State Senator Sandy Greiner is urging the Board of Regents to table a request by Iowa State University to establish a Harkin Institute of Public Policy, which would be within the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
Up until 24 hours ago, the public and the legislature was unaware that there was even a desire to create a public policy center that would be named after Tom Harkin, the state’s junior United States Senator.
The timing of the surprise initiative in honor of Harkin may not be a coincidence. The three new members of the Board of Regents that were appointed by Governor Branstad do not receive voting privileges until the after the next meeting. So, by pushing the proposal through now gives it a better chance at gaining approval.
Greiner also raises ethical concerns about naming a facility after a sitting member of the Senate. Greiner’s letter reads:
Naming an institute for a sitting elected official at a public institution raises very serious ethical and legal concerns. Senator Harkin is a current elected official and designating a functionary at a state institution bearing his name clearly presents a serious, unfair, and questionable political advantage to an official that seeks political approval and favor from the Iowa electorate.
Further, while the agenda item notes that private donations will be secured for the institute, I have serious questions about the transparency surrounding the donations to support the institute and questions about who will perform that fundraising task.
As you know, other federally elected officials have been embroiled in serious controversy about projects just like this, where prominent Americans and corporations that have business before these same elected officials are leveraged for contributions. The appearance of impropriety is great with a situation like this.
Just like the sweetheart union deal that Culver agreed to while leaving office, this proposal is another Democrat priority that they plan to approve while they have the power to do so. Senator Greiner should be commended in bringing this to the public’s attention.
Below is the entire Greiner letter.
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