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January 16th, 2013
 

ICCI stages annual ‘grassroots’ freak show

icci-feature-2013
DES MOINES—The Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement freak show staged their annual bitch-fest at the State Capitol Tuesday, coinciding with the start of the state’s 2013 legislative session. After the “day of action,” ICCI organizer David Goodner sent out a press release boasting that “Hundreds Protest Corporate Branstad Agenda.” According to ICCI’s count, 300 folks showed up. The “Money Out, People In: Kickoff at the Capitol” spectacle was sponsored by ICCI, the Iowa Federation of Labor, Iowa AFSCME, and the Iowa Teamsters.

The Des Moines Register, which quoted Goodner in two of its online stories Tuesday, reported that 250 people from ICCI occupied the State Capitol. However, several Iowa State Troopers told TheIowaRepublican.com that the crowd was about half the size of ICCI’s 2012 event, observing that perhaps 100-150 people showed up Tuesday. ICCI organizers expected a crowd of 500. The Des Moines-based interest group bused members from Dubuque, Waterloo, the Quad Cities, Iowa City, Grinnell and Ames to the State Capitol for the rally.

ICCI members gathered on the main staircase to shout at Gov. Terry Branstad (R-Iowa) as he passed by to deliver the annual “Condition of the State Address” to lawmakers. Branstad simply smiled and some of his staffers gamely shook protesters’ hands.

“This is tiny,” one trooper said. “It was really crowded in here last year.” Another security official jokingly asked a reporter if he wanted some spare change to toss off the third floor onto the unwashed masses gathered in the rotunda.

After Branstad’s address, an ICCI member strolled through the basement level of the State Capitol and asked a reporter where the ICCI contingent was gathering. The young woman with blonde highlights in her hair seemed frustrated that the reporter didn’t know, explaining that she was there to organize a sub-group of in-your-face activists.

“I have to get the angry group organized,” she said.

State Sen. Pam Jochum (D-Dubuque), the chamber’s president, later addressed the horde of haters.

“This Capitol wasn’t built for the people inside, it was built for you,” Jochum told the vocal minority of whiners, according to the Register.

AFSCME Iowa Council 61 president Danny Homan couldn’t resist taking a shot at Republicans after the event.

“Who gives a shit where you stand,” Homan wrote on Facebook Tuesday. “For the records [sic] they are not morons, but I am beginning to believe you are.”

ICCI is notorious for busing activists to loudly protest at the homes of farmers, entrepreneurs, state employees and politicians.

The professional, mostly white protesters are actually organized into two groups—a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt corporation, which was formed in the 1970s, and an affiliated lobbying arm, a 501(c)(4) corporation, which was formed last year. ICCI’s agenda of getting corporate money out of politics is quite hypocritical considering the non-profit corporation, with an annual budget of nearly $1 million, has received six-figure checks from corporate interests.

ICCI received $175,000 in 2009 from the Ford Foundation for “general support.” It received $25,000 from the Bank of America Foundation from 1999-2001 and $20,000 from U.S. Bancorp Foundation in 2002. ICCI has received significant funding from other corporate-connected foundations including the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation (General Motors), the Rockefeller Family and Belvedere Funds (Standard Oil), the McKnight Foundation (3M) and the Educational Foundation of America (Prentice-Hall Publishing).

ICCI also netted a significant portion of its revenue from the federal government—so, your tax dollars have funded these weirdos. From 2001-2009, ICCI received$175,454 in grants from the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Environmental Protection Agency.

ICCI’s tax filings also indicate a $25,000 government grant for 2011, but the source of those funds wasn’t immediately clear (an ICCI spokesman was not immediately available for comment Tuesday). Membership dues only represented 14.5 percent of the organization’s 2011 revenue of about $945,000 (the rest was government handouts and foundation money).

Contributions to the group have steadily decreased over the past five years, according to its tax records. ICCI’s lobbying and advocacy wing, ICCI Action Fund, hasn’t yet had to disclose its donations as it only formed last year.

Source: IRS 990 forms submitted by ICCI

ICCI’s boorish tactics have even compelled Democrats to bash them. In 2011, after ICCI members disrupted a town hall featuring Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Iowa Democratic Party Chairwoman Sue Dvorsky slammed the sham-citizen group. Doug Burns, a liberal-leaning columnist for The Carroll Daily Times Herald, called ”the mob that is Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement,” calling its members “moon-howlers” and a “collection of mad-eyed characters who should have their local pharmacies on speed dial so they can pop pills to silence the voices in their heads.”

“The behavior of Iowa CCI is unproductive, embarrassing, and has no place in a serious debate,” Dvorsky said. ”Unfortunately, this group has become less focused on results and more focused on creating chaos that gets their name in the paper… It’s unfortunate that they continue to mistake screaming for persuasion and embarrass themselves in this manner.”

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About the Author

Jeff Patch
Jeff Patch is an editor and muckraker at TheIowaRepublican.com. He's a principal at Concordia Group, a Des Moines-based public affairs firm, and a central committee member of the Polk County GOP, Iowa's largest county Republican party organization. Patch started his media career as a production assistant at the now-defunct FOX News affiliate in Dubuque, his hometown. He has written for the Telegraph Herald, The Daily Iowan, the Des Moines Register, Politico.com, The Wall Street Journal and Reason.com. Patch has also worked as a press secretary for a Member of Congress, a fiscal policy analyst for the Cato Institute and as the communications director for a libertarian campaign finance think tank. E-mail questions, comments, insults or story ideas to jeff [at] theiowarepublican.com.




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