Top Ron Paul Campaign Aides Found Guilty On All Counts

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Photo by Dave Davidson –

As Donald Trump was putting an end to the primary phase of the 2016 Republican presidential campaign this week, a federal court concluded its criminal trial against three Republican campaign operatives for their underhanded and shady dealings in the previous presidential contest.

Jurors found Jesse Benton, Ron Paul’s 2012 campaign chairman, John Tate, Ron Paul’s 2012 campaign manager, and Dimitri Kesari, Paul’s deputy campaign manager in 2012, guilty of charges ranging for conspiracy to causing false records and campaign expenditures. The trio of national political operatives who once made up Paul’s inner political circle was tried in federal court in Iowa and is now awaiting sentencing.

The scheme involved paying Kent Sorenson, a former Iowa legislator and chairman of Michelle Bachmann’s 2012 presidential campaign, more than $73,000 to switch his allegiance to Ron Paul just days before the 2012 Iowa caucuses.   As a State Senator, Sorenson would be in violation of Iowa Senate rules if he accepted financial compensation from the Paul campaign, so the high-ranking Paul operatives concocted a scheme that paid Sorenson through vendors who did no work for the Paul campaign.

Sorenson resigned from the Iowa Senate in the fall of 2013. The following August, he pled guilty to one count of causing a federal campaign committee to falsely report expenditures and one count of obstruction of justice for concealing. Sorenson is still awaiting sentencing for his part of the scheme, but his cooperation with federal prosecutors will now likely get him a more lenient sentence. Sorenson faces up to 25 years in prison for his involvement in the cover up.

The entire ordeal spans parts of two presidential campaigns and lasted almost six years. was the first to break the details of Sorenson’s involvement with the three senior members of Ron Paul’s campaign. While Sorenson was already dealing with an Iowa Senate Ethics complaint stemming from his financial compensation from the Bachmann campaign and the theft of a database belonging to an Iowa Homeschool organization, it was his involvement with the Paul campaign that ultimately brought him down.

The scandal has been national news and has even caused problems in the 2016 Republican race for president. Benton and Tate led a Super PAC that was supportive of Kentucky Senator Rand Paul’s bid before he dropped out of the race. Benton is also currently involved in a pro-Trump Super PAC. Needless to say, being convicted of multiple crimes will make it impossible to maintain his involvement in any political committee.

While was responsible for shedding light on this scandal, justice would have never been served, and thus the credibility of our political process would not have been preserved, had it not been for Dennis Fusaro, the primary source of all the evidence the entire case was built upon.

Fusaro was Ron Paul’s national field director in 2008. He was also the former Executive Director of Iowans for Right to Work Committee and the National Right to Work Committee. He had worked with all those involved in the cover-up, including Sorenson, from his time working in Iowa politics.

“This is not a happy moment for me or anyone concerned with true Liberty,” Fusaro said after being reached for comment after the guilty verdict. “I tried to get Jesse Benton to come clean on his own and clean it up internally, but instead I was mocked and insulted by him.”

“The cover-up is always worse than the crime,” Fusaro added. “They could have told the truth to the voters of Iowa that Kent Sorenson had been paid or offered payment to endorse Ron Paul. They could have thumbed their noses at the Iowa Senate Ethics Committee and made a First Amendment stand over the right to associate for Kent Sorenson. Instead they chose to take on the federal government.”

Another integral figure in exposing this scheme was former State Senator Sandy Greiner. While Republican leaders in the Iowa Senate wished to quietly sweep Sorenson’s transgressions under the rug, it was Greiner who stood alone against her own party and provided the critical fourth vote on the Senate Ethics Committee to appoint an independent investigator to look into Sorenson’s dealings with both presidential campaigns.

On Facebook on Thursday afternoon, Greiner referred to the situation as, “The darkest days of my entire Legislative career.” Greiner added, “I really felt an investigation by Independent Counsel was the only way to clear the air. I take no joy in the outcome.”

After the Senate Ethics Committee voted in favor of appointing independent counsel who would have subpoena power, the Chief Justice of the Iowa Supreme Court appointed Des Moines attorney Mark E. Weinhardt to investigate. It was his 556-page report that came out in October of 2013, just two months after broke the story, that lead forced Sorenson to resign. Soon after, federal authorities charged those involved with scheme for their involvement.

For many Iowans, this story began and ended with Kent Sorenson.   While the this entire case involved him, Thursday’s guilty verdicts prove that the scandal was much bigger than just a State Senator getting paid under the table for an endorsement. While it may have seemed at times that there was an effort to “get” Sorenson, the truth of the matter is that he was the only way expose the corruption in at the highest levels of a presidential campaign.

Not only has justice been served, but hopefully the integrity of the political process has also been preserved.




Why Does Sorenson Keep Changing His Story?

State Senator Kent Sorenson doesn’t just have legal trouble stemming from his financial dealings with two presidential campaigns.  He also has trouble telling the truth.

On the evening before published its initial story that outlined Sorenson’s financial dealings with the Paul campaign, Sorenson was asked for comment on the information that was about to be published.

