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June 27th, 2012

Schoenjahn Alters Iowa Road Maps With His Personal Information

It’s been surprising how many readers have responded to the articles about State Senator Brian Schoenjahn.  In May, published a photograph of Schoenjahn having Iowa Senate pages load his pickup truck full of Iowa road maps.  Last week, published another photograph of Schoenjahn passing out the maps in a parade in Readlyn.

In each article, we have also published the Iowa Code, which clearly states that the maps can’t be used for used for purposes of personal or professional gain.  While most politicians purchase note pads, candy, pens, or even nail files to pass out to parade goers, Schoenjahn is passing out road maps that are paid for by Iowa taxpayers.  Most Republicans see this an abuse of taxpayer funds.  Democrats say that everyone is doing it, and the Iowa Department of Transportation (Iowa DOT) encourages legislators to distribute the maps despite the statutory prohibition. did contact the Iowa DOT and requested “a large quantity” of maps that could be used by a candidate in a parade.  An Iowa DOT official responded by via email stating, “How many is a large quantity?  Do you want to pick up at our warehouse in Ames?”  We then asked the official if the practice was legal and provided her with a copy of the Iowa Code.

The Iowa DOT official responded by writing, “You can hand them [Iowa road maps] out but you cannot affix any sticker, paper, etc. on it with candidates [sic] name or political party information.”

Despite the Iowa DOT constantly requesting an increase in Iowa’s gas tax so they can do more road projects, it’s apparently no burden for them to provide political candidates with materials to pass out to potential voters.  Heaven help us if Hy-Vee or Kum & Go wanted to start passing out free road maps.

Before you think that Schoenjahn is free to continue passing out Iowa road maps, was provided the following picture that shows that he does affix a sticker on the maps that says, “Courtesy of Senator Brian Schoenjahn, PO Box 117, Arlington, IA 50606.”  The sticker also includes a phone number and email address, which is not his legislative email address.

The practice of politicians using Iowa DOT Road maps as campaign material should stop, not just because the code forbids it, but also because it is a waste of taxpayer money.  It’s not just that Schoenjahn got some free campaign literature, but he used state employees, high school pages, to load them in his pickup truck for him.  While pages are to there to help senators with various tasks, I doubt these young girls signed up for the program to load boxes of maps into the back of a pickup truck.

Furthermore, even though the Iowa DOT is okay with candidates handing out the maps, Schoenjahn is clearly violating the code by placing a sticker on the back of the map which says “Courtesy of Senator Brian Schoenjahn.”

Unfortunately, the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board (IECDB) says the matter is outside of their jurisdiction.  Apparently a state senator essentially making Iowa taxpayers spring for his campaign materials somehow is not a campaign finance issue.  Instead, Megan Tooker, the Executive Director/Legal Counsel for the IECDB, instructed to take up the matter with the Iowa DOT.  We did, and they said it was in violation of the code to alter the map by placing a sticker on it.  So if the IECDB doesn’t enforce the campaign law that is clearly stated in the code, who does?

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About the Author

Craig Robinson
Craig Robinson is the founder and editor-in-chief of, a political news and commentary site he launched in March of 2009. Robinson’s political analysis is respected across party lines, which has allowed him to build a good rapport with journalist across the country. Robinson has also been featured on Iowa Public Television’s Iowa Press, ABC’s This Week, and other local television and radio programs. Campaign’s & Elections Magazine recognized Robinson as one of the top influencers of the 2012 Iowa Caucuses. A 2013 Politico article sited Robinson and as the “premier example” of Republican operatives across the country starting up their own political news sites. His website has been repeatedly praised as the best political blog in Iowa by the Washington Post, and in January of 2015, Politico included him on the list of local reporters that matter in the early presidential states. Robinson got his first taste of Iowa politics in 1999 while serving as Steve Forbes’ southeast Iowa field coordinator where he was responsible for organizing 27 Iowa counties. In 2007, Robinson served as the Political Director of the Republican Party of Iowa where he was responsible for organizing the 2007 Iowa Straw Poll and the 2008 First-in-the-Nation Iowa Caucuses. Following the caucuses, he created his own political news and commentary site, Robinson is also the President of Global Intermediate, a national mail and political communications firm with offices in West Des Moines, Iowa, and Washington, D.C. Robinson utilizes his fundraising and communications background to service Global’s growing client roster with digital and print marketing. Robinson is a native of Goose Lake, Iowa, and a 1999 graduate of St. Ambrose University in Davenport, where he earned degrees in history and political science. Robinson lives in Ankeny, Iowa, with his wife, Amanda, and son, Luke. He is an active member of the Lutheran Church of Hope.

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