CCI members will continue campaign to force Rastetter off the Board of Regents

Over 60 Iowa CCI members who attended today’s Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board slammed their decision today to dismiss our conflict of interest complaint against Iowa Regent Bruce Rastetter.

Here’s the statement a member, nurse and family farmer Barb Kalbach read to the press immediately after the decision:

“The Iowa ethics board made the wrong decision today, a decision that puts them squarely on the side of bad government of, by, and for the corporations.

 

But the truth is, we win no matter what you did with our complaint today. Because the power of ordinary people to shed light on the inner workings of a government captured by corporate power has been proven.

 

Rastetter’s disclosure, recusal, and amended financial form were concessions we extracted from him because of public pressure. We were doing our job while the ethics board was asleep at the wheel. And if any changes are made in the future, it will be because of people like us.

 

Iowa CCI members will continue to fulfill our role as a government watchdog and hold people like Bruce Rastetter – who believe they are above justice – accountable to everyday people. We will not stop, give up, or quit. We will continue to make our case in the public arena that Rastetter is not fit to serve on the Board of Regents and will now pursue this end by other means.”

>> Here are the five points CCI member Ross Grooters presented in our allotted 10 minutes: The 5 items the Ethics Board must consider (and 25 precedent setting questions they must answer)

The board chose to take a narrow definition of state code and cited that Rastetter has never taken a public vote as a Regent on the Tanzania/Iowa State University project as justification for dismissal. But, ultimately, we don’t believe one has to take “a vote” to use their appointed position for their personal financial interests.

And, on the issue of Rastetter’s amended financial disclosure form, the board dismissed it saying that leaving it wildly incomplete does not make it false or fradulent. But, as member and farmer George Naylor quipped, “Rastetter listing his sole employment as ‘self-employed farmer, is like Al Capone listing his profession as ‘home-brewer’.”

But despite this news, the 60+ members in attendance today agreed that we are winning the battle of public opinion and that we must keep pushing on this issue.

This campaign has engaged over 1,000 Iowans through a petition effort, meetings around the state with Food & Water Watch, dozens of letters to the editors, a meeting with the Oakland Institute and a visit to the Iowa Regents August meeting.

The majority of Iowans have close ties with our public universities. Iowans have want public universities and public officials that work for the common good, not to line their own pocket. And, we shouldn’t have to wonder if that is happening.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Matt Ohloff from Food & Water Watch shares why they signed on to the ethics complaint. "We can no longer leave it up to press to expose Rastetter we need a full investigation"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ross presenting our case before the board.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

60+ members packed the Iowa Ethics boardroom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Listening to the Board say why they are dismissing the complaint.

Press statement immediately after.

 

 

See more photos here.

updated 5:50

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  • Click here to read more about our #FireRastetter campaign
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On Tuesday, over sixty CCI members gathered at the CCI headquarters to meet Anuradha Mittal, executive director of the Oakland Institute, as she shared her knowledge of Bruce Rastetter’s land grab in Tanzania.

What we learned blew us away!

In 2011, Anuradha was invited to Iowa by AgriSol executives as they tried to secure her approval that their Tanzanian land deal was not a land grab. They offered her unprecedented access to internal AgriSol documents, sat her down with ISU officials involved with the project, and wined and dined her at the AgriSol offices in Alden. Anuradha even had a one-on-one conversation with Bruce Rastetter himself.

What Anuradha learned during all of this shocked her.

The deal AgriSol officials were describing to her was not just a land grab – it was one of the worst she had ever seen. She describes it as a time when she knew she could not just stand by as injustice was done. The Oakland Institute immediately began conducting research on the ground in Tanzania and brought the facts of the AgriSol land grab to light.

Here are the ten most shocking facts Anuradha revealed to the packed room on Tuesday:

 

1.  Time is of the essence.
The lives of 160,000 self-sustaining farmers are on hold as they wait to see if their community will be torn apart. The only reason that AgriSol hasn’t proceeded with the project is because of public scrutiny.

