IA-Sen: Roxanne Conlin releases fundraising numbers

Roxanne Conlin's campaign for U.S. Senate released partial fundraising numbers today, and they are impressive:

Total cash raised (Nov. 2 - Dec. 31): $603,575.44

Cash on hand: $502,832.84

Total individual donors: 1,649 (1,395 Iowans/85% Iowans)

Online supporters signed up: Over 31,000

Donations $100 and under: 1,332

Donations $250 and under: 1,433

All of Conlin's campaign contributions came from individual supporters, because she has pledged not to accept contributions from federal lobbyists or PACs. (I wouldn't have advised her to take that stance, because there are PACs and lobbyists fighting for good things as well as those working against the public interest.) In any event, she has shown that she can raise enough money to staff and run a statewide campaign. Conlin is about a third of the way through a 99-county tour she began earlier this month.

I haven't seen year-end fundraising numbers from Senator Chuck Grassley yet. At the end of the third quarter of 2009, he had more than $4.4 million cash on hand, so clearly he will still be way ahead in the money race. During the third quarter, when Grassley played a high-profile role in health care reform negotiations, he raised $864,622 total, of which $364,295 came from political action committees.

In other words, Conlin raised more from individual donors in two months than Grassley raised from individuals during the third quarter. That's a strong pace, and it suggests a lot of Iowans are motivated to take the fight to Grassley. Conlin has already raised nearly five times as much as Democrat Art Small spent during his entire 2004 campaign against Iowa's senior senator.

I don't have new fundraising numbers from the other Democrats running against Grassley. Bob Krause raised $7,430 during the third quarter, ending with $3,493 on hand. Tom Fiegen raised $3,781 during the third quarter, ending with $519 on hand. I like many of the statements I've heard from Krause and Fiegen, but they have yet to show that they will be able to run a statewide campaign, and therefore appear to be extreme underdogs leading up to the Democratic primary in June. Neither Krause nor Fiegen seems likely to drop out of this race, however. On the contrary, Fiegen called on Conlin to quit the race last month, saying Republican attacks on her would divert attention from Grassley and the "needs of working families." Yesterday Krause criticized one of Conlin's tax credit proposals.

Grassley will be very tough to beat. His approval rating has fallen but is still above 50 percent, and he has set a goal of raising $9 million for this race. Even if Democrats don't manage to defeat Grassley, giving him a spirited challenge is well worth the effort. Driving up turnout among Democrats whom Grassley has alienated can only help our candidates down-ticket.

Weekly Mulch: EPA, Clean Air Act Facing Opposition

By Sarah Laskow, Media Consortium Blogger

Climate change legislation is off the table for now, but the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is still working to regulate greenhouse gasses. The organization is up against strong opposition from Republicans and some Democrats. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) is heading the charge, with the assistance of Bush-era EPA officials, now lobbyists with clients in the energy industry.

The EPA and the Clean Air Act

In April 2009, the EPA found that carbon dioxide and five other greenhouse gasses pose a hazard to public health. This finding obligated the EPA to regulate these pollutants under the Clean Air Act, a responsibility the Bush administration fought to avoid. The power the agency now has to limit carbon emissions extends far beyond its usual scope, and the EPA’s decisions will have a lasting impact on environmental regulation in this country. As the agency moves to act, everyone from Sen. Murkowski to the state of California is protesting the changes. Kate Sheppard of Mother Jones reports:

“The California Energy Commission last month sent a letter to the EPA asking it to slow down on implementation of regulations on greenhouse gas emissions….The CEC argues that phasing them in too fast could hurt efforts in the state to expand use of low-carbon energy.”

Opponents in Congress are taking action to shut down the EPA’s attempts to curb greenhouse gasses, Sheppard writes. Both Sen. Murkowski and Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D-ND) have filed bills that would delay or stop the EPA’s regulatory process.

Attempting to ‘gut the Clean Air Act’

Grist’s Miles Grant is also keeping a close watch on opponents of the regulation.

