If you turned on your TV in Iowa recently, you’d think we’re back in campaign season. Priorities for Iowa is running many TV ads in support of Republicans’ union-busting, anti-collective bargaining bill. The group’s other operations have been funded by giant corporate sponsors from outside the state.
Why have giant corporate hedge funds, coal companies, real estate moguls, bankers, pharmaceutical companies, agricultural conglomerates and the World Wrestling Association spent over $1 million to influence Iowans? Many of these donors are multi-billionaires that give to Republican candidates and support the ALEC agenda. What do these corporate giants expect to get for their investment? The vote Republicans delivered to them yesterday in the Iowa Legislature.
During the debate over the collective bargaining bill, Senator Liz Mathis called out the Priorities for Iowa donors. She read each of their names and the amounts they contributed [Update: These contributions were for the Priorities for Iowa’s PAC, while the TV ads are paid for by the separate, nonpartisan Priorities for Iowa 501c4.]
“To me that’s a problem, there’s a lot of money coming in from outside Iowa to this group that is trying to sway public opinion and twisting it, twisting it, and for us to allow that, it’s wrong, it’s wrong!” Mathis said.
Below are some of the amounts of out-of-state donations to Priorities for Iowa that Senator Mathis read on the Senate floor. It includes the donated amounts, their name, net worth and their business associations.
- $50,000 in 2016 from Ken Griffin, Chicago, net worth $7.7 billion, hedge fund manager
- $50,000 in 2016 from Robert Mercer, New York, multi-billionaire, computer business (He gave $8 million to Republicans in 2014, including the Ernst campaign.)
- $50,000 in 2016 from the Moutaire Corporation, Arkansas, unknown net worth, giant agricultural conglomerate
- $250,000 in 2014 from Joseph Craft, Oklahoma, net worth $1.4 billion, head of the third largest coal company
- $250,000 in 2014 from Paul Singer, New York, net worth $2.6 Billion, hedge funds
- $200,000 in 2014 from Julian Robertson, New York, net worth $3.4 Billion, Tiger management hedge funds
- $150,000 in 2014 from Ken Griffin, Chicago, net worth $7.7 billion, hedge fund manager
- $100,000 in 2014 from Marcus Hiles, Texas, net worth multi-billionaire, real estate mogul
- $100,000 in 2014 from Linda McMahon, Connecticut, unknown net worth, World Wrestling Federation
- $100,000 from William Oberndorf in 2014, California, multi-billionaire, hedge funds, major funder of privatization of education through ALEC
- $70,000 in 2014 from Financial Education and Advocacy Initiative Inc., Maryland, funded by the American Bankers Association, budget unknown as they’re not required to divulge their donors
- $25,000 in 2014 from the Property Casualty Insurance Association of America, Chicago, which contributed over $1 million to various political groups in 2016
- $25,000 in 2014 from Richard Roberts, New Jersey, net worth unknown, Mutual Pharmaceutical executive
The Priorities for Iowa TV ads promoted the destruction of the Iowa’s current collective bargaining law by claiming, “It would make it easier to keep good teachers and remove the occasional bad ones.” A portion of the ad said, “It’s time to return control to local school boards and parents so they can reward excellent educators.”
This legislation did the exact opposite by limiting what local governments could bargain with their employees about. The resulting lower wages and fewer benefits will drive Iowa’s best teachers out of the state, not keep them here. Democratic legislators challenged the Republican talking points repeatedly, but it was clear the Republicans had made up their minds to side with their corporate donors.
It’s obvious after the Iowa Republicans voted for the destruction of the 43-year-old collective bargaining law, these corporate titans got exactly what they paid to obtain. These corporate masters demanded Iowa Republican legislators vote for their anti-labor agenda and the Republicans delivered on their part of the bargain. Republicans ignored teachers, law enforcement officers, firefighters and all the 180,000 public sector employees that pleaded with them to slow down and listen. The Republican-controlled legislature chose instead to vote with the Priorities for Iowa donors that demanded compliance.
Democrats in the House and Senate fought a valiant fight. The unions and public eagerly came to the Capitol, made phone calls and challenged Republican legislators. It’s essential we maintain this energy and enthusiasm into the 2018 elections so we can reverse this horrific mistake.
by Rick Smith