An email sent last week by Republican Party of Iowa Executive Director Steve Bierfeldt to members of the State Central Committee details their troubles in raising funds, even from elected officials. Only three Republican legislators had donated to RPI at the time the email was sent on February 11. They are state senators Brad Zaun, Dennis Guth and Jerry Behn. They remain the only three donors, along with Senator Chuck Grassley, recognized on RPI’s “Patriot Club” web page.
Bierfeldt’s screed points out that legislators giving to the party in the past was “quite common place” and many of their past donations were made in conjunction with the annual legislative breakfast. According to the email, RPI Co-Chair David Fischer and Finance Chair Drew Ivers “spoke at length” during that January 14 event about past aid given by legislators.
Despite the urging of Ivers and Fischer, as well as fundraising letters and brochures mailed after the event, legislators are not opening up their wallets for the state party. Bierfeldt presses SCC members to lobby legislators to donate.
“I see legislators as a great resource to speak with. I count on, and continue to count on, a substantial number of them to make contributions, especially as we generously gave their campaign either $500 (reps) or $1,000 (senators) in the fall. Their contribution does not have to be personal and it can come from their campaign account. I suspect very few if any, are drained down to their final dollars.”
State Senator Brad Zaun (R-Urbandale), one of three state legislators to donate to the party this year, told TheIowaRepublican.com he wants to support RPI’s efforts.
“Because I am a team player, typically I have always given the $365 each and every year I have been in the senate, but was happy to donate $500 as was requested this past year,” Zaun said.
However, several legislators we contacted are leery about donating money to the state party. To avoid potential reprisals, TheIowaRepublican.com is keeping their identities private.
“I think it shows a level of frustration with the party,” said one senator from central Iowa. “Instead of blaming legislators for not contributing, maybe they should look into the mirror and evaluate some of the things they’ve been doing over the last year or so.”
Bierfeldt’s email is unlikely to ease those frustrations. It was unsettling to some of the legislators who have viewed it. During the 2012 campaign, the state party decided to donate $500 to every Iowa House candidate and $1,000 to every Iowa Senate candidate on the ballot. Now, RPI is essentially asking for the candidates who won to return the money.
“I believe our state party was tremendously generous in contributing at least $500 to every Republican up for election, and we would be remiss not to follow up and ask for a contribution back. I believe only receiving three contributions is not acceptable and we should follow up with each of these legislators in an effort to show them that we are looking for a team effort, but from both sides, theirs included.”
“I didn’t realize that by accepting the check there was a disclaimer that the money was to be returned in form of a donation,” said one freshman legislator.
“That RPI thinks 77 legislators can fund a million dollar operation and go after it like it’s a ‘Take No Prisoners’ campaign is about the same as the Occupiers thinking taxing the 1 percent will take care of the federal budget,” an eastern Iowa representative said. “Not to mention we suspect if we vote with our people and don’t vote according to RPI’s wishes, they would use our own money against us. RPI needs to remember it is not a lobbying group and focus on their mission.”
Legislators are not the only ones closing their wallets to the Republican Party of Iowa. The state party has had trouble raising just a few hundred dollars with their online fundraising pushes. Big money donors are also shying away. State Central Committee member David Chung says RPI leadership needs to look within itself to address the fundraising woes.
“RPI’s lack of financial support from legislators, traditional donors sitting on the sidelines and the open revolt that occurred in the 4th District Executive Committee meeting are symptoms. They are symptoms of the distrust among rank and file Republicans for RPI’s current leadership,” Chung said. “As a party we are still fighting the battles of the 2012 caucus to convention cycle.”
David Chung says the fear among many Iowa Republicans was that after Mitt Romney clinched the GOP nomination, the Ron Paul faction would leave the party. Instead, the Ron Paul faction took over the leadership positions in the state party and other Republicans are unsure of their intentions.
“As our conventions, national delegation, the State Central Committee and RPI are controlled by a strong majority of Ron Paul supporters, and former staffers, the rest of the party has taken their ball and gone home,” Chung said. “It is up to the leadership of this party to reach out with an olive branch to the county organizations, to the grassroots.”
According to his email, RPI Executive Director Steve Bierfeldt planned to research the finances of all 77 state legislators’ campaign committees.
“I am in the process of researching the current finances of each individual’s campaign committees, however as of the moment, there are none whose accounts appear to be dry. This is to prevent the claim of, “I have no money” when there is indeed money in the account.”
Bierfeldt then presses each SCC member to ask four or five legislators to all donate $500.
”I would like you to ask them for a $500 contribution to the Party just as we explained at the breakfast and we explained in the letter we sent out. In return they will be an official sponsor of the Package Plan and receive access to events throughout the year for themselves and some of their constituents. Also please remind them that they received $500 this past fall from the Party. At the worst, they should be able to direct that contribution back to the State Party’s efforts.” (emphasis added)
The fact they the Republican Party of Iowa is asking legislators to basically return the donations from last fall is not sitting well with GOP representatives and senators. More than one of them, after viewing the email, referred to it as a “shakedown”.
“First of all, I find it interesting that they expect the House & Senate Republicans to do their fundraising for them, because that’s in essence what they’re asking us to do,” said one eastern Iowa senator. “They say they’re giving money to our campaign so they can say they are helping us, then they turn around and say they want it back. Not to mention, they say they want to dictate policy to us. They’ve lost sight of the actual job of the SCC, which is to help elect Republicans.”
