Yesterday morning, over thirty CCI members filed a formal conflict of interest complaint against Bruce Rastetter with the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board. Curious about what happened yesterday? You can read the complaint in its entirety here, a short summary of the complaint here, or the Associated Press story on our complaint below.

 

 

 

Group files ethics complaint against Board of Regents member Rastetter over Tanzania project

http://www.therepublic.com/view/story/0aaff6bf8b3a4b8ab39c5a4c2a6a4a0a/IA–Regent-Ethics-Complaint

DAVID PITT  Associated Press June 19, 2012 – 2:02 pm EDT

DES MOINES, Iowa — A watchdog group filed an ethics complaint Tuesday against Iowa Board of Regents member Bruce Rastetter, accusing him of abusing his position on the board overseeing public universities while pursuing a partnership between Iowa State University and his agribusiness corporation, AgriSol Energy.

Rastetter participated in discussions the university had about working with AgriSol to develop a huge commercial farming operation in Tanzania, a project critics have called a land grab.

“This looks pretty bad,” said Ross Grooters, a Citizens for Community Improvement member from Pleasant Hill, in a statement. “Rastetter needs to go.”

About 30 members of the Des Moines-based group delivered the complaint to the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board on Tuesday.

Rastetter’s spokesman, Joe Murphy, said in a statement that an ethics review is welcome and he will cooperate fully.

“We are hopeful that this review will address any questions surrounding Bruce’s commitment to public service here in Iowa and abroad,” he said. “As we have stated before, there is no conflict of interest. Bruce has long been an advocate for education and agriculture and has a strong tradition of providing support and gifts to the Regent institutions.”

Gov. Terry Branstad appointed Rastetter, an agribusiness executive who donated $160,000 to the governor’s 2010 campaign, to the board in February 2011. Rastetter had been working on behalf of AgriSol with ISU since 2009 on a plan to develop 800,000 acres of Tanzanian farmland for crop production.

Branstad spokesman Tim Albrecht responded to a request for comment on the allegations by email.

“We are fully confident in the judgment of Regent Rastetter on his decision regarding when to recuse himself,” he wrote.

Critics opposed the Tanzania project because the land had for decades housed 160,000 refugees from Burundi who were being relocated by the Tanzanian government. Investors, who stood to earn millions if the project was successful, argued it would help residents by improving food production and farming techniques. They added they had no role in the relocation.

Officials with ISU’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, which received a $1.75 million gift from Rastetter in 2007, were to implement an AgriSol-funded program providing a range of services and training to help farmers in the area.

Rastetter waited until June 17, 2011 — six weeks after his term started and four months after his appointment — to disclose the conflict, doing so only after the project received publicity. He waited until Sept. 13 before recusing himself from discussions related to ISU’s involvement. That was the same day the university abandoned plans to seek a multimillion-dollar federal grant with AgriSol.

CCI, in its complaint, claims Rastetter falsified financial disclosure statements to the state’s ethics board by omitting information about his wealth and job responsibilities with AgriSol and other companies he manages.

The group says he violated the state’s executive branch ethics law and a separate section of the state code that makes it illegal to falsify disclosure statements.

It also says he violated the regents’ conflict of interest policy, which says “Regents and institutional officials must endeavor to remain free from the influence of, or appearance of, any conflicting interest in acting on behalf of the Board or a Regent institution. Such interest may include, but are not limited to, employment, ownership of, or service on, the board of directors of an organization that has or may have relationships with the Board or a Regent institution.”

CCI said it wants Rastetter to resign from the board or, if he refuses, Branstad to remove him.

Ethics board Executive Director Megan Tooker said a decision will be made first about whether the complaint contains sufficient legal grounds to launch an investigation.

If so, the board orders an investigation.More serious violations may lead to a contested hearing, which is similar to a trial with witnesses, testimony and evidence. If the board eventually determines a violation occurred, it can issue fines.

It cannot remove an executive branch appointee from office. It can only recommend the appointing authority — in this case the governor — remove the violator.

Other media outlets around the state covered our action yesterday as well, including:

Des Moines Register

Radio Iowa

Ames Patch

Iowa State Daily

Ames Tribune

 

Take Action

  • Join hundreds of other Iowans calling on Gov. Branstad to fire Bruce Rastetter —  the man unable to separate his role as an Iowa public Regent from his personal financial interest. Click here to read more and add your name.

Join the fight

Rastetter needs to leave Board of Regents

Appeared in the Sunday, July 17 Des Moines Register

Former Des Moines Superintendent Nancy Sebring’s career is over after personal emails to her lover were released to the public. But what will happen to Iowa Board of Regents President Pro-tem Bruce Rastetter’s career after his emails go viral?

From the looks of things, Rastetter abused his position on the regents by pushing for a financial partnership between Iowa State University and his agribusiness corporation, AgriSol Energy. The project involved an attempted land-grab in Tanzania that would have displaced thousands of refugee farmers. Investors like Rastetter stood to make millions.

Rastetter needs to go. Gov. Terry Branstad needs to rethink his policy of appointing top corporate donors to government posts they have no business being in. And the Des Moines Register should put more resources into investigating political corruption scandals than they do harmless sex stories.

