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October 7th, 2010

Findley Has Tom Miller Worried – Schedules Emergency Fundraiser with Vilsack

Sources tell that Iowa Democrat power-broker Jerry Crawford sent out an urgent fundraising appeal for Attorney General Tom Miller yesterday. The email paints a dire scenario for Tom Miller leading into the final weeks of the 2010 election.

In the email, Crawford announces that United States Secretary of Agriculture and former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack will be the special guest at a fundraising event for Miller next Thursday at a downtown restaurant.  He then asks for their financial help, but reminds them that no individual can contribute more than $2400.

Crawford’s frantic email underlines the political trouble that Miller may be in.  Miller’s Republican challenger, Brenna Findley, is relatively unknown, but she has been on radio across the state for almost a month now, and as Crawford indicated, she just placed a hefty statewide television buy.

Crawford’s email also proves that Iowa Democrats are nervous about the mood of the electorate as Election Day approaches.  With Governor Culver trailing Terry Branstad by 19 points, and Chuck Grassley leading Roxanne Conlin by over 30 points, incumbent Democrats like Attorney General Miller will have to outperform the top of his ticket to get re-elected.  That will not be an easy task.

To date, Miller hasn’t done much in the way of campaigning.  He doesn’t have a campaign website, has yet to run radio or TV ads, and has made only a handful of campaign appearances.  In his July report with the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board, Miller reported having over $230,000 in his campaign account.  That is a hefty sum for an incumbent, but Findley has been able to match him dollar-for-dollar thus far.  Miller’s lethargic campaign has some Democrats worried.

Crawford’s impromptu fundraiser for Miller also raises some ethical questions.  Last December, Crawford registered to lobby for agrichemical giant Monsanto.  While there is no doubt that Crawford maintains a close, personal friendship with the Vilsacks, his position with Monsanto makes an event like this more complicated.

Does Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack make a habit of headlining fundraisers that are held by special interest agricultural lobbyists?  During the 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama refused to accept campaign contributions from registered federal lobbyists, but I guess it is acceptable for a member of his cabinet to headline a , high-dollar fundraiser that is being organized by a lobbyist.

The ethical questions are not just confined to Crawford and Vilsack. was also told that two of the individuals whom Crawford solicited for contributions are high-ranking officials with Scientific Games Corporation.  Just last month, Scientific Games won a $50 million contract with the Iowa Lottery.  Do all corporations that win huge state contracts get asked for political contributions a month after the deal is consummated?

Miller already had to recuse himself from an investigation stemming from contributions that were made to Governor Chet Culver’s campaign by a group of Fort Dodge casino investors.  The conflict arose after Donn Stanley, a former deputy in the attorney general’s office, became Culver’s campaign manager.

Miller also recently returned a $10,000 contribution he received in 2005 from the family that is responsible for the nationwide egg recall.  Peter DeCoster, the son of Jack DeCoster and co-owner of DeCoster Farms, contributed $10,000 to Miller in 2005.  The contribution was made after Miller and Vilsack lifted the state’s “habitual violator” tag from the DeCoster farm operations, which allowed them to go back into business.  Miller returned the contribution after Findley questioned whether or not the contribution was made in exchange for favorable treatment.

While Crawford is scrambling to raise some last minute campaign cash to save Tom Miller, it looks like he might have just made a big mess for the guy he’s trying to help.

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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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