Sorenson said all the information that Dennis Fusaro had provided us was fabricated and that the source of the information was just bitter after being let go from the National Right to Work Committee.   In a follow up question, Sorenson was asked directly if he had been given a check at a dinner meeting with Dimitri Kesari.  He said no.  He was then asked if his wife had been given a check from Kesari.  He said no again and then reiterated that the entire story was made up.

Last week, Sorenson’s attorney, Theodore Sporer, admitted to the Des Moines Register that Sorenson was still in possession of that check, but Sporer stated that Sorenson did nothing wrong because he never cashed it.  If that is indeed the case, why then did Sorenson blatantly lie to when confronted about the check a month ago?

Sporer’s statement to the Des Moines Register also contradicts what he told the Minnesota Star Tribune back on August 7th.  When asked about Sorenson’s dealings with the Paul campaign, Sporer told the Star Tribune, “There was no money that changed hands. There was no direct or indirect payment from the Ron Paul campaign.”

Mr. Sporer may believe that an uncashed check is “simply an autograph,” but according to the legal dictionary on, “a check is a written order instructing a bank to pay upon its presentation to the person designated in it, or to the person possessing it, a certain sum of money from the account of the person who draws it.”  Sporer’s assertion that there was no direct or indirect payment from the Paul campaign is an insult to the intelligence of Iowans.

Sorenson’s possession of the check begs an obvious question – why didn’t Sorenson ever cash it?  One would assume that the reason he’s never cashed it because he knows that doing so would be wrong or even illegal.  Sorenson’s new defense also suggests that he hasn’t had anything to do with the three high-ranking national staffers with Ron Paul’s presidential campaign since the caucuses, but that’s not true either.

On September 15, 2012, Sorenson and his wife traveled to Chantilly, Virginia, to speak at the 2012 Liberty Political Action Conference, which is put on by the Campaign for Liberty.  The President of the Campaign for Liberty is John Tate, Paul’s 2012 campaign manager.  It was with Tate that Sorenson, through Aaron Dorr, began negotiating the terms of his defection from the Bachmann campaign back in October of 2011.  So, while Sorenson’s attorney wants people to ignore an uncashed check, there is still an ongoing relationship between Sorenson and the Campaign for Liberty.

It’s understandable why Sorenson wants this scandal to go away, but the amount of evidence that contradicts Sorenson’s side of the story continues to grow.   Sorenson’s side of the story would be more believable if it was consistent, but it’s not.  Even if you believe Sorenson’s current storyline, then he lied to the press when Fox News’ Megyn Kelly asked him “Was money offered to you by anyone in the Ron Paul camp to jump ship?”  Sorenson responded “Absolutely not.”

Again, Sorenson needs to come clean.  The Senate Ethics Committee is small potatoes compared to everything else that is involved in this pay-to-play scheme.  Furthermore, Iowans deserve the truth, not more lies, and not more finger pointing.  It’s time for Sorenson to step up, be a man, and take responsibility for his own actions.

Photo by Gage Skidmore

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The New Composition of the SCC of the Iowa GOP

The Republican Party of Iowa State Central Committee is comprised of 16 elected representatives from the state’s four congressional districts, the national committeewoman and committeeman who are elected at the state convention, and the chairman and co-chairman who are elected by the committee.  Neither the chairman nor the co-chairman vote unless a vote is deadlocked in a tie.  In that instance the chairman votes to break the tie.

On Saturday, supporters of Ron Paul increased the number of members they have on the committee.  In addition to those members who have strong connections to Paul and the Campaign for Liberty, additional members were either elected or re-elected that give the Paul faction an even firmer grasp on the committee that it may appear.

Below is a list of the current central committee and their ties, if any, to Ron Paul or the Campaign for Liberty.

1st District:

David Chung: None
Dave Cushman: Supported Ron Paul
Tony Krebsbach:
Supported Ron Paul
Loras Schulte:

2nd District:

Bob Anderson: Unknown
Mark Doland:
Worked for Bachmann, but political views and mindset are similar to the Paul supporters.
Marcus Fedler:
Supported Ron Paul
Jeff Shipley:
Supported Ron Paul

3rd District:

Wes Enos: Worked for Bachmann, but was nominated by State Rep. Kim Pearson, a Paul supporter, and voted for A.J. Spiker for chairman.
John Kabitzke:
Supported Ron Paul
Gopal Krishna:
Supported A.J. Spiker for chairman, Steve Scheffler’s right-hand-man.
Joel Kurtinitis:
Supported Ron Paul

4th District

Jamie Johnson: None
Tim Moran:
Chad Steenhoek:
Supported Gingrich, but political views and mindset are similar to the Paul supporters.  Also received $2000 for Liberty PAC for his 2010 legislative campaign.
Kris Thiessen:
Supported Ron Paul

Iowa Members of the Republican National Committee

Chairman A.J. Spiker: Paid operative for Ron Paul and Iowa Campaign for Liberty leader.
Kim Lehman:
Santorum supporter, but nominated A.J. Spiker for chairman.
Steve Scheffler:
Voted for Spiker for Chairman, hosting U.S. Senator Rand Paul at his organization’s annual spring event in May.

