You’ve had one hell of a summer.

Whether you were fighting factory farms, winning back stolen wages, or attending a meeting with the head of the EPA – you’ve been busy. It’s time to celebrate your summer successes, and kick off autumn. Check out a few highlights in photos:

Together, we’ve accomplished a lot:

  • Talked to hundreds of everyday Iowans about clean water, and garnered over 3,500 signatures in support of clean water.
  • Pushed for a strong work plan mandating Clean Water Act enforcement for factory farms in Iowa – in September, it was finally signed.
  • Won back $3,857 in stolen wages from Iowa workers.
  • Empowered over 670 immigrants and immigrant allies to take action on fair immigration reform.
  • Pushed your “Put People First” Agenda at the national level at congressional meetings throughout the August Recess.
  • Kept your work for a more just & democratic Iowa in statewide & national media over 80 days this summer.
  • And more!

Reflecting on such a great summer, we can’t wait to see what autumn brings. We’ll be sure to keep you updated on how you can help us keep the momentum going.


Will you share your victories with your friends, and ask them to join the movement? It’s easy, just click here to share your victories with your friends on Facebook.

Join the Fight!

  • Join as an Iowa CCI member today or chip in $10 to support our organizing on this issue.
  • Sign up for our E-Mail Action list to get the latest updates
  • Follow us on Facebook and Twitter

Larry Cohen is the keynote for CCI’s Bold Vision, Bold Action 2013 Statewide Convention. This article originally appeared in the Tuesday, July 9th edition of the Des Moines Register:|head&nclick_check=1

Click here to sign up to hear Larry speak at CCI’s Bold Vision, Bold Action 2013 Statewide Convention on Saturday, July 13th.


Is this what democracy looks likes?

Ordinary Americans are facing hard times. Strange, isn’t it, because the stock market is up, corporate profits are at a record high and the rich are getting richer.

But working people aren’t sharing in this economic good news. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Wages continue to stagnate. Workers haven’t seen a real increase in wages for 40 years. We worry about finding a job, how to help our children go to college and whether we’ll be able to retire.

We need economic justice in our country, and the only way we will get there is with all of us working together in new ways.

A new partnership called the Democracy Initiative is starting to make that happen. Workers, people of faith, community activists, civil rights and immigrant groups, students and many more are coming together to fight for real democracy. We’re partnering with Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement and National People’s Action to break through the barriers and gain economic and social justice for all.

In small towns and urban communities, we are standing together against banks that are continuing their predatory lending and illegal foreclosures. We are marching for immigration reform. We are standing with miners who have had their retirement security stolen. We are fighting for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and to achieve retirement security for ordinary Americans.

We are asking: Is this what democracy looks like?

Democracy doesn’t look anything like our current election process, which is dominated by corporate America as never before in the history of our nation. More than $7 billion was spent during the last election cycle, an increase of $1 billion over the previous cycle.

This massive amount of spending, overwhelmingly by corporate groups and shadow organizations doing their bidding, was allowed by the disastrous U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2010 called Citizens United. The decision said that corporations are people and are entitled to free speech rights. The decision went on to equate speech with money so these groups can spend millions of dollars — anonymously — to influence elections anywhere in the country.

Iowans are proud of their grass roots involvement in the election process. The system enables citizens to hear directly from the candidates and participate in the caucuses. That citizen involvement is being drowned even here by an obscene flood of money in our democratic process. We must end the corrosive influence of big-money contributions.

Democracy doesn’t look like the obstruction that is the rule in today’s U.S. Senate.

Too many measures, like setting a fair interest rate for student loans or programs for repairing collapsing bridges or protecting consumers from predatory lenders, don’t get a minute’s debate on the floor of what is supposed to be the world’s greatest deliberative body.

With each day, protections for consumers, the environment, workers and citizens seeking justice in our courts become harder to attain. If the U.S. Senate can’t even debate ideas about climate change and unjust home foreclosures, how will we move forward? Is this what democracy looks like?

The growing attack on voting rights is another block to real democracy. Instead of trying to restrict voting hours and close polling places, we should adopt universal registration, as so many countries have, so that people can exercise their right to vote and not be turned away by a right-wing agenda.

