Yesterday, Bob Vander Plaats held a mid-afternoon press conference in front of the Iowa Judicial building. It was the second time in less than a week that Vander Plaats held a press conference about his new initiative to oust the three Supreme Court Justices who face a retention vote in November.
The purpose of the most recent press conference was unclear. At his press conference last Friday he said that the details of his new initiative would be forthcoming. Unfortunately, the only new information that he provided the media yesterday was that the group is named Iowa for Freedom.
Joining Vander Plaats at the press conference was State Representative Jodi Tymeson, who also served as one of the statewide chairs of his failed gubernatorial campaign, and Pastor Brad Sherman. Sherman is a board member of the Iowa Christian Alliance and pastor in Coralville. Tymeson and Sherman briefly addressed the media. Tymeson said that she was involved in the effort because of property rights, while Sherman called for pastors across the state to get involved.
Vander Plaats announced that his group has the funds to “run a very good…dynamic grassroots campaign that can provide office, that can provide staff and that can engage a lot of volunteers throughout the state.”
The only problem for Vander Plaats is that he also admitted that his group has yet to file the necessary paperwork with the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board. The group has yet to figure out if they need to file as a political action committee or a group that makes independent expenditures. Vander Plaats also sidestepped questions about where the group is getting its funding and whether or not he is getting paid to be the group’s chairman.
Vander Plaats based his entire gubernatorial campaign on issuing an executive order as a way to hold the courts in check, but there are some differences between his campaign and his new initiative. While he is still advocating for the executive order, Vander Plaats now believes that Iowans needs the following “Grand Slam” approach.
1. Voters reject the retention of the three Supreme Court justices this fall.
2. Convince the governor on the rationale and need for an “Executive Order” to place a stay on a court’s opinion that is clearly outside of their jurisdiction.
3. Re-affirm the Defense of Marriage Act without judicial review.
4. Propose, pass, and enact a new system and process for appointing Supreme Court justices.
On the campaign trail, Vander Plaats used to advocate for the executive order as a way to allow the people of Iowa to vote on a marriage amendment to the constitution. As you can see, that part of his message is now nowhere to be found. Now he advocates for the executive order to simply put a check on the court’s jurisdiction.
He is also now advocating for the legislature to re-affirm a new version of the Defense of Marriage Act including a provision in this new legislation limiting the jurisdiction of the courts to review the law or strike it down. This is something that Vander Plaats didn’t talk about on the campaign trail, but it is a position that Jan Mickelson, the morning radio show host on WHO Radio, has advocated for. Finally, Vander Plaats wants to change the way justices to the Supreme Court are appointed.
Besides his continued insistence on issuing an executive order, the goals of Vander Plaats’ initiative are laudable. The three Justices up for retention should be shown the door, the legislature should re-affirm DOMA without judicial review, and Iowans should not only change the way judges are appointed, but we should also make it impossible for a Supreme Court decision to have the effect of law.
The problem with Vander Plaats’ new agenda is that it will focus all of its resources on they symptoms that ails the state (activist judges), but do nothing to find a cure (make changes to our constitution).
The most direct way to make the changes that Vander Plaats supports is to vote for the Constitutional Convention this November when it is on the ballot. Vander Plaats has been a consistent opponent to the convention and called it “reckless” at his press conference last Friday.
What Iowa conservatives really need to ask themselves is, do they really want to make changes to how justices are appointed and limit the power of the court, or do they just want to use the issue as a political football?
If Vander Plaats is successful and all three justices are ousted, Iowans will still have a supreme court with a majority that ruled in favor of gay marriage in April of 2009. Vander Plaats is quick to call the constitutional convention reckless, but his retention campaign is worthless unless you actually pass a constitutional amendment or amendments.
Passing a constitutional amendment through the legislature is very difficult and takes a long time. If we take the approach that Vander Plaats supports, the earliest any constitutional amendment will be on the ballot is 2014. If you really believe that the courts are out of control and our state runs the risk of seeing some of its other rights trampled, is it wise to wait?
The better option is to call for the convention this November, so that we the people can make the necessary changes to our state constitution, which would also allow every Iowan the opportunity to vote on any changes made to the document in 2012.
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