— David Goodner, Des Moines

 

Rastetter needs to leave the Board of Regents

Appeared in the Tuesday, July 19 Des Moines Register

Gov. Terry Branstad has made education a big priority for the state of Iowa, so why has leadership failed to present our youth with one of the most basic lessons, integrity?

The Register published an Associated Press story (June 13) about emails that contain details of how Bruce Rastetter, a gubernatorial appointee to the Iowa Board of Regents, actively participated in discussions about how Iowa State University could partner with AgriSol, a company that positioned itself to make millions in profit by displacing tens of thousands of people from a self-sustaining community in Tanzania.

It would appear Rastetter, co-founder and investor in AgriSol, not only didn’t disclose his relationship with the company, but removed himself from negotiations for the project only after news of the potential deal went public and recused himself from the partnership with ISU only as the deal dissolved.

After reading how the line was blurred between loyalty to the Board of Regents and loyalty to personal profit, it is time to bring that line into focus. Simply by creating the appearance of putting personal profit before the education of our public university students, Bruce Rastetter didn’t blur the line, he crossed it.

Iowans should not wonder where the loyalties of their public servants lie. Our state needs to place the future of our children’s education in the hands of a better steward. It’s time for Terry Branstad to accept the resignation of Regent Bruce Rastetter.

— Ross Grooters, Pleasant Hill

Take a stand against Branstad’s appointments

Appeared in the Saturday, July 16 Cedar Rapids Gazette

Here in Iowa, we’re good neighbors and factory farms just aren’t.

Too often, they build without consideration for neighbors’ quality of life, property values or environment.

That’s why Iowa CCI members across the state are taking corporate ag giants such as Cargill, Iowa Select and Prestage Farms to task.

We need to take a stand. Gov. Terry Branstad has appointed factory farm insiders like Brent Rastetter [Bruce Rastetter’s brother], who makes a living building factory farm barns and manure pits, to the Environmental Protection Commission, putting the fox in charge of the henhouse. Outgoing Department of Natural Resources Director Roger Lande was replaced by Branstad with former House Majority Leader Chuck Gipp — he spent most of his career trying to dismantle the DNR and now he’s going to run the place? It’s time to stand up and fight back.

— Barb Kalbach, Dexter

 

Take Action

  • Join hundreds of other Iowans calling on Gov. Branstad to fire Bruce Rastetter –  the man unable to separate his role as an Iowa public Regent from his personal financial interest. Click here to read more and add your name.

Join the fight

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Proposed Union County hog operations voted down

June 12, 2012 By Dar Danielson  http://www.radioiowa.com/2012/06/12/proposed-union-county-hog-operations-voted-down/

The group Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (C-C-I) is celebrating a victory in what it calls an escalating fight against requests to build large-scale livestock operations in the state. The Union County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Monday to recommend that the Iowa Department of Natural Resources deny permits for two proposed 5,000 head hog farms.

C-C-I state policy director, Adam Mason, says the Union County vote is one step toward keeping the operations from being built. “Now that the Union County supervisors have recommended denial of this site, the D.N.R. will have 30 days to take their recommendation into consideration, review the factory farm construction permit and master matrix, and make their final decision. For us here at C-C-I, we’ll monitor that process, our members in Union County will monitor that process,” Mason says.

In the larger picture, Mason says they get calls daily about proposed livestock operations. He says the group has recently gotten the plans changed for facilities in Dallas, Floyd, Jefferson, and Story counties. There are ongoing fights against facilities in Poweshiek, Union, and Wright counties.

“What we look for here at C-C-I is a deep sense of commitment amongst the community, basically of the community coming together in opposition to this,” Mason explains. “If one person calls C-C-I, we don’t just automatically go out and meet with folks, there has to be a significant number of community members who want to do something about this. What we can do is go out and meet with folks and let them know what has worked in the past to stand up for family farmers and fight back against factory farms.”

The vote by the supervisors does not guarantee the D.N.R. will follow its recommendation. “County supervisors and local folks don’t really have much of a say, and that’s something the legislature did back in 2002 when they created the master matrix. That provides public input, but doesn’t give those local folks or the county supervisors final authority, which we would call local control,” Mason says.

He says the supervisors’ vote is a positive for residents trying to keep the facilities from being built. Mason says,”But what that means for folks in Union County today is the D.N.R. staff will look at this permit application a little bit stronger than they would. But what is comes down to is the D.N.R. is underfunded and understaffed as well.”

Mason says the dramatic increase in requests to build large livestock facilities is due to higher prices for hogs and the “lax regulatory environment of the Branstad administration.” Governor Branstad’s spokesman responded with this statement:

“Agriculture is the strength behind Iowa’s economic success, and we welcome job-creating pork producers to locate in our state. Governor Branstad believes we must safeguard our environment with commonsense regulations. The regulatory environment remains the same as when Governor Branstad took office, but with the skyrocketing pork prices, it should come as no surprise that producers would expand their operations. Governor Branstad will continue his efforts for cleaner air and water, and believes Iowa’s laws should be enforced.”

 

Learn more

  • See the map illustrating the influx of new/expanding factory farms this spring and what CCI members are doing to fight back.

Take Action

Right now, while hundreds of families are worried about their quality of live, property values and environmental impact, the Assoc. of Business and Industry is trying to formalize a rule that would force the Iowa DNR to permanently take a “hands off approach” to factory farms.
  • 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

 

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