Academic freedom under corporate attack

Iowa Regent Bruce Rastetter, embroiled in fourth corporate scandal, has to go

 

Bruce Rastetter, one of Governor Branstad’s biggest political donors, is back in the news again for abusing his position as an Iowa Regent by continuing to put corporate interests ahead of the common good.

This time he’s making headlines for interfering with independent academic research at the University of Iowa.

An ethanol industry lobbyist complained to the Branstad administration after a UI professor named Jerald Schnoor publicly warned against ethanol expansion because of water quality concerns. Rastetter responded by asking UI president Sally Mason to, in effect, silence the professor.  To read more details about the story, try herehere, or here.

These abuses of power have to stop.  Enough is enough. Rastetter needs to go.

The Board of Regents has been mired in scandal for the last nine months and Rastetter has been involved every step of the way:

  • Last summer, CCI members filed an ethics complaint against Bruce Rastetter after emails showed that Rastetter tried to use his regent connections to push Iowa State University into backing a land grab in Tanzania by Rastetter’s private multinational corporation, AgriSol.
  • Last fall, the Board of Regents also hired Rastetter’s personal lobbyist and public relations officer, Joe Murphy, to become ISU’s new university lobbyist – without publishing the job opening, conducting an open search, or following the university’s diversity-in-hiring guidelines.
  • Last month, Senator Tom Harkin chose not to leave 40 years of congressional papers at his alma mater, Iowa State University, because of repeated attempts by Lang and Rastetter to limit the academic freedom of the Tom Harkin Institute of Public Policy.

Our public officials should work for the common good, not to advance a corporate agenda.

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Regents, ISU Must Clarify What Role Rastetter Played in New ISU Lobbyist Hire

Regents hiring of Rastetter’s public relations chief Joe Murphy to be new ISU lobbyist raises renewed questions about Rastetter’s entanglement of private, public duties

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (Iowa CCI) members call on Board of Regents Director Bob Donley and Iowa State University President Steven Leath to disclose to the public what role, if any, Bruce Rastetter played in the hiring of his corporation’s public relations director to be the new lobbyist for Iowa State University.

The Board of Regents announced yesterday that it had hired Joe Murphy – public relations director for Summit Group, Rastetter’s private multinational corporation – to be the new state relations officer for Iowa State University.

“There should be a firewall between Rastetter’s private business interests and his public duties as a Regent and whether or not he was personally involved in hiring his P.R. chief to be ISU’s new lobbyist, this is yet another example of why Iowans cannot trust this man to be a Regent,” said Cherie Mortice, an Iowa CCI member from Des Moines.

“Iowans deserve our land-grant university to be free from even the appearance of corporate influence.”

Rastetter has long stacked Iowa State University with his personal business associates, which critics have contended allows him to push his corporate agenda inside university circles and to use ISU for his own ends.  Eric Peterson, the Vice President of Summit Group, sits on a quasi-secret ISU advisory panel.  Kevin Kimle, the Rastetter Chair of Agricultural Entrepreneurship funded by a multimillion dollar endowment by Rastetter, helped push an AgriSol/ISU partnership for a landgrab in Tanzania.

Rastetter was the subject of a conflict of interest complaint filed by Iowa CCI members last summer for attempting to partner with ISU for the Tanzanian landgrab while a sitting member of the Board of Regents.  The Campaign and Ethics Disclosure Board threw out the complaint after taking a limited, narrow ruling of the law rather than having the courage to stand up to a powerful interest like Rastetter with a broader and more inclusive view of state ethics law.

“There’s a lot more to a conflict of interest than whether or not you took a formal vote,” Mortice said.

 

On Wednesday, June 13, CCI received a cache of emails relating to the controversy surrounding Regent Bruce Rastetter’s attempts to abuse his position to establish a partnership between Iowa State University and his company AgriSol Energy.

Last year, the news came out that Bruce Rastetter, Governor Branstad’s biggest campaign donor, may have used his political influence as a member of the Iowa Board of Regents to broker a partnership between Iowa State University and his company AgriSol Energy. The deal would have implicated the University — and by extension the people of Iowa — in a massive land-grab in Tanzania that would have displaced 160,000 refugee farmers, while investors like Rastetter stood to make millions from the project.

Rastetter’s dual role as a Regent and a venture capitalist created a clear conflict of interest, but Rastetter hid his financial interest from the public for as long as he could. The people of Iowa deserve to see all the emails relating to this scandal.

That is why today we have posted these documents online for anyone to download. They are in the four separate files below, just as we received them.

Rastetter emails1

Rastetter emails2

Rastetter emails3

Rastetter emails4

 

Rastetter emails5

Unfortunately, the emails are not in chronological order. We have read through most of the emails and uncovered some important content, including a mention of CCI and details about how closely Iowa State officials worked with Rastetter.

We need your help! The more eyes we have looking through these documents, the more light we can shed on this controversy. Read through the emails above, and let us know what you find.

We have also started a petition calling for Governor Branstad to fire Bruce Rastetter in the light of this misconduct. Add your name here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Recently released emails show that Bruce Rastetter, President Pro Tem of the Iowa Board of Regents, abused his position on the Board by pushing for a partnership between Iowa State University and his agribusiness corporation, AgriSol Energy. CCI has posted these emails in full: download them here.

This deal would have implicated the University, and by extension the people of Iowa, in a massive land-grab in Tanzania that would have displaced 160,000 refugee farmers. Investors like Rastetter stood to make millions from the project.

Mr. Rastetter is clearly unable to separate his role as a public Regent from his personal financial interest.

Further, his actions constitute a violation of Iowa Code 68B.2A and the Board of Regents conflict of interest policy, which prohibits “actual, potential, or perceived conflict of interest” on the part of a Regent.

We believe that Rastetter’s misconduct is symptomatic of a pattern of cronyism and abuse of power on the part of Branstad appointees.

Governor Branstad must demonstrate his commitment to filling public positions with qualified applicants of integrity rather than major donors by asking Regent Rastetter to step down immediately.

Iowans should not wonder where the loyalties of their public servants lie.

The Iowa Board of Regents should have one priority above all others: enhancing the quality of life for Iowans by maintaining the educational quality, accessibility, and public service activities of Iowa’s three public universities.

Tell Governor Branstad to fire Bruce Rastetter immediately and appoint a new Regent who puts education before personal gain.