“At first it seemed like simply one bad idea from Sen. Lisa Murkowski,” he writes. “But now we know the real story—a tangled web of public officials, polluter lobbyists, and efforts to gut the Clean Air Act.”

It emerged this week that Murkowski had help in drafting her bill from EPA administrators from the Bush administration, as first reported by the Washington Post. These former officials now work in Washington as lobbyists and represent clients like Duke Energy and the Alliance of Food Associations on climate change matters.

“Every day it seems we’re learning more,” says Miles. “More about the revolving door between the Bush administration and polluter lobbyists; more about their influence with senators and their staffers; and more about who’s really pulling the strings on efforts to block climate action—Big Oil’s MVP, Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK).”

Even the American Farm Bureau Federation…

Another opponent, as Care2 notes, is the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), the country’s largest farm group. The organization approved a special resolution during its four-day convention on Sunday. The resolution supports legislation like Murkowski’s or Pomeroy’s that would “suspend the EPA’s authority to regulator greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.”

During a speech, AFBF president Bob Stallman said that American farmers and ranchers “must aggressively respond to extremists” and “misguided, activist-driven regulation.”

“The days of their elitist power grabs are over,” he said.

More opportunities to improve climate policy

The EPA’s new power is not the only opportunity that the Obama administration has to improve U.S. climate policy. David Roberts, also reporting for Grist, writes about $2.3 billion in new tax credits for clean energy manufacturing companies, announced last Friday.

“There were 183 projects selected out of some 500 applications; one-third were from small businesses; around 30% are expected to be completed this year. The winners are spread across 43 states,” Roberts reports.

Roberts calls it “better than usual industrial policy.” The credits are meant to give a boost to the new green energy economy.

But Roberts warns, “It’s also absurd that clean energy industries still depend on capricious, short-term extensions of tax credits. … Obama has called on Congress to cough up $5 billion a year for these credits, but how enduring will yearly appropriations be the next time Congress changes hands?”

Iowa and the biodiesel tax credit

The answer likely depends on how much support these projects get from the representatives of states that will benefit from the tax credits. In Iowa, for instance, the state’s three Democratic Representatives have asked the House leadership to prioritized a 2010 renewal of the biodiesel tax credit, as Lynda Waddington reports for the Iowa Independent.

“If members of the U.S. Senate do not act on last year’s program extension, however, it might be a moot point,” Waddington writes. The renewal has gotten stalled in the Senate, where both Iowa Senators are blaming the opposite party for delays.

From policy to people

When politicians jockey over regulations and renewals, climate change work in Washington can seem very abstract. But people like John Henrikson, a forester who’s committed to farming 150 acres of trees in sustainable ways, help ground lofty policy ideas down in reality.

“Henrikson’s approach embodies a new way of thinking about our relationship with forests. For years he has been processing his own trees into trim and molding, sold through a broad network of local businesses,” reports Ian Hanna for Yes! Magazine. “Five years ago he got his forest certified to Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) standards, a global system for eco-labeling sustainably managed forests and the products derived from them. And, most recently, he’s developed a project to sell rights to the carbon sequestered on his property.”

Without strong policy coming out Washington, it’s harder for entrepreneurs like Henrikson to make green business a reality. If legislators like Sen. Murkowski and groups like the AFBF don’t block them, the EPA’s new rules are going to begin coming out in March. There’s a major action to combat global warming that the U.S. can take before then, though—for example, we could officially commit to our promise to reduce emissions 17% from 2005 levels by 2020. The deadline for registering climate pledges under the new Copenhagen Accord is the end of this month.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the environment by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Mulch for a complete list of articles on environmental issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Pulse, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

IA-Gov: Could Vander Plaats pull off an upset?

I've been assuming for the past few months that there's no way Bob Vander Plaats can defeat Terry Branstad in this year's Republican gubernatorial primary. Branstad's statewide connections from his four terms as governor and his support from major donors should give him an insurmountable edge, especially in the eastern Iowa counties. While Vander Plaats would have a great shot at winning a caucus or a statewide convention, I didn't see any way he could keep Branstad below 50 percent in the primary, especially with Branstad likely to raise far more money.