Iowa GOP SCC by the Numbers

Total voting members: 18 (19 counting the chairman)
Members whit no connection to Ron Paul: 4
Affiliations Unknown: 1
Members with some connection to Paul: 13 (14 including the chairman)


Photo by Dave Davidson –

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Paul’s Zeal For Delegates Could Cost Iowa the Caucuses

If the reports from this weekend’s county conventions are any indication, the upcoming Republican district and state conventions are going to be something else.

The Ron Paul presidential campaign and its ardent, and sometimes obnoxious, supporters appear to be serious in their quest to secure as many delegates as possible through the caucus to convention process. While the Paul campaign showed some signs of strength at the county convention, there is still no guarantees that they will end up with a majority of delegates. The delegates will not be selected until June.

Putting forth an effort to secure national delegates doesn’t violate any convention or Republican Party rules, but it is rubbing some people the wrong way. Ron Paul has yet to win a single contest in the Republican nomination fight. There is a zero percent chance that Paul will be the Republican nominee. Yet, for one reason or another, the Paul campaign seems determined to prove a point by securing delegates in Iowa.

This is problematic for Iowa Republicans for a number of reasons. First, the Iowa Caucuses already suffered a black eye following a close contest between Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney, where Romney was initially deemed the winner. Many Santorum supporters already feel as if they were robbed of a win from caucus night. If Santorum is ultimately denied delegates by the Paul campaign’s effort, the caucuses will likely endure another black eye because winning Iowa basically meant nothing.

Paul’s actions also hurt Romney, who also deserves a fair number of delegates for his second place finish. Securing the necessary 1,144 delegates needed to win the Republican nomination will be incredibly difficult for a candidate like Santorum, but Romney may need the dozen or so delegates that Iowa should provide him. It’s not inconceivable that Romney could come up a handful of delegates short of the magic 1,144 delegates. If he, or any candidate for that matter, is denied delegates that they had a claim to, Iowa’s process and standing in the nominating process will be even more heavily scrutinized.

Paul’s supporters, and other agitators who are always game for creating chaos, may want to fully consider the ramifications of their actions should they attempt to essentially render the results from the January 3rd caucuses meaningless.

1. Despite what the Paul campaign and his supporters may think, Paul will play an insignificant role at the national convention. There is no way he will be the nominee or have much influence on who is selected to be the nominee’s running mate.

2. The nomination could be secured before the Iowa Republicans head to the state convention, which means a nasty delegate fight is unnecessary and unproductive.

3. The convention process should be used as a tool to unite Republicans heading into the fall, not divide them.

4. As mentioned above, if the delegates don’t reflect the results from the caucuses, it just gives candidates and the RNC more reasons to strip Iowa’s First-in-the-Nation status.

5. Iowa may be the most organized state for the Paul campaign and the Campaign for Liberty. If U.S. Senator Rand Paul has any thoughts about running for president in the future, the Paul activists may want to avoid a nasty convention fight over delegates that are not going to lead to a Ron Paul victory anyway. Basically it might be wise to live to fight another day.

6. The Campaign for Liberty and Ron Paul supporters have not hidden their intentions to take control of the Republican Party of Iowa. What they don’t realize is that they already control it. This is the time they need to blend in, not act out, because they have acquired the control they have sought.

It’s still early in the caucus to convention process, but it maybe time for Chairman Spiker and Iowa’s Republican National Committeeman and Committee woman to talk to all the parties involved about doing what’s in the best interest for the caucuses, not a particular campaign. Failure to do so should have consequences.

Photo by Dave Davidson –


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Paul Could Surprise In Iowa

By Craig Robinson

Texas Congressman Ron Paul announced that he is forming a 2012 presidential exploratory committee in Des Moines yesterday. The expected step allows Paul to participate in a May 5th Fox News debate in South Carolina as well as to begin to act like a presidential candidate while making appearances around the country.

In addition to announcing the formation of an exploratory committee, Paul also revealed some key additions to his Iowa team. Paul’s 2008 Iowa Caucus Chairman, Drew Ivers, will once again call the shots for his eventual Iowa campaign. Joining Ivers is David Fischer and A.J. Spiker. All three of them are elected members of the Republican Party of Iowa’s State Central Committee as well as officials with the Iowa branch of the Campaign for Liberty.

Ivers brings to the campaign an exceptional understanding of the caucus process. In the 2008 race, Paul’s campaign didn’t get serious about actually turning out its supporters to the caucuses until very late in 2008. Despite the early lack of seriousness from Paul’s national campaign, Ivers was able to assemble a formidable campaign operation. The only problem was that they ran out of time.

Paul’s campaign brought a lot of new people into the process in 2008. Since Iowa is a caucus state, those new people need to be told what to do, what to expect, and even where to vote. Paul’s 2012 Iowa Caucus campaign will be much more prepared and have a longer period of time to prepare its supporters for next year’s caucuses.

