Sources tell TheIowaRepublican.com 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. TheIowaRepublican.com 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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