I've started to rethink my assumptions as conservative Republicans have spoken out against Branstad. Everyone knew the Iowa Family Policy Center's political action committee would endorse Vander Plaats at some point, but their statement yesterday went far beyond expressing a preference for Vander Plaats. The IFPC made clear that they will not support Branstad in the general election if he wins the GOP nomination.

Follow me after the jump for more on the IFPC's endorsement and how Vander Plaats could win the primary.

There's more...

Broad coalition stands up for marriage equality in Iowa

The Iowa Legislature begins its 2010 session this week, and about 200 people attended One Iowa's Equality Red Blue Purple event on Sunday in Des Moines. A coalition of more than two dozen statewide organizations, including major labor unions, oppose a constitutional amendment to rescind same-sex marriage rights in Iowa. Republicans as well as Democrats have signed on as co-chairs of Equality Red Blue Purple, and dozens of local organizations have joined the coalition too. The full list of co-chairs and coalition members can be viewed here.

On Tuesday, supporters of marriage equality plan to deliver "over 15,000 postcard petitions to legislators in every district in the state," according to One Iowa's Justin Uebelhor. Opponents of same-sex marriage plan a large rally at the state capitol on Tuesday as well.

This week One Iowa's television ad, "This Place," will run in the Des Moines market. The ad was created soon after the Iowa Supreme Court's ruling last April. It depicts marriage equality as consistent with Iowa traditions of fairness and protecting our freedoms under the state constitution.

Click here to donate to keep this ad on the air for an extra week.

Democratic legislative leaders have vowed not to allow floor votes on a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage during the 2010 legislative session. However, Republicans will try various procedural tricks to force a vote on the issue. I expect Democratic lawmakers to stand firm against a marriage amendment, and I hope that they won't cop out when confronted by constituents who want to ban gay marriage.

On a related note, a lawsuit against California's Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriages, goes forward this week in federal court. The lead attorneys are David Boies and Ted Olson, who were on opposite sides during the Bush v Gore case that decided the 2000 presidential election. Writing in Newsweek, Olson laid out "The Conservative Case for Gay Marriage," which is worth a read.

However, not all advocates of marriage equality support the strategy of appealing Prop 8 in federal court. At Daily Kos, SoCalLiberal laid out the argument against pursuing this lawsuit, favoring an effort to repeal Prop 8 at the ballot box in 2012.

IA-Gov: Culver hires new campaign manager, Branstad faces "showdown"

Governor Chet Culver's re-election campaign announced yesterday that Abby Curran has been hired as campaign manager. She replaces Andrew Roos, who departed in November.

Curran first worked in Iowa in 2003 and 2004, as a field organizer for Dick Gephardt in the Dubuque area. In 2006, she managed Baron Hill's successful campaign in Indiana's Republican-leaning ninth Congressional district. In 2007, she was deputy field director for John Edwards' Iowa caucus campaign. In 2008, she managed the campaign of Linda Stender, who fell short in New Jersey's Republican-leaning seventh Congressional district.

Jesse Harris remains deputy manager for the Culver-Judge campaign, and the Des Moines Register reported some other encouraging news: "Culver retains as his general campaign consultant Teresa Vilmain, a Cedar Falls native and veteran Democratic organizer whose Iowa experience dates back 30 years."

Meanwhile, the Iowa Democratic Party launched a new web video yesterday on the coming "showdown" of Terry vs. Terry:



Former Governor Branstad's record doesn't square with his campaign rhetoric in many respects. So far he has either glossed over the discrepancies or claimed to have learned from his mistakes. Republican primary voters may accept that explanation, but Branstad's accountability problem is sure to be an issue this fall if he wins the GOP nomination. Earlier this week, a Republican state representative and supporter of Bob Vander Plaats for governor vowed never to vote for Branstad under any circumstances.

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