Paul’s team might not be full of your typical Iowa politicos, but Ivers, Fischer, and Spiker bring some unique advantages to the campaign. First, since all three are members of the Republican Party of Iowa’s State Central Committee, they will not only have a jump on knowing the rules and regulations of the straw poll, debates, and caucus, but they will also have the ability to craft those policies.

In 2007, the central committee voted on debate criteria and what candidates were allowed to participate in the Straw Poll itself. Having three members of a campaign sit on the board of directors of the state party is a huge advantage.

Ivers, Fischer, and Spiker, each also hail from areas that are in close proximity to the Ames, the site of the straw poll. Spiker is a realtor from Ames, Fischer has been involved with Polk County politics for years, and Ivers is from north-central Iowa. It will be easy for each for each of them to encourage his own personal network to head to Ames to support their candidate.

Since Paul is currently the only candidate in the field who also ran in 2008, he also has the advantage of having pre-identified supporters from his last campaign. Paul received 1305 votes in the 2007 straw poll. He finished fifth, but the political environment has shifted in his favor, and he has become much better known in the state since then. If there is a Straw Poll dark horse, it very well could be Ron Paul.

For all of the advantages Ron Paul may have, there are also plenty of things about his campaign that may make you scratch your head. Paul’s trips to the state often include visits to college campuses. There is nothing wrong with that, and in fact, his appeal to the younger generation may be one of his strongest attributes, but college kids have traditionally not shown a great propensity to attend the caucuses.

While Paul has made lots of campus visits, it seems as if he goes out of his way to not attend major events that attract local and national media coverage. Ron Paul was in Iowa doing campaign appearances with The FAMiLY Leader on March 7th, but chose to opt out of the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition’s spring event that attracted hundreds of journalists from all across the county.

Regardless of how Paul would have gone over with the crowd that night, he would have been a winner that day simply because of the exposure he would have gotten with Iowans who might not be familiar with him. Later in March, Paul was also in Iowa just days before Congressman Steve King’s Conservative Principles Conference, another event that drew a tremendous amount of media coverage.

While shying away from large gathering of likely caucus goers is a strange campaign tactic, Paul has also held very few campaign events in communities across the states. Most serious caucus campaigns hold events in most of Iowa’s 99 counties. Paul, on the other hand, has avoided such events thus far. By not doing those types of events, he limits his ability to grow his support in Iowa.

Still, Paul is a serious contender in Iowa. Armed with some of the most motivated and committed supporters of anyone in the field, Paul may be primed to impact Iowa in a major way. With a more conventional approach to his 2012 caucus campaign, Paul is definitely one to watch.

Photo by Dave Davidson

McLaughlin Beats Deace in Polk County GOP Chair Race

By Craig Robinson

For years, the Polk County Republican Party has been either politically irrelevant or held hostage by personality conflicts amongst some of its members.  While signs of those past personal battles still rear their ugly heads from time to time, the Polk County GOP has experienced a turn around under the leadership of outgoing chairman John Bloom and his co-chairman Will Rogers.

With Bloom and Rogers not seeking re-election to another term, the Polk County GOP was faced with the serious task of finding a leadership team that can continue to move the party in a positive direction.

For the better part of a month, Kevin McLaughlin and Dave Funk had laid out their vision for the county party under their leadership should they be elected.  McLaughlin and Funk made it known that they intended to keep Darrell Kearney as the county party’s fundraiser.  Likewise, they had developed a strategy to address other areas of need, especially when it comes to organizing for the upcoming presidential caucuses.

McLaughlin and Funk were shoe-ins and likely to run unopposed, but that all changed when WHO Radio host, Steve Deace, announced his candidacy for the spot at 4 p.m. yesterday on Facebook and his daily drive-time radio show.  Deace said that he decided to run at 9 a.m. yesterday morning.

The news of Deace’s entrance to the race for Polk County GOP chairman traveled fast.  In addition to the 103 members of the central committee that showed up to vote in the election, dozens more gathered to watch the political drama unfold.  In the end, Deace came up short.  Kevin McLaughlin won the support of 66 members, while Deace only received 37 votes.

Videos of the candidate’s speeches can be seen here.  Below are some of my thoughts about what transpired last night.

Steve Deace Doesn’t Understand The Purpose of Political Parties

Back when I was a weekly guest on Steve’s radio program, Steve and I could always find areas of agreement, but differed on the tactics that should be used to advance an agenda.  I think it’s safe to say that he was frustrated with how I often viewed party politics.  While he sees political parties by the issues and philosophies that they espouse, I view the party as an apparatus, a necessary piece of machinery that, when working correctly, helps all candidates who run for office under the Republican brand.

I’m not suggesting that the principles of the party are not important.  They are.  In fact, they were important enough to me that in 2004 I chaired my county, district, and state platform committees.  I think there are a lot of Republicans who want to focus on issues and advance the ideals of our party, and that’s a good and necessary thing.  However, that’s not necessarily the primary focus of those in county party leadership.  While some county chairs get more involved in issue advocacy, I don’t know if most party activists want the type of issue focus that Deace would have provided.  For instance, over the past week he has basically incited a civil war within the pro-life movement in Iowa.  The debate is worth having, but does infighting benefit or help the Polk County GOP meet its goals?  Probably not.

