New regents executives made contributions to Branstad

BY ADAM B SULLIVAN | JULY 13, 2011 7:20 AM

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The two newest State Board of Regents executives both have strong political ties to Gov. Terry Branstad, but Iowa politicos say such connections are the norm.

Regents David Miles and Jack Evans resigned from their leadership positions this week at Branstad’s request. On Tuesday, the regents elected Craig Lang and Bruce Rastetter — both contributors to Branstad’s 2010 campaign — to take over as president and president pro tem on the board.

Lang and his wife donated $500 to the Branstad campaign last July. However, that sum is tiny compared to the tens of thousands donated by the political arm of the Iowa Farm Bureau, where Lang is president.

Last fall, the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation Political Action Committee made two separate contributions to the Branstad campaign, totaling $40,000, in addition to a $1,700 in-kind donation.

That makes Branstad easily the biggest recipient of Farm Bureau PAC support in the fall of 2010.

A spokesman for the governor said Branstad’s support for Lang didn’t stem from political contributions, pointing out Lang was originally appointed to the board by Gov. Chet Culver, a Democrat.

“These are respected individuals, and they will bring strong leadership to the Board of Regents at a critical time when there are budget constraints, a search for an ISU president, and we’re making sure our graduates are ready for the emerging 21st-century global economy,” Branstad spokesman Tim Albrecht told The Daily Iowan on Tuesday.

Rastetter contributed even more to Branstad’s 2010 bid. Records show he made four contributions to the campaign totaling $100,000, as well as numerous in-kind contributions worth more than $10,000.

Both Rastetter and Branstad fielded questions about those contributions after Branstad appointed Rastetter to the board earlier this year.

“I didn’t support Gov. Branstad to be a regent,” Rastetter told The Daily Iowan in April. “I supported him personally and raised money for him because I believed he would make a positive difference in Iowa.”

Others, too, shrugged off Branstad’s links to the new regent heads, saying political contributors frequently find their way to leadership positions in state government.

“It is certainly, I think, as much the rule as the exception that board members have made political contributions and in some cases substantial,” said Regent Robert Downer. “I don’t think it has been a problem before, and I don’t think it’s going to be a problem now.”

Even state Sen. Bob Dvorksy, D-Coralville, who said Branstad played “petty politics” when he urged Miles and Evans to resign, didn’t take issue with Lang and Rastetter’s appointments Tuesday.

“Some of the other regents who were Democrats were contributors to Culver … As sort of tradition there have been a lot of people who were influential people,” Dvorsky said.

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