That’s why, whether we’re black, white or brown, young or old, living in a rural community or a big city, we are working together for real change that will build our democracy.

We see all too clearly the barriers that prevent progress for ordinary Americans. But we are aiming high for the democracy and economic and social justice that all of us deserve.


Join the Fight!

Enjoy Larry’s writing? Check out a video of Larry in action here.

Join the movement for a “People-First” Iowa & United States today. See Larry in action! Register for CCI’s 2013 Bold Vision, Bold Action Statewide Convention

  • Join as an Iowa CCI member today or chip in $10 to support our organizing on this issue.
  • Sign up for our E-Mail Action list to get the latest updates
  • Follow us on Facebook and Twitter

A recent report released by the Sunlight Foundation details top donors to federal candidates in the last election cycle by state. Agribusiness giant and Branstad-appointed Board of Regents President Bruce Rastetter tops the Iowa list of campaign donors.

You can check out the full report here.

While the report is disturbing, it comes as no surprise.

Thanks to recent Supreme Court decisions that chip away at campaign finance regulations and the growth of big-moneyed political groups, the corrosive influence of big money within our political system continues to grow.

As wealthy donors continue to give more and more, it silences everyday Iowans who participate in the political process by voting or giving small contributions; it has little meaning in light of  huge contributions.

The report shows that wealthy donors, many with corporate interests and personal gain in mind, are using the “pay to play” campaign finance system to gain favor with elected officials.

This “pay to play” system is another reason why people are upset with Congress – many see congress as serving big-moneyed interests, not the interests of everyday people.

We think the best way to confront the corrosive influence of big money on our political system is by instituting a small dollar public finance system that empowers small dollar donors in a legislator’s own district. This will allow candidates to focus on hearing from everyday folks in their district, rather than relying on huge sums from a few individuals.

Check out coverage of the report and Iowans’ reactions here.


Join the Fight


Long-time Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement leader, retired farmer and factory worker, Oliver ‘Wayne’ Simmons, 72, passed away on Thursday, June 13, 2013, at the Guthrie County Hospital.  Wayne was born on March 25, 1941, the son of the late Oliver Wolfe Simmons and Helen Etna Ivers.

Wayne graduated from Guthrie Center High School in the spring of 1959.  Following graduation, he began farming and raised both cattle and pigs. Wayne married Diane Etta Sease on September 1, 1962. In that union, came the birth of their daughter, Joni Diane Simmons. A few years later, he began working for Oscar Meyer in Perry as a meat processer. He held this position for 21 years, where he had perfect attendence for 17 of those years. Starting in 1991, Wayne took classes at DMACC where he achieved his associates degree in Marketing, graduating with honors.

Wayne married Stephanie Ann Farmer on August 11, 1991. During their time together, they enjoyed studying the newspaper, listening to NPR and country music, going to the movies, and eating at Ryan’s Steakhouse. Wayne was very passionate about politics, religion, and the environment. He was a devout Christian who enjoyed reading scripture with his dear friends. Wayne was a member of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, and served as vice-president of the Iowa CCI Carroll Regional Chapter.  Wayne was also a proud member of the Trapper’s Association. He also cherished spending quality time with his cat, Buff.

He leaves his loving memories to be cherished by his wife of 21 years, Stephanie; his sisters Nancy Wetzel (Charles) and Judy Flanery; and his daughter, Joni, all of Guthrie Center; his stepson Patrick Douglas Farmer (Jessica) of Granger, Iowa, and his six grandchildren, Jessica Lynn Crannell (Nate), Abigail Diane Thompson, Carter Lee Farmer, Logan Nicole Farmer, Hayden Mitchell Farmer, and Lillie Joelle Farmer. Friends and family were invited to attend the burial at the Guthrie Center Union Cemetery that followed the service.

Below is a copy of the prepared remarks delivered at Wayne’s eulogy by Farming and Environment Organizer David Goodner:

We came from two very different generations, but Wayne Simmons helped remind me about  all that was great about the generation that came before mine.

