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November 25th, 2012

Kevin’s Korner: The Destruction of RPI, An Inside Job

Greetings and welcome to Kevin’s Korner. Sorry, no lighthearted snark this week. I’m in no mood for it …

Just when you thought A.J. Spiker’s tenure as Republican Party of Iowa chairman could not get any worse, he decides to start a very public feud with the longtime Republican governor of the state. Spiker has repeatedly talked about party unity and bringing us together, but his latest statements are driving a deep wedge into an already fractured Iowa GOP.

It’s one thing to disagree with Terry Branstad about ending the Ames Straw Poll. That’s understandable. It’s another thing to be described as “peeved” about it by the national media. That looked bad enough. But it’s downright asinine for the chairman of the Iowa GOP to attack Governor Branstad personally and question his motives through a media outlet, which would love to create further dissention among Republicans.

Spiker’s quotes in the liberal Daily Beast reek not just of hypocrisy, but rank amateurism. Not content with releasing a statement on the Iowa GOP website, Chairman Spiker took this disagreement several steps further. He smeared Branstad, claiming the governor’s comments were “a continued effort to make sure that the political industry selects candidates rather than the grassroots” and “more consolidation of power”.

Since the Ames Straw Poll plays no role in deciding who wins the Iowa Caucus or the GOP nomination (see Bachmann, Michele), Spiker’s comments show he is also having issues dealing with reality.

Moreover, to accuse someone else of a “consolidation of power” shows Chairman Spiker’s hypocrisy knows no bounds. He and his fellow Paulistinians spent three years scheming to consolidate power within the Iowa GOP. They planned to take over the entire state party apparatus, from the national delegate slate to the SCC to the RPI staff. And they succeeded.

What have they done with that power? Nothing productive. Although they were barely able to afford the heating bill at RPI headquarters, Spiker and company threw away precious funds to make sure every Paulistinian on the ballot had some financial backing. Thank goodness those legislative candidates handpicked by Spiker, who couldn’t garner 33% of the vote with all the funding in the world, were rewarded for their loyalty to Ron Paul.

The goal of the state party, as outlined in its bylaws, is to help Republicans get elected. Judging through that lens, RPI under A.J. Spiker’s leadership has been a colossal failure. They failed to deliver the state for Mitt Romney. They failed to gain ground in the Iowa Senate. They lost seven seats in the Iowa House. They got trounced in the two eastern Iowa congressional races. And their voter registration edge of 21,000, which they arrogantly boasted about five months ago, is gone.

I’m not saying Spiker and company deserve all the blame for the 2012 election failures. They don’t. But they are eager to take the credit when things go well, so they have to shoulder part of the blame when Iowa Republicans fail.

Although their goals should be to help get Republicans elected, that has never been the primary goal for Spiker and the “liberty” people who now run the party. What would they like to do with all power they consolidated? That is, other than doing everything they could to help Ron Paul get elected? As former SCC member Jeremiah Johnson said back in March, they want to take over the GOP Senate and House majority funds so they can direct all the money to their chosen candidates.

Current SCC member Chad Steenhoek revealed these same intentions during a Story County GOP central committee meeting several months ago. Steenhoek, Spiker and company have not given up on that goal, but their efforts have been thwarted so far.

Not that any of us should be surprised by any of this. It’s no secret where Spiker’s loyalties truly lie. It’s with Ron/Rand Paul and the “liberty” movement. Everything else Spiker says that is seemingly in support of the Republican Party or non-Paulistinian candidates is just lip service, disguising his true goals.

A.J. Spiker has failed on every level as state chairman, from fundraising to party unity to election results. Now, Spiker is publicly attacking Governor Branstad. Truth is, without the help of Branstad and Ron Paul, RPI would likely be bankrupt.

Don’t take my word for it that A.J. Spiker has failed as chairman. Let’s look at Spiker’s own words. Below are the goals Spiker laid out in February during his speech before the SCC, as he tried to convince them he was the right choice as chairman. These are my notes from the live blog of the RPI chairman election, contrasted with what he’s actually done:

11:18 am – Spiker: Thanks the 16 SCC members and executive director Chad Olsen for taking his calls over the last few weeks. Says he notified the Governor’s office and Speaker Paulson. “I will work tirelessly to make sure Iowa remains the first in the nation.” Working tirelessly to insure we remain first apparently includes voting for the third place finisher at the Iowa Caucus.

11:20 am – “Governor Branstad is a tremendous asset we have as a party and a great closer and I will use him to seal the deal when we need him…”  But he’ll bash Branstad in the media if he dares interfere with their plans.