2. There was never a distinction between the private AgriSol project and Iowa’s government and public universities. 
From the beginning, Iowa State faculty and administrators were promoting the project to potential investors as a favor to Rastetter. Anuradha was even promised a dinner with Governor Branstad, to show how much support the project already had from Iowan officials.

3. AgriSol was very careful to secure formal confirmation of everything the Tanzanian government would provide, but never committed to giving anything back.
Rastetter has insisted that his project will help the Tanzanian people, but he himself told Anuradha, “Actually, we have not determined what jobs will be created.

4. The US media is censoring themselves on this issue.
The international media picked up this huge story, but US media was afraid to challenge people with so much power. But as Anuradha points out: “You don’t have to believe me. It’s them versus their own damn documents. They think you’re lazy. They think you’re stupid. They think you cannot read. Go online and educate yourself.” (Find the Oakland Institute’s documents here.)

5. Rastetter knew all along that their plans would displace 160,000 people, despite repeated insistence that the refugee camps in the affected area were abandoned.
Kevin Kimle, who holds ISU’s Bruce Rastetter Chair of Agricultural Entrepreneurship, said it would be problem to do outreach to Tanzanians because they would all be shipped away.

6. Rastetter lied about wanting to feed Tanzania.
AgriSol received an agreement that they could export all of the crops they grow – even if Tanzania was experiencing a food shortage.

7. This project would only benefit Rastetter and other wealthy investors, at the expense of Iowans and Tanzanians.
The materials provided to potential investors emphasized the massive profits that would be made, then eased their consciences by making vague, non-committal promises to conduct outreach and provide food security.

8. The 160,000 people who are most affected by this deal were deliberately excluded from the decision-making process.
An AgriSol spokesman was caught on camera as saying that the only appropriate time to tell the residents of the land was after the deal was completed.

9. AgriSol is unrepentant.
AgriSol officials say that we don’t need to worry about the refugees because the project is on hold. What they should say is, “We made a mistake, we are sorry, and we will back out.”

10. The world is watching what happens at the Ethics Board hearing.
As Anuradha Mittal said, “Thursday will be a day of reckoning.”

Our meeting was Anuradha was incredible. As several members who attended said, “Everyone in Iowa needs to hear what we learned tonight.”
We need you to help us spread the truth about Rastetter. We also need as many people as possible to attend the Iowa Ethics Board hearing on our ethics complaint against Rastetter on Thursday, August 23rd.
At our meeting, Anuradha told us, “There are people in Tanzania who are wondering if democracy works.” Let’s show them that democracy does work by getting the Ethics Board to vote the right way on Thursday.

 

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Concession days before ethics hearing is just one more example in a long string of incidents of Rastetter only doing the right thing after he gets caught

Iowa Regent Bruce Rastetter amended a financial disclosure form with the state of Iowa yesterday (Aug. 20) in an attempt to deflect part of an ethics complaint we filed and that will come before the Iowa Ethics board this Thursday.

A key part of our ethics complaint against Bruce Rastetter is a potentially fraudulent and falsified financial disclosure form filed with the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board on April 24, 2012 that lists Rastetter as a “farmer, self-employed” rather than cataloguing his extensive and lucrative investments. The amended form filed August 20 provides some additional details.

“Rastetter is trying to cover his tracks but in reality this is a shocking admission of guilt,” said Ross Grooters, a train engineer and CCI member from Pleasant Hill. “He knows he broke the law, and he’s trying to avoid accountability just days before his ethics hearing.”

This is just the latest example in a long pattern of Rastetter making concessions at the last minute in an attempt to hide his mistakes and play damage control,” Grooters continued. “Is this the kind of person with a proven track record of bad judgments and poor decision making we want serving the public as a regent? Do we want a public servant in office who only does the right thing after he’s confronted with public pressure?

Previous examples of Rastetter’s pattern of making concessions at the last minute in an attempt to hide his mistakes and play damage control:

  • Rastetter disclosed his conflict of interest to the Iowa Board of Regents on June 17, 2011 three days after a front page Des Moines Register story outed his role in the land grab in Tanzania.
  • He recused himself completely from negotiating with Iowa State University on September