To be honest, I don’t really think that last night’s vote was really about McLaughlin or Deace as individuals.  Instead, I think the vote was more about a desire for the Polk County GOP to continue down its current successful course.  The mission statement of the county party reads, “Rally, Recruit, Register, Retain and Elect Republicans.”  Deace’s message last night barley touched on those ideals.

The Platform Is Not The Constitution

As mentioned above, I think the platform is a vital part of a county and state party.  For as long as I can remember, some people have viewed the party platform with similar reverence as they do the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution.  It is important to remember that there is a big difference between the platform and these other documents.

Every two years the platform is scraped and rewritten from scratch.  From election cycle to election cycle, the party platform can change dramatically.  For example, the current Republican Party of Iowa platform might have been heavily influenced by the Campaign for Liberty, whereas the 2012 platform may be influenced by another group of voters.

To further try and make that point, the tragic attacks on September 11, 2001 greatly influenced national policy and party platforms in the years that followed.  While the Declaration and our Constitution remain with their original texts, unfortunately, party platforms can change as quickly as the latest hairstyles.

On his radio program, Steve often refers to the state platform, but what about the Polk County Platform?  Isn’t that the document that the Polk County GOP chairman should be concerned about since it’s the statement of belief of its members?

The Polk County GOP platform contains a plank that supports a ban on late term abortions.  Deace is on record of opposing current House File 5, a bill that bans abortions after 20 weeks.  His position on abortion is crystal clear.  He doesn’t support legislative restrictions on abortion.  He thinks only a total ban on abortion with worthwhile.  If he had been elected, one has to wonder if he would have supported his county party platform even though he opposes one of its planks?

The platform also changes after the primary in an election year.  Adherence to the platform is great, but come July of 2012, there is going to be an entirely new platform to which we should adhere.  Steve seems to want to use the platform as a governing document, but that simply is not possible because of when and how often it changes.

Kevin McLaughlin Should Read The Party Platform

In his remarks last night, Kevin McLaughlin noted that he had not read the platform.  I’ve known Kevin for a long time, he’s a solid conservative, but if you want to lead the party you should know what it stands for.  It’s that simple.

Steve Deace: Platform Enforcer

It was obvious that Steve Deace really didn’t want to deal with the mundane work of being the chairman of the party.  County chairs spend a lot of time recruiting volunteers, finding caucus locations, and getting people to register to vote.  You get the picture.  I think what Steve really wanted to be is the platform enforcer.  It’s close to what he does on his radio show, and obviously it’s what he is the most passionate about.

Steve Deace Has A “YOU” Problem

After Kevin McLaughlin admitted that he had not read the platform, I thought Steve Deace was a lock to be the Polk County GOP chairman.  I thought Steve’s speech was good, but the question and answer portion did him in.  I think the turning point in the election occurred at this moment.

If you notice, Deace didn’t use the word “we” when talking about the Polk County GOP, he used the word “you.”  It might not seem like a big deal, but words matter, and at that point, I got the sense that the voters in the room didn’t believe that he was one of them.

That clip was also deadly to Deace’s chances because a lot of the things he spouted off about have improved under the leadership of Bloom and Rogers.  For example, Republican County Supervisors E. J. Giovannetti and Bob Brownell have held their positions for a decade or longer.  I don’t know what point he was trying to make when he talked about the supervisor’s races.  Steve also seems to have forgotten that Halley Griess defeated a 20-year incumbent in Tom Vlassis in 2009. His rant about not winning anything until they started adhering to the platform wasn’t well thought out and made him look uneducated about local politics.

Don’t Insulate Yourself Inside The Bubble

Every candidate needs wise counsel.  It doesn’t matter if you are running to be the chairman of the Polk County GOP or governor of the state of Iowa.  Every candidate has someone they listen to, but successful candidates and campaigns have someone who is willing to play the devil’s advocate, or willing to disagree with the candidate or other advisors when the situation warrants.

Having now observed three Vander Plaats campaigns for governor, it’s obvious that he either lacks, or doesn’t listen to, a person who supports his candidacy, but differs with him on the tactics his campaign is employing.  The same appears true of Deace.  Deace and Vander Plaats operate in a bubble, surrounded by well-intentioned people who would follow them over a cliff, all the while, never daring to question the wisdom of their leaders’ decision to jump off the cliff.  That’s great for one’s confidence, but bad for trying to develop a winning campaign.

Other Winners and Losers

The winners are always easy to figure out.  Obviously Kevin McLaughlin was a big winner last night.  While Deace’s campaign only lasted a day, don’t fool yourself, it was well thought out.  I think those who wanted to see the Polk County GOP continue its current direction are also winners.

Even though this was a small campaign, this election had two significant losers.

