Reynolds likes some millionaires, if they’re Republicans

Civic Skinny


The first thing Gov. Kim Reynolds said after Fred Hubbell won the democratic nomination to oppose her was that “he has no idea what it’s like not to be rich.”

But apparently it’s only certain millionaires she disdains. A check with the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board shows she has taken donations from at least 38 millionaires from around the country.

Her Iowa contributors include:

John Pappajohn, $10,000; Nixon Lauridsen, $25,000 (and another $10,000 from his son Walter); Denny Elwell, $100,000; Michael Gerdin, $10,000; Kent Gage, $35,000; Dan Rupprecht, $55,000; Dale Andringa, $30,000; Denny Albaugh, $35,000; John Gleason, $25,000; Ron Holden, $25,000; Roger Underwood, $10,000, and Bruce Rastetter, $25,000.

John Catsimatidis, a billionaire who owns a large grocery chain in New York as well as a real-estate and aviation company (and who was a large donor to Bill Clinton), contributed $45,000, and Henry Tippie, the Austin, Texas, businessman for whom the University of Iowa business school is named, added $25,000. Rex Sinquefield, a Missouri investor and foe of the income tax, gave Reynolds $50,000.

It’s unclear whether before accepting the money Reynolds asked if the giver was born rich.

STATISTICIAN NATE SILVER once again has rated America’s pollsters. He looked at hundreds of polling operations and ranked them based on historical accuracy and methodology. Seven of the pollsters received an A+. One of those — as usual — was Selzer & Co., the Des Moines firm that is owned by Ann Selzer and that runs the Iowa Poll, among others. Silver analyzed 43 Selzer polls.

THE IOWA STATE UNIVERSITY polling operation received a B for three polls it conducted, Loras College a B-minus for its 18 polls and the University of Iowa a C-plus for its three polls. ♦


From “Fascism, a Warning,” a new book by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright:

“Mussolini demanded and was given authority to do just about whatever he wanted…He knew that citizens were fed up with a bureaucracy that seemed to grow bigger and less efficient each year…He initiated a campaign to drenare la palude (‘drain the swamp’).” 

Public Servants

For most folks, a public servant is the woman making $45,000 a year at the desk in city hall. Or the legislator earning $25,000 at the Iowa Capitol. Or maybe the teacher making $50,000 a year while dealing with a roomful of seventh-graders.

But to Iowa State Athletic Director Jamie Pollard, a public servant is also an athletic director making several hundred thousand dollars a year. Or so it seems.

When Kansas University fired its athletic director, Sheahon Zenger, earlier this year, it distressed Pollard. “I feel for Sheahon — he’s a colleague,” Pollard told The Des Moines Register. “It reinforces how tough it is to be a public servant.”

Indeed. Zenger was making $700,000 a year. He received a payout of $1.4 million when he was fired. Pollard makes a bit over $700,000 a year, making him the 25th highest-paid public servant in the state. He also gets a car and $165,000 a year in deferred compensation. 

John Mauro

A Des Moines Register reporter wrote the other day that Polk County Supervisor John Mauro’s “brand of politics” is “politics for your pals.”

Well, yes.

If your pals are the hungry or the homeless or the helpless.

Or if your pal is a woman whose son just got out of prison and needs a job sweeping floors. Or if your pal is a family living in their car and needs a roof over their heads. Or if your pal is a dad whose little girl doesn’t have the clothes she needs to go to school.

Those are his pals. And he takes care of them.

He doesn’t have much use for the downtown business crowd lining up for city handouts when they move their businesses six blocks — though one of his close friends is the very rich Bill Knapp (and no two people could live more different lifestyles) — and he’s not crazy about sitting through meetings, even if he is running them. He doesn’t like microphones and television cameras, and he’s not particularly charming when he’s in front of them. He doesn’t toot his own horn.

He’s not the kind of proud politician who takes his grandsons to watch him at a ribbon-cutting; instead, he takes them over to the Bidwell Riverside Food Pantry so they can understand how lucky they are and how unlucky others are — and how they have a responsibility to help as they grow up.

After 24 years as a Polk County Supervisor, he was wiped out in the June Democratic primary by State Senator Matt McCoy. They both knew it was coming — McCoy understands the new politics, Mauro the old. That’s not a bad thing for Mauro — at 77 he deserves more time watching his grandsons play sports or helping his three sons in their successful insurance and finance and senior-housing businesses. He’ll be just fine.

But it’s a bad thing for the county. It’s not bad that McCoy won, but it’s bad that Mauro lost. Mauro made the two best deals for taxpayers that ever have been made in Polk County. He was instrumental in saving Prairie Meadows racetrack and casino and in negotiating the contract that now provides the county with about $26 million a year.

And after seeing the bad deal that others at the county made in accepting Vision Iowa funds to help build the arena and convention complex, he asked to renegotiate the deal. The new deal freed up state money that was in escrow to ensure that no property-tax money would be used for the project, but it still guaranteed that no property-tax money would be used. (The original deal was made when he was out of office.) Then, he negotiated with Global Spectrum the management deal that now brings the county more than $2 million a year. He did that after some local business leaders tried to convince the county that they could manage the place if the county would simply give them $5 million a year to do it.

And it’s a bad thing for the county’s hungry. Appalled at what he was seeing and hearing, three years ago Mauro decided Polk County should be “hunger-free.” He set out to raise $10 million, to find ways to keep food pantries open during hours when the hungry were off work, to relocate some onto bus routes so the hungry could travel there, and to make sure the pantries and pantry trucks (which he launched) were well-stocked. He has raised about $6 million so far — it’s surprising to see who has turned him down — but it’s unclear who will carry on.

Talk to Mauro about the hungry, and it’s clear he wears his heart on his sleeve (a sleeve that might clash with his sport coat because he’s colorblind). And that heart beats — first and foremost — for his family and his South Side constituents, for the Italian immigrants and their families who settled there, for the Catholic Church (though he has no problem with gay marriage and a lot of other issues the church struggles with), and for the taxpayers of Polk County.

He sees nothing wrong with the deal the five supervisors made in 2012 and 2013 to funnel $844,000 in county money to a front corporation that gave it to the Catholic schools so they could invest it in technology — a deal that is just now, before the coming elections, being noticed though it was done openly and unanimously at the time. The money was part of the annual distribution the county gets from Prairie Meadows, and the deal was approved by the county’s lawyer and by the county attorney.

The Register and Herb Strentz and others think the deal smells, that it jumped the Constitutional wall that separates church from state. At the very least, it raises questions. But those are questions for the lawyers — and perhaps the Bishop — not for the supervisors. Mauro thinks it’s the duty of government to help kids — he notes repeatedly that it was blessed by the lawyers — and he’s dismayed by the criticism for what he views as a caring and legal vote done in a public meeting.

But Mauro knows how to deal with controversies. In 1998, fellow south-sider Gene Phillips defeated incumbent Mauro by 88 votes for the seat he now holds — he won it back from Phillips in 2002. The election was riddled with accusations, and ultimately both candidates were called before a federal grand jury. The issue revolved around absentee ballots, whether Phillips’ operatives forged signatures and whether Mauro’s workers illegally gathered the ballots.

Mauro was questioned vigorously in the jury room. At the end, he asked if he could say something to the jury. The prosecutor agreed.

“Look,” Mauro told the jurors, “you don’t cheat to lose. When you cheat, you win.”

No charges were brought.