By Craig Robinson
Nobody decries the use of out-of state special interest money more than the Iowa State Bar Association and supporters of gay marriage do. Yet for years, gay activists from around the country have been contributing to the Iowa Democratic Party and Democrat legislators and candidates in an attempt to further the cause of gay marriage rights.
The practice began in 2006 when Tim Gill, a wealthy gay rights activists and technology mogul from Colorado, targeted Iowa State Representative Danny Carroll, a Republican and out-spoken social conservative. According to the Atlantic, Gill’s goal was to, “Stop the Rick Santorums of tomorrow before they get started.”
Gill and a national network of gay rights donors were successful in defeating Carroll in 2006 and 2008. While the Carroll campaign has long been over, the practice of out-of-state gay activists trying to influence the balance of power in the Iowa Legislature has continued.
Recent campaign disclosures submitted to the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board show that the practice of giving to targeted candidates is alive and well. Gay activists have focused their efforts by contributing to Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, Sen. Mary Jo Wilhelm, and Sen. Steve Sodders.
Sodders is locked in a tight battle with Jane Jech in the Marshalltown area, while redistricting has tossed Republican incumbent Sen. Merlin Bartz into the same district with Wilhelm.
Wilhelm’s campaign finance disclosures make for a great case study in out-of-state gay activists attempting to influence local races. Her most recent disclosure showed that 17 percent of donors who contributed to her campaign from mid-July to mid-October were out-of-state gay rights activists.
These activists include 37 individuals, who made a total of 40 contributions, which accounted for 38 percent of the $85,000 Wilhelm raised in the period. If you add in a $10,000 contribution from the Justice for All PAC, a gay rights group, gay activists accounted for 50 percent of the money Wilhelm raised in the last reporting period.
The 37 gay activists who contributed to Wilhelm for the most part also donated to Sodders and Gronstal. In total, these individuals contributed $106,220 in 2012 to Iowa Senate Democrats. Some also contributed to the effort in 2011, and those contributions total an additional $17,850.
In the world of presidential and congressional fundraising, $125,000 might not seem like a lot, but in state legislative politics, $125,000 can be a difference maker. In 2006 and 2008, gay activists wanted to defeat specific social conservatives and help Democrats win a majority in a chamber. Now, with Republicans on the verge of gaining control of the Iowa Senate, these out-of-state gay rights activists are trying to re-elect incumbent Democrats in hopes of keeping control of the Senate.
Only time will tell if this money will allow Senate Democrats to keep control of the chamber. Without taking the time to go line by line through every Senate Democrat’s disclosures, the total amount of money that out-of-state gay rights activist are funneling to Senate Democrats may be larger than the $125,000 discussed in this story. Remember, this only covers the total donations from those specific 37 out-of-state donors who gave to Sen. Mary Jo Wilhelm. There are likely other similarly- minded donors contributing to other candidates, Senator Gronstal, or the Iowa Democratic Party.
Next time the Iowa State Bar Association or gay rights activists in Iowa bemoan the amount of out-of-state money being used in the anti-retention campaign, remind them that gay activists have been funneling money into Iowa for years.
blog comments powered by Disqus