I remember when I first met Wayne at an Iowa CCI water quality monitoring training back in 2009 out west here somewhere.  We had just came in for lunch and had our nets and our little petri dishes and things.  And we were standing in line and he struck up conversation with me.  Right away, I learned about Wayne’s farm background and why he cared so much about clean air, water, and a rural economy that put people first, before big corporate interests.  But I also learned that Wayne was a former factory worker and union member.  Wayne understood the importance of organization, of unity, and standing up together to fight for what’s right.  He understood the power that people have when we band together.

That day, I invited Wayne to the Showdown in Chicago, one of the largest big bank, Wall Street protests in 20 years, and it was right after the big economic crash.

Over the next several years Wayne and his wife Stephanie became more and more active with Iowa CCI, and I saw them more and more at planning meetings in Carroll and Des Moines, at protests and vigils, and even twice at their house for dinner and coffee.  Stephanie always called Wayne her “chauffeur”, and it was said with such fondness and such love.  He loved you so much, Stephanie.

I remember I once invited a young friend of mine from Des Moines named Justin Norman to Wayne’s house in Guthrie Center because Justin wanted to know more about what life was like in the country.  He wanted to know more about life in smalltown Iowa, and I took him to Wayne Simmons’ home because Wayne was the archetype of that kind of everyday Iowan.  The best this land has to offer.

I learned two things about Wayne at those informal dinner meetings in his living room.  The first was, Wayne was a kind and gentle man, yes, but he was also a fierce and passionate critic of injustice.  If he read something in the paper he didn’t agree with, or saw something on the news he didn’t like, you would hear about it.  He could give a blistering critique when he wanted and that was something I really related to.  We didn’t debate politics, because we generally agreed about these kinds of things, but we often talked about what was wrong with the world and how we could organize to make it better.

The second thing I learned about Wayne from these home visit was how much his Christian values impacted his worldview.  His farm and his work experience drove his labor and environmental activism, but his Christian faith also gave him a unique concern for the poor, the disabled, and the immigrant, the foreigner in our midst.  And he lived out those values everyday.  Wayne lived a christian life, not just in faith, but also in action.

Matthew 25:40 states “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of my brothers and sisters, you did for me.”  But there is also a related passage earlier in Matthew, Matthew 10:32, “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven.”

Imagine the reception in heaven Wayne must have had last Thursday night after his long journey!  But just as important as his reception in heaven, is the reception we hold for him here.  Because the truth is, as long as we remember him, honor his life’s work, and follow the call of justice that he followed, than not only is Wayne in heaven alongside the Father and Son, but his spirit is also resurrected here on Earth.

Iowa Board of Regents unanimously elects scandal-ridden Bruce Rastetter as new president

Corporate-political kingpin Bruce Rastetter is the new president of the Iowa Board of Regents, but his ability to effectively lead the board is in serious doubt because there is no public trust in him to put the common good before corporate profit after months of controversy surrounding him and his predecessor Craig Lang.  Lang was removed from the board by the Iowa Senate in April over concerns about academic freedom and corporate control at Iowa’s public universities.

“Rastetter lost the trust of everyday Iowans a long time ago and a very skeptical public is going to be watching his every move as president like a hawk,” said Ross Grooters, a CCI member from Pleasant Hill.   “He’s shown time and time again that he views Iowa’s public universities as nothing more than a tool to further his own pro-corporate agenda.”

Iowa CCI members demand newly elected Regents President Rastetter publicly state whether or not he supports the accountability, transparency, and ethics reform proposals made by the citizen action group such as public comment time at every regents meeting, an end to revolving door lobbying between regents institutions and private corporations, and a clear-cut enforcement process for the Regents internal ethics policy.

“Rastetter has an extremely narrow opportunity here to change course and actually shine a light on how decisions are made at the Regents, the question is, will he take it?” Grooters said.

Join us!  The Regents Transparency Taskforce will hold their next meeting in Des Moines from 9:00am-noon on Wednesday, June 19.  Meet at the CCI statewide headquarters, 2001 Forest Avenue, Des Moines, at 8:00am.