, $11,000 to Senate Democratic leader Mike Gronstal, $6,000 to Tom Vilsack, $5,000 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, $12,550 to Democratic Congressman Leonard Boswell, $6,600 to Democratic Senator Tom Harkin, and $3,300 to Roxanne Conlin, the 2010 Democratic nominee for Senate.
  • Toni Urban, a Democrat, gave $200 to Democratic Attorney General Tom Miller, $10,500 to Democratic Governor Chet Culver, $23,600 to the Iowa Democratic Party, $10,000 to Tom Vilsack, $2,000 to Democratic Congressman Bruce Braley, $2,000 to Tom Harkin, $1,000 to John Kerry, $750 to Democratic Congressman David Loebsack, $13,900 Leonard Boswell, $7,300 to Barack Obama, and $1,000 to Roxanne Conlin.
  • Democrat Sally Pederson, former Lt. Governor under Tom Vilsack, has given $18,600 to the Iowa Democratic Party, $5,250 to Leonard Boswell, $3,925 to Tom Harkin, and $2,300 to Tom Vilsack.  This is in addition to her efforts with Justice Not Politics, a front for One Iowa member organizations who want to retain Iowa’s current judicial selection system.
  • Elizabeth Kruidenier, a Democrat, has given $2,500 to Chet Culver, $1,500 to Roxanne Conlin, $3,000 to Tom Vilsack, $3,000 to Leonard Boswell, and $34,574 to the Iowa Democratic Party.
  • Catherine Weideman, a Democrat, has given $100 to Democratic State Representative Elesha Gayman.
  • Dores Newlin, a registered Democrat, has given $2,450 to Staci Appel, $6,000 to Tom Vilsack, $25,000 to Mike Gronstal, and $92,000 to the Iowa Democratic Party.
  • Joyce Smith, a Democrat, has given $150 to the Planned Parenthood of Iowa PAC and $150 to Democratic candidates.
  • Katherine Eckhouse, a Democrat, has given $250 to Chet Culver, $9,900 to the Iowa Democratic Party, $1,000 to John Kerry, and $6,650 to Barack Obama.
  • Though the party affiliation of Mary Nelson could not be determined, she has given $54,875 to Democratic candidates while only $7,100 to Republican candidates.
  • Pamela Bookey, a registered Democrat, has given $2,000 to John Kerry, $4,800 to Roxanne Conlin, $2,300 to Tom Vilsack, and $5,000 to the Democratic National Committee.
  • Though the party affiliation of James Hayes could not be determined, he has given $500 to Tom Miller, $1,000 to Michael Mauro, $12,000 to Chet Culver, $8,300 to Tom Vilsack, $35,030 to the Iowa Democratic Party, $4,850 to Tom Harkin, $6,200 to David Loebsack, $5,100 to Bruce Braley, $3,000 to Roxanne Conlin, and $8,800 to Leonard Boswell.
  • Janet Rosenbury, a Democrat, has given $9,700 to Chet Culver, $500 to Tom Miller, $100 to Michael Mauro, $850 to the Polk County Democratic Central Committee, and $4,400 to the Iowa Democratic Party.
  • Sharon Malheiro, a registered Democrat, has given $1,500 to the Iowa Democratic Party, $500 to Leonard Boswell, $1,176 to Tom Harkin, $250 to Roxanne Conlin, and $250 to Tom Vilsack.
  • Though the party affiliation of Fred Eychaner could not be determined because he resides in Illinois, his political contributions make it abundantly clear that he is a Democrat.  He has given $55,000 to Chet Culver, $40,000 to Tom Vilsack, $44,000 to the Iowa Democratic Party, and millions of dollars to Democrats outside of Iowa.

In short, this is certainly not the bi-partisan group depicted by a media which has shown an alarming, though not surprising, tendency to accept at face value claims of bipartisanship by organizations defending the judges, while at the same time displaying an obsession with investigating the backers of those who wish to vote the judges off the bench.

There are now three organizations dedicated to defending Iowa’s partisan “non-partisan” judicial system, and all three of them are overwhelming made up of Democrats.  This is hardly a coincidence, but rather a coordinated effort by liberals to defend a system they dominate from start to finish.

The system needs to be changed from one of “fair courts for us liberal Democrats” to one of “fair courts for Iowans.”

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About the Author

Nathan W. Tucker
Nathan W. Tucker is a Davenport attorney and author of We The People: The Only Cure to Judicial Activism. He can be contacted at nathanwt@juno.com.




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