While most legislators are withholding their money from the state party, Senator Brad Zaun believes they should not. He also has advice for RPI in how to solicit funds from legislators.
“I believe we as Republicans need to support our state organization,” Zaun said. “I would recommend the central committee members call all their respective Republican representatives and senators, rather than send a letter and airing the fundraising shortcomings.”
State Central Committee member David Chung concurs.
“My advice for RPI is now the same that it has always been,” Chung said. “Earn the trust of the counties and grassroots Republicans all over the state by being listening and being a relevant credible force in helping Republicans – yes, I mean all Republicans – get elected.”
Below is the entire email sent from RPI Executive Director Steve Bierfeldt to the State Central Committee:
Date: February 11, 2013, 6:53:00 PM CST
Subject: Contributions from GOP Officials
State Central Committee members good evening,
Last month we held our annual Legislative Breakfast, a successful event that raised money and hosted more than 140 guests. For those of you who were able to attend, you’ll recall Co-Chairman David Fischer and Finance Chairman Drew Ivers each making mention of our Package Plan, “The Patriot Club” and making a pitch to all legislators in attendance to contribute to the party.
At the event both David and Drew spoke at length about the past aid given to Republican candidates. They recalled the motion by the State Central Committee to financially contribute to every Republican candidate running for state office in 2012, many of whom won and were either elected or re-elected to the state legislature.
We crafted a tri-fold brochure for our Package plan and distributed it at the event. I’ve attached a copy for you to take a look at if you have not yet seen it. You’ll see that like previous years’ package plans, there are a few different levels. The offer made to all legislators was that any financial contribution made as part of our package plan at the $500 level, would be automatically upgraded to the $1,000 Gold Level as an additional thank you to state legislators for their hard work.
State Legislators giving to the State Party is quite common place, especially at the Legislative Breakfast. After going through many records of past years’ breakfasts, the date of many donations from elected officials was the day of or the day after the breakfast. This means that a significant amount of officials came prepared either with a check or credit card in hand to contribute. It appears that this year that has not taken place. For this reason I see legislators as a great resource to speak with. I count on, and continue to count on, a substantial number of them to make contributions, especially as we generously gave their campaign either $500 (reps) or $1,000 (senators) in the fall. Their contribution does not have to be personal and it can come from their campaign account. I suspect very few if any, are drained down to their final dollars.
After the event, we then mailed out additional letters and brochures to every Republican elected official. This included those who were present at the breakfast as well as those who were absent. We waited approximately one week to send this mailer. With mail delivery and the time to check a mailbox they may not check that often, I believe this has now given legislators at least two weeks to have received, looked over the piece, and made a contribution.
To date we have three Republican legislators who have given contributions. Jerry Behn, Dennis Guth and Brad Zaun. With more than 75 legislators, we should certainly have a higher rate of return, especially when it is common for legislators to give at the breakfast in the weeks afterward. In my judgment three is far, far too few. I believe our state party was tremendously generous in contributing at least $500 to every Republican up for election, and we would be remiss not to follow up and ask for a contribution back. I believe only receiving three contributions is not acceptable and we should follow up with each of these legislators in an effort to show them that we are looking for a team effort, but from both sides, theirs included.
As I know virtually everyone on this committee has asked for more ways to get involved and offered to help in any way they can, I would like to make it a priority to follow up with our elected officials. I propose each member on the committee be assigned four or five legislators and personally call them, call their office and email. I believe each Republican legislator can contribute $500 to the Republican Party of Iowa, and in return will be listed as a “Gold” level Patriot Club sponsor. I am in the process of researching the current finances of each individual’s campaign committees, however as of the moment, there are none whose accounts appear to be dry. This is to prevent the claim of, “I have no money” when there is indeed money in the account.
I will be coordinating this and in the coming days I will be sending each of you a spreadsheet of four to five Republican elected officials who are capable of making a contribution to the state Party. I would like you to ask them for a $500 contribution to the Party just as we explained at the breakfast and we explained in the letter we sent out. In return they will be an official sponsor of the Package Plan and receive access to events throughout the year for themselves and some of their constituents. Also please remind them that they received $500 this past fall from the Party. At the worst, they should be able to direct that contribution back to the State Party’s efforts.
Depending on their responses they will receive follow ups from myself and/or AJ. However if they decide not to contribute then it can not be for a lack of asking. Within the next two weeks we will be adding a segment to our website regarding our Patriot Club and our Patriot Club members. While we will not be listing all of our donors by name, we will be listing the state legislators who are members of the Patriot Club. As I said, at the least, they felt very comfortable cashing a check from the State Party. Therefore they should be equally comfortable helping the state party build its framework for 2013, 2014 and beyond.
Expect to receive this spreadsheet of names and contact info from me within the next few days. I will then follow up with you individually approximately one week after. This will be a multiple contact campaign to these legislators who drag their feetl The state party has received a significant amount of contributions from them in the form of donations in the past, and it is my goal to build upon and increase that momentum. Please excuse the length of this email however I believe this to be of high importance and an issue we should certainly not just allow to expire.
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