Secretary of State Matt Schultz

I appreciate Matt Schultz’ zeal, but his decision to give an endorsement in a county party election just goes to show that our young Secretary of State is still a bit green behind his ears.  Schultz didn’t make the list because he backed Deace, who didn’t win.  He made the list because it’s foolish to weigh in on intraparty contests like this.  That is especially the case when it comes to local, county level politics.

I don’t know what Schultz thought he was going to gain by wading into these waters, especially when he’s not even a resident of Polk County.  Just look at the last primary. Dave Vaudt endorsed Branstad, which was the first time he had endorsed any primary candidate, but Bill Northey, Congressman Latham, and Congressman King felt no need to wade into the turbulent primary waters.

Iowa Tea Party Leader Ryan Rhodes

I would have been surprised had Rhodes not backed Steve Deace in his bid to be Polk County GOP chair. The two are friends, and when a friend asks for an endorsement, you gladly give it.  The reason Rhodes is on the list is because the clout he has received from the media isn’t backed up by the results of the campaigns and projects with which he has been associated.

Rhodes has been quoted in the media as saying that the tea party movement in Iowa has 10,000 to 30,000 members.  Tom Beaumont of the Des Moines Register said that half of the members of the Polk County GOP central committee are Tea Party activists.  If that’s the case, then Deace should have easily won last night with the help of Rhodes.

In just the last year, Rhodes has been part of Dave Funk’s failed congressional primary and county supervisor campaigns.  He also organized a tea party rally in Council Bluffs a few weeks ago where he had hoped for 200 attendees, but only 35 people showed up.  At some point, Rhodes needs show that he can actually mobilize voters, not just get mentioned by the media.

Photo by Dave Davidson

SCC Members Jeopardize RPI’s Credibility By Involving Themselves In SD 35 Race

The nominating convention that will be held this Thursday night to determine the candidate who run to fill the State Senate seat being vacated by Larry Nobel, will not only likely determine who the next State Senator from Ankeny will be, it will also provide a clue as to how members of the Republican State Central Committee may impact the 2012 caucus process.

Officials with the Republican Party of Iowa will conduct the nomination process for the vacancy in Senate District 35.  Unlike a regular primary where the Secretary of State counts the votes, the party assumes the official role in selecting its nominee in this instance.

Recently, eyebrows were raised over the involvement of a handful of State Central Committee members supporting the candidacy of one particular candidate, Matt DeVries.  The four State Central Committee members who are supporting DeVries are also associated with the Campaign for Liberty.

If the Republican Party were not in charge of conducting this election, there wouldn’t be a reason to be concerned about a group of committee members being involved in a primary campaign.  However, since they do control the entire nominating process, the staff and the State Central Committee of the party must take the extra steps necessary to make sure that the party is seen as fair and impartial.

Overseeing the nomination process in a state legislative race is one thing, but overseeing and insuring the validity of the caucus vote takes things to another level.    Having served as the Republican Party of Iowa’s Political Director in 2007, I can’t reiterate enough how important it is for the Republican Party of Iowa to take its roll as a the conductor of the election very seriously.

In 2007, I received criticism because my wife put a Huckabee sign in our front yard.  The incident landed a picture of our home in the Politico and New York Times.  I remained neutral in the caucuses and didn’t even cast a vote because I was in the tabulation center overseeing the votes that came in from every precinct around the state. The Politico story was an unnecessary distraction, especially considering that I went out of my way to treat all candidates fairly. In the current situation, you have party officials (not their family members) openly campaigning for one particular candidate.  It’s no wonder this situation has raised concerns.

During that last caucus season, perhaps no candidate’s supporters were more vocal about their candidate getting the raw end of the deal than Ron Paul’s.  It began when Paul was excluded from a candidate forum put on by Iowans for Tax Relief and the Iowa Christian Alliance in the spring of 2007.  It continued when Paul was excluded from some of the early presidential debates. Even though the Republican Party never excluded Paul from any of its events, his supporters never had faith in the party or the process.

It’s interesting to note that the four State Central Committee members who are supporting DeVries are also associated with the Campaign for Liberty – and thus Ron Paul – It’s more than a little ironic that these four are willing to conduct themselves in a manner that, just a few years ago, they were up in arms about.

I took a lot of heat while working for the Republican Party of Iowa in 2007.  I always made sure that I had a good line of communication with every campaign, even those who suspected that I personally preferred one of their opponents.  Regardless of what others might have thought, the only entity that I looked out for was the Republican Party of Iowa itself.    Every decision that was made was always based on what was in the best interest of party, never a particular candidate.

Fortunately, the party is in good hands for the upcoming caucus cycle.  Throughout the 2010 elections, Chairman Matt Straw conducted himself in a very professional manner.  There were more contested primaries in 2010 than any other year in recent memory, yet there were very few complaints about how Strawn and the party staff conducted themselves.

Strawn has also hired Chad Olsen to serve as his Executive Director.  Olsen is as squeaky clean as you can get.  Not only does he bring a wealth of caucus experience to his position, but he is as honest and fair as anybody you could ever find.  It’s imperative that the party staff remains impartial, but it’s equally important that the members of the State Central Committee don’t undermine the party by their own individual actions.

