And, 25 precedent setting questions we feel they must answer
This Thursday, the Iowa Ethics & Campaign Disclosure Board will hold a hearing on our ethics violation complaint against Iowa Regent Bruce Rastetter.
The question before the Ethics Board is not whether Rastetter has a conflict of interest (he has already formally admitted that he does), but whether his failure to disclose, manage and recuse himself from the negotiations in a timely manner is a violation of Iowa ethics law.
We believe the answer is yes.
Iowa CCI members believe that Rastetter’s work to bring Iowa State University into a private business deal with a corporation he has a large ownership stake in clearly represents an “activity that is subject to the official control, inspection, review, audit, or enforcement authority” of Rastetter after he began serving on the Board of Regents and is explicitly prohibited by Iowa law. Furthermore, we believe the facts clearly show concrete, specific examples where the law was violated.
We also believe that how the Ethics Board decides our Rastetter violation complaint will set the precedent by which we will hold our elected and appointed officials accountable.
Iowa CCI members have identified a number of issues and questions that we feel must be addressed by the board. These issues are:
1) A late, untimely conflict of interest disclosure filed with the Iowa Board of Regents on June 17, 2011;
2) A $13,379.82 check written May 18, 2011 from Rastetter’s business account to ISU officials for a flight to Tanzania;
3) Email exchanges between Rastetter and ISU Associate Dean David Acker discussing joint AgriSol/ISU funding agreements throughout May, June, and July 2011;
4) A potentially fraudulent and falsified financial disclosure form submitted to your board by Rastetter on April 24, 2012; and
5) Rastetter’s alleged recusal from public discussions between AgriSol/ISU on September 13, 2011 followed by a January 22, 2012 op-ed by Rastetter placed in the Des Moines Register.
The conflict of interest disclosure Rastetter made to the Iowa Board of Regents on June 17, 2011, his failure to submit it in a timely manner, to develop an appropriate management plan, and recuse himself at that time, as well as his failure to notify the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board about his conflict of interest.
Governor Terry Branstad appointed Rastetter to the board of Regents on February 25, 2011 and his term began on May 1, 2011. This gave Rastetter more than two months to properly disclose and manage his conflict of interest before his term began. However, he did not file the relevant disclosure paperwork with the Iowa Board of Regents until June 17, six weeks after his term began and months after he was first appointed.
Furthermore, he did not develop an acceptable management plan at this time, and waited to fully recuse himself until September 13, 2011, four months after his term began and six months after he was first appointed. Even more troubling, at each and every step of the way, Rastetter failed to show good judgement and only acted because of pressure from ordinary citizens. His June 17 disclosure, for example, came days after he was outed on the front page of the Des Moines Register. We need forthright and honest public officials, not ones who only come forward after they are confronted by the public.
Questions we think the ethics board must answer in their August 23 decision:
1) Shouldn’t Rastetter have disclosed and recused himself between his February 25, 2011 appointment and his May 1, 2011 term-start, rather than weeks later and only after he was caught in the media?
2) What prevented Rastetter from doing so before his term began?
3) Shouldn’t political appointees and public officials separate their public and private interests before their term begins rather than after?
4) If not, why not?
5) How will the board use this opportunity to clarify what is and is not proper ethical conduct in this kind of instance?
6) Why did he not file similar conflict of interest paperwork with your board?
7) Did your board provide an advisory opinion or otherwise assist Rastetter in filing this paperwork?
8 ) If so, will you give us copies of those documents prior to August 23?
The May 18, 2011 check for $13,379.82 written from Rastetter’s business account to ISU officials to fund a trip to Tanzania.
Rastetter’s failure to disclose and manage his conflict of interest and recuse himself in a timely manner had real world consequences. On May 18, 2011 Rastetter cut a $13,379.82 check to ISU officials for a trip to Tanzania to work on the AgriSol land-grab project.
9) Isn’t it a blatant violation of state ethics laws for an Iowa regent to write a check to university officials in order to help support a private business venture?