11:20 am – Spiker: ” We had the most successful caucus that we have ever had.” Pledges to go around the counties and talk to chairs about what went right and what went wrong. Several county chairs I spoke to tell me this has not happened.

11:21 am – Spiker: “One of my goals by the end of the year will be to have more Republicans than Democrats… “ He had that, but is on the verge of losing it.

11:21 am – Spiker: “I have worked with several staffs politically over the years and we have a phenomenal staff here… The last thing I would want to see is to have a new staff …. ” Says Chad Olsen agreed to stay on as executive director if AJ is elected. Olsen and the other staffers quickly departed. Executive Assistant Vonna Hall is the only one remaining from before Spiker became chairman.

11:22 am – Spiker: “My daughter attends private school so I know how important fundraising is…. ” Says he is self-employed (realtor) and involved in non-profit fundraising. He has severely struggled at raising money.

It’s pretty obvious, judging from the goals Spiker laid out, he has failed.

Governor Branstad will be at the top of the ticket in 2014, a crucial midterm election. Legislative and statewide candidates will need Branstad’s coattails and his enormous fundraising abilities. The decision by the party chairman to escalate a fight with the governor speaks to how abysmal Spiker truly is as the leader of the Iowa GOP.

The Ames Straw Poll is a big fundraiser for the Iowa GOP, so it makes sense that the chairman of the party would want to keep it. However, it is highly unlikely A.J. Spiker will still be RPI chairman in 2015. That is when the next Ames Straw Poll would take place. Besides, there are other ways to raise money and have the presidential candidates involved. The Iowa Dems don’t have a straw poll and they have no problem bringing in the bucks.

It’s more likely that, instead of chairman of the party, Spiker will be back on the staff of the Paul campaign, except this time it will be Rand, even though he doesn’t know Spiker’s name..

It is interesting that on the same day the Ames Straw Poll hubbub made national news, Rand Paul was quoted saying he’s interested in running in 2016. Coincidence? I think not. Although the Ron Paul campaign failed to win a single state, they showed a remarkable ability to do well in straw polls.

Spiker lied to all of us on statewide television when he said, more than once, that Mitt Romney “has my full support.” He then went to the RNC convention and voted for Ron Paul. That clearly showed Mitt Romney did not have Spiker’s full support. It would be nice if Chairman Spiker would show some integrity by stepping up and admitting it.

He even tried to throw up a smokescreen, saying he believed all the Iowa delegates would support Romney. Spiker knew this was false, but hoped Iowa Republicans would be dumb enough to buy into his sham. It’s the same smokescreen the Paulistinians used to get elected to the SCC and the delegate slate. Their strategy was to hide where their true loyalties lied.

I am not defending Terry Branstad or taking sides on the Ames Straw Poll issue. I think it’s a fun event and I honestly don’t know what we should do with it. I do know that after the Pawlenty campaign debacle, any candidate who stakes everything on the outcome of the Ames Straw Poll is foolish. Since 2016 candidates will be less likely to bet the farm on Ames, the poll’s relevance will be greatly diminished.

My primary concern is maintaining Iowa’s First-in-the-Nation status. Anything that gets in the way of that needs to be removed.

The professional way to handle this situation would have been to release the statement and not discuss the issue further with the media. A.J., if you have disagreements with Governor Branstad, go to his office and discuss it with him. For the chairman of the Iowa GOP to bash the Republican governor does a disservice to both of you, the party as a whole, and your favored candidates.

I’d like to give Chairman Spiker the benefit of the doubt, but I don’t. I can’t. His actions show he does not deserve the benefit of the doubt. It’s pretty obvious that almost every decision Spiker makes is viewed through how to help the Pauls and the “liberty” movement first, and the Republican Party of Iowa second, or third or somewhere further down the line. That would be fine if he wasn’t the elected head of the Republican Party of Iowa.

The truly sad part is, despite being an abysmal failure as the leader of the Iowa GOP, A.J. Spiker is practically guaranteed reelection as chairman in January, if he runs. The current makeup of the SCC guarantees that Spiker, or someone like-minded, will be our chairman for the next two years. That noise you hear in the background is the Democrats turning cartwheels.

Photo by Dave Davidson,

About the Author

Kevin Hall
Kevin Hall brings almost two decades of journalistic experience to TheIowaRepublican. Starting in college as a radio broadcaster, Hall eventually became a television anchor/reporter for stations in North Carolina, Missouri, and Iowa. During the 2007 caucus cycle, Hall changed careers and joined the political realm. He was the northwest Iowa field director for Fred Thompson's presidential campaign. Hall helped Terry Branstad return to the governor's office by organizing southwest Iowa for Branstad's 2010 campaign. Hall serves as a reporter/columnist for

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