Anyone who serves on the State Central Committee, is employed by or serves as chairman or co-chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa, does so by their own choosing.  Their decision to hold an official position with the party means that they are willing to advance the party itself, not a particular candidate.  If that’s not the case, then they shouldn’t be on the committee.

In order to maintain our First-in-the Nation status, the party must first and foremost prove to all candidates that it is capable of being fair and impartial.  Seeing a sizable percentage of the State Central Committee get involved in an election in a district in which none of them reside is unnecessary and unwise.  Their candidate should be able to win on his/her own merits, not because he has the support of certain party officials.

It seems to me that a handful of Ron Paul’s supporters are now guilty of the very thing so many of his supporters rallied against not long ago.  What a difference a few years makes.

Five Vie for Republican Nomination in Senate District 35

Larry Noble was elected to the Iowa Senate in 2006.  He won that race by 1274 votes.  In doing so, he became the lone member of the Republican freshman class in the Senate that year.  Iowa Democrats didn’t challenge Noble in his 2010 re-election campaign, even if they had it is likely that Noble would have been easily elected.

Earlier this month, Governor-Elect Terry Branstad selected Noble to be the commissioner the Department of Public Safety.    Noble is well qualified for his new position, but in selecting Noble, Branstad also created a vacancy in the State Senate, necessitating a special election in Senate District 35.

Nobel’s 2010 campaign was a sleepy one, but the campaign to be his replacement looks like it’s going to be a barnburner.  Currently there are five individuals actively seeking the Republican nomination.  The slate of candidates is as diverse as it is large.

Here is a snap shot of the candidates.

Jim Gocke
Attorney at Block, Lamberti, Gocke & Ahlman, P.C. in Ankeny
Home: Bondurant
Age: 56

Note: One of Gocke’s law partners is Jeff Lamberti.  Lamberti held the Senate Seat until he ran for Congress in 2006.

Matt DeVries
Electrical Engineer
Home: Ankeny
Age: 32

Note: DeVries is an active member of the Campaign for Liberty. has been told that the four Campaign for Liberty members who serve on the Republican Party State Central Committee are actively supporting DeVries.

Kevin Koester:

Director of Community Education for Ankeny Community Schools
Current State Representative
Home: Ankeny
Age: 56

Note:  If Koester is the Republican nominee and wins election to the State Senate, a special election would be needed to fill his seat in the Iowa House.

Kent Kramer

Financial Planner at the Foster Group
Former State Representative
Home: Johnston
Age: 48

Note: Kramer served one term in the Iowa House from 2002 to 2004.  He represented House District 69, which is currently being represented by Erik Helland.  Kramer is also the son of Mary Kramer, the former President of the Iowa Senate and U.S. Ambassador to Barbados.

Jack Whitver

Business Owner, Acceleration Iowa
Second Year Drake Law Student
Iowa Barnstormers Assistant Coach
Home: Ankeny
Age: 30

Note: Whitver and his wife just had their first child last week.

The special nominating committee will convene on December 30th.  The special election will be held on January 18th.  Just 42 Republican delegates will decide the nominee.  With such a small group of electors, it is impossible to handicap the race.


The likely Democrat nominee is Matt Pfaltzgraf, who Koester beat in his 2008 State House campaign

Vander Plaats to be Nominated for Lieutenant Governor at State Convention? has learned that it is becoming more and more likely that Bob Vander Plaats’ name will be placed in nomination for Lieutenant Governor at the Republican State Convention this Saturday.

The effort is being spearheaded by a group of Vander Plaats supporters who are upset that Terry Branstad won the Republican nomination on June 8th.  Branstad won 50% of the vote, while Vander Plaats garnered 41%.

Yesterday, supporters of a Vander Plaats nomination at the convention held a prayer meeting to consider the move.  The meeting was conducted over the phone early last night.  For Vander Plaats to be nominated at convention, it is likely that his supporters would have to build a coalition with the Campaign for Liberty organizers, who claim to have elected 200 delegates to the convention.

If Vander Plaats is nominated, he would then have to accept the nomination.  Vander Plaats has been laying low since the primary.  Whether or not he accepts the nomination, the move would badly damage Branstad as he enters into the general election campaign

If the delegates do nominate Vander Plaats, it will be an embarrassment to the Republican gubernatorial nominee, Terry Branstad.  Instead of the convention serving as a spring board for the his campaign into the general election, it could turn into some sort of reality television program that could squander the Republicans’ opportunity to gain seats in this fall’s election.

The one thing that Branstad could do to prevent an embarrassing convention is nominate a solid pro-life, pro-family running mate that isn’t afraid to talk about those issues.  Branstad is expected to name his pick for Lieutenant Governor at any moment.

Photo by Dave Davidson

Campaign for Liberty Invades Iowa, Keeps an Eye on Kentucky Primary

Nearly 800 people attended the Campaign for Liberty’s opening festivities on Friday night in Des Moines. Campaign for Liberty president John Tate, WHO Radio personality Jan Mickelson, and Congressman Ron Paul were the featured speakers.