10) If not, why not?
Rastetter claims he was obligated from a prior business agreement in 2010 to cut this check. But rather than absolve him of responsibility, this claim only furthers our case that his public and private interests were so intertwined that he should have either separated them before taking office or chosen to not take public office at all.
Email exchanges between Rastetter and ISU Associate Dean David Acker discussing joint AgriSol/ISU funding agreements throughout May, June, and July 2011.
Emails submitted to your office clearly show Rastetter and ISU Dean David Acker discussing joint funding agreements between AgriSol and ISU for months after Rastetter’s term on the regents began. Even after disclosing his conflict of interest with the Board of Regents, Rastetter continued with these conversations, actively working to move a project with ISU – an institution he oversees as a regent – and his private corporation, AgriSol.
11) Was Rastetter representing himself as CEO of AgriSol or the public as an Iowa Regent during these discussions?
12) Should Iowans have to wonder?
13) Isn’t it a flagrant violation of ethics law for a regent to be personally involved in funding discussions between a university he is charged with overseeing and regulating and his own private business venture?
14) If not, why not?
A potentially fraudulent and falsified financial disclosure form submitted to your board by Rastetter on April 24, 2012.
On April 24, 2012, Rastetter filed what we believe to be a potentially fraudulent, falsified financial disclosure statement to your office. This disclosure listed himself as a “farmer, self employed” rather than cataloguing the extensive list of lucrative corporate interests, ownerships, and other investments Rastetter has. Rastetter is a public figure and it is no secret that he his a multi-millionaire venture capitalist with ownership stakes in several multinational corporations.
Rastetter says he may amend the disclosure form. But this concession will not change the fact that he was duty-bound to get it right the first time.
15) Was Rastetter obligated under Iowa law to fully disclose all his financial interests rather than attempt to hide them?
16) What is the proper conduct regarding financial disclosure for a public official?
17) Should Iowans have a higher expectation for disclosure of public officials than we do for corporate CEOs?
18) How will the board use this opportunity to clarify what is and is not proper ethical conduct?
19) Did your board provide an advisory opinion or otherwise assist Rastetter and filling out this form? If so, we need copies of these documents before August 23.
Rastetter’s alleged recusal from public discussions between AgriSol/ISU on September 13, 2011 followed by a January 22, 2012 op-ed by Rastetter placed in the Des Moines Register.
Rastetter claims he recused himself from the AgriSol/ISU negotiations on September 13, 2011. If true, this recusal came more than six months after he was appointed and four months after his term began. This comes “too little, too late” and is not nearly good enough by half.
But Rastetter’s recusal is next to meaningless because there is still no firewall between him and ISU. Top AgriSol executive Eric Peterson continues to sit on the advisory board of ISU’s College of Agriculture and was working closely on the AgriSol project as late as October 6, 2011 – nearly a month after Rastetter’s recusal.
Kevin Kimle, the Rastetter Chair of Agriculture Entrepreneurship at ISU, uses a $1.75 million endowment from Rastetter to push a corporate agenda inside university circles.
And on January 22, 2012 – months after Rastetter’s so-called recusal, Rastetter penned an op-ed in the Des Moines Register that attempts to defend the AgriSol/ISU project.
20) Did Rastetter recuse himself in a timely manner?
21) Shouldn’t he have recused himself between his February 25, 2011 appointment and his May 1, 2011 start-date, rather than months after the fact?
22) Is his recusal worth the paper it’s printed on when he can use Eric Peterson and Kevin Kimle to push his agenda?
23) Was his January 22, 2012 op-ed in the Des Moines Register a violation of his so-called recusal?
24) Did your board send Rastetter a letter informing him that Iowa CCI members had filed this complaint?
25) If so, did Rastetter respond in any way? We would like copies of this correspondence.
This is an excerpt from a letter we sent Iowa Ethics & Campaign Disclosure Board Executive Director Megan Tooker. See the full letter here.
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