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July 1st, 2014

Grassley knocks Obama, Braley at annual Kaufmann fundraiser

Iowa Federation of College Republicans chair John Kaufmann presents Chuck Grassley with a gift of Dairy Queen ice cream during Monday night’s fundraiser for state Rep. Bobby Kaufmann.

SOLON, Iowa—State Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, R-Wilton, officially announced his intent to seek reelection Monday night at a fundraiser featuring Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, Adam Gregg, the GOP nominee for Attorney General, and Kaufmann’s father—the newly elected chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa.

“Let me apologize to you: I’m a farmer, not a lawyer,” Grassley told the crowd of more than 100 people, who roared with laughter at the obvious reference to Democratic Senate nominee Bruce Braley’s comments disparaging Grassley as “a farmer from Iowa who never went to law school” at a Texas trial lawyer fundraiser. Grassley, who regularly keynotes Kaufmann’s annual fundraiser, said that Americans would benefit from selecting a non-lawyer as the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which Grassley said hasn’t happened since the committee’s formation in 1815.
Bobby KaufmannGrassley enthusiastically endorsed state Sen. Joni Ernst, the GOP nominee for U.S. Senate, noting that she’s a strong candidate with county, legislative and military experience. Grassley has a much more optimistic outlook about Republican’s chances of taking control of the upper chamber compared to the 2012 cycle. He blamed undisciplined candidates for the “disastrous consequences” of that election.
“We had some people in some states that didn’t do a good job of representing Republicans,” Grassley said, noting that the problem rippled through other states and damaged the GOP brand. In contrast, Grassley praised the leadership of Gov. Terry Branstad, particularly his stewardship of the state’s finances, as a model for other Republican governors.

Grassley focused his harshest rhetorical fire on President Obama, who Grassley described as an “authoritative person” and the leader of an “authoritarian regime.”

“We have a president who says, ‘I have a pen, I have a phone, and if Congress doesn’t act, I will,'” Grassley said. “What a thing for a person who swears to uphold the Constitution [to] say.”

Grassley indirectly compared Obama to British monarch King George III by saying that the United States fought a revolutionary war to create a government of three equal branches, where no one man may wield unchecked power. He also mentioned that Obama’s executive authority and policies have been rebuked by the U.S. Supreme Court several times recently (including cases involving protest buffer zones at abortion clinics, Obama flouting the Senate by abusing recess appointments and the ability of closely-held business to determine whether to pay for contraception in employees’ health insurance).

Grassley also criticized Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for blocking amendments and using other procedural tactics to thwart the Senate’s tradition as a deliberative body. He noted that U.S. House Speaker John Boehner has allowed Democrats 29 opportunities to amend legislation while Reid prevents even freshmen Democratic Senators from suggesting changes to legislation on the Senate floor.

“We’ve got to put a stop to the one-man rule of the U.S. Senate,” Grassley said.

For his part, Rep. Kaufmann stressed his bipartisan credentials, mentioning his work with Democrats on bills to increase tax credits for emergency services workers, sponsoring a law with Democrats to criminalize exploitation of seniors, and increasing the transparency of state spending. He even hosted a handful of Democrats at the fundraiser, including a left-leaning blogger. It’s a testament to Kaufmann’s popularity that more than 100 people turned out to the event despite flash flooding warnings and massive rainfall, combined with lighting and thunder during candidate speeches.

“In my opinion people are sick of bitter partisanship,” Kaufmann said. He praised Gov. Branstad and the state legislature for delivering the largest property tax cut in Iowa history. Speaking in a community room of a Solon church, he noted that a nearby hardware store paid a higher property tax rate than a commercial building in Manhattan. Kaufmann said he plans on following in Grassley’s footsteps by never missing a vote. His priorities for the next legislative session include tax increment financing reform, finding a way to pay for repairs to Iowa’s crumbling roads, and protecting private property rights by restricting eminent domain.

“It better not take a school bus crashing into a bridge to fix our roads,” Kaufmann said.

Rep. Chris Hagenow, R-Windsor Heights, praised Kaufmann as an “in-the-mix getting stuff done” legislator, compared to some other members who rest too long on their laurels or focus on rhetorical bomb-throwing rather than the mechanics of passing legislation.

Hagenow, whose 11-month-old daughter crawled around during speeches, will play a key role this cycle in helping Republicans maintain their majority in the state house. He knows how to win swing districts: his 2012 race was the closest legislative race in Iowa. He won by 23 votes, and he stressed that 12 voters could have swung the election and urged Republicans to gear up for neighbor-to-neighbor get out the vote efforts. Kaufmann’s opponent in District 73 is David Johnson, who lost a Democratic primary for the race in 2012.

Adam Gregg, who faces Attorney General Tom Miller, criticized the incumbent for raising Iowa’s health care costs and restricting choices through Obamacare, shaking down targets of investigations for six figure campaign contributions and rarely leaving his Des Moines office to connect with constituents. Miller, first elected to office in 1978, is the longest serving attorney general in the United States.

“I can’t wait to cross-examine Tom Miller,” Gregg said. “He’d better be ready for some tough questions.”

Gregg’s has finely tuned his stump speech, hired top advisers and is raising significant resources for his campaign. Political observers say the former top adviser to Gov. Branstad, who seems relaxed and confident meeting potential voters, will provide Miller with a credible challenge this cycle. He was well received by Johnson County Republicans and hung around to chat individually with many attendees.

The Kaufmann fundraiser, a jovial family affair, featured gentle roasting from speakers, especially among state Rep. Pat Grassley, R-New Hartford, and the Kaufmann clan, which also includes John Kaufmann, the chair of the Iowa Federation of College Republicans.

Grassley said it’s a myth that he and his grandfather have hatched any sort of succession contingency, noting that the two quickly veer into other topics when discussing politics. Grassley said he called his grandfather the day the House Ways and Means Committee alleged that disgraced IRS official Lois Lerner targeted Grassley for additional IRS scrutiny due to political reasons.

“I called him and asked him about that, but in 30 seconds we were talking about ice cream,” said the younger Grassley, who vowed to campaign hard for state house Republicans this cycle.

Grassley explained why he has made so many campaign trips to swing and Democratic-leaning districts such as Kaufmann’s: “I spent my first four years in the minority, and they’ll never take me alive. I’m not going back, so anything we have to do to keep the majority, we’re willing to do.”

About the Author

Jeff Patch
Jeff Patch is a correspondent for He's a communications, research and political consultant for Iowa candidates, causes and companies. E-mail questions, comments, insults or story ideas to jeff [at]

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