Congressman Paul’s plane was delayed, so Tom Woods, a New York Times bestselling author of nine books, was also inserted into the line-up on Friday night. Woods, who was scheduled to address the conference on Saturday, spoke to crowd until Congressman Paul showed up.

The event was emceed by David Fischer of Des Moines and also featured Drew Ivers, the state director of the Campaign for Liberty in Iowa. A.J. Spiker, the Story County Republican chairman, introduced Congressman Paul. Fischer, Ivers, and Spiker were all recently elected to the Republican Party of Iowa’s State Central Committee.

Organizers claim that the Campaign for Liberty now has over 300,000 members across the nation. At the conference on Friday night, Campaign for Liberty made a big deal out of the election of four Campaign for Liberty members to the Republican State Central Committee.

Drew Ivers also noted that 200 Campaign for Liberty members were elected as delegates to the Republican state convention. Two hundred delegates would account for almost ten percent of the Republican state delegates, an impressive feat for a new organization. This is also an indication of how much better organized a second Ron Paul presidential campaign in Iowa would be.

In previous years, it has been the Iowa Christian Alliance who had organized for the caucus to convention process in Iowa. While there is no reason for any group of Republicans to feel threatened by people like Ivers and Fischer, who both have been involved in Republican politics for years, that might not be the case in 2012.

The only thing up for grabs at the 2010 convention is the party platform. However, in two years, people will want to be delegates to the national convention and there will also be an election for both of Iowa seats on the National Committee. If the Campaign for Liberty continues to organize at the grassroots level, they could very easily control who gets to be a delegate to the national convention in 2012, which would pit them against the Iowa Christian Alliance.

A number of Republican candidates were in attendance. Third District congressional candidate Brad Zaun worked the crowd in the lobby before the event. One of his primary opponents, Scott Batcher, was also in attendance. First District Congressional Candidate Will Johnson was also present and was recognized from the podium as a Campaign for Liberty candidate. Bob Vander Plaats was one of the sponsors of the event, and Dave Funk had an impressive booth in the lobby.

The event was full of the energy that we have come to expect from a Ron Paul gathering. What’s interesting about these events is that the excitement comes from the crowd, not necessarily from the person behind the podium. In his speech, Congressman Paul warned that, for the Campaign for Liberty movement to be successful, candidates can’t go out there and say that the preschool programs should be eliminated. Instead, Paul said that they should advocate cutting spending overseas. Paul said, “Not only would it save billions of dollars, but if we changed our foreign policy, we will be safe.”

Paul also said that he opposed rounding up the 12 million people who are in our country illegally. Paul said, “Heck, some of them have lived here for over twenty years, and can’t even speak Spanish.”

The other key issue for Paul and the Campaign for Liberty is the promotion of an audit of the Federal Reserve. Last week, Senator David Vitter (R) of Louisiana, filed an amendment to the financial reform package. The amendment was essentially identical to House Resolution 1207, Congressman Paul’s bill in the House calling for an audit of the Federal Reserve. Only 37 senators supported the amendment, one being Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa. Senator Harkin voted against it.

Obviously, some members of Campaign for Liberty were disappointed that it didn’t pass, but John Tate, Campaign for Liberty’s president, reminded the people in Des Moines on Friday night, “A few years ago nobody knew what they fed was, and now 78% of the people want it audited.”

The vote on the Vitter amendment has spilled over into the hotly contested U.S. Senate primary in Kentucky, and was on Tate’s mind Friday night. Rand Paul, one of Congressman Paul’s children, is seeking the Republican nomination in Kentucky against Trey Grayson, the current Secretary of State. The Republican leader in the U.S. Senate, Mitch McConnell, who is from Kentucky, has publically endorsed Grayson and voted against the Vitter amendment.

The interesting Iowa angle on this story is that the Iowa based American Future Fund (AFF), is very active in the Kentucky primary. Friday night, Tate told the crowd that AFF has been running “hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of ads across the state against Rand Paul.” was told that AFF will spend $750,000 in the Kentucky race, $300,000 of it on TV airing ads like this one.

AFF doesn’t believe that Rand Paul is a conservative. AFF points to his refusal to say how he would vote on a federal partial birth abortion ban. They also note that he supports the use of the morning after pill. AFF also believes he is weak on national security issues, noting that Rand Paul opposes the use of coal to create domestic energy, making us more dependent on foreign energy sources. Rand Paul also has stated that he doesn’t think that a nuclear-armed Iran is a threat to America’s national security. AFF has also launched the website

Rand Paul isn’t the only Republican that is in AFF’s crosshairs. They are also targeting Tom Campbell, who is running for the U.S. Senate in California.

We’ll know more about the strength of the Campaign for Liberty Tuesday night when the election results for Rand Paul start coming in. Rand Paul is expected to win the nomination, but if his supporters can come through with a sizable victory despite some serious attacks against his conservative credentials, the Campaign for Liberty will have proven it is a force to be reckoned with.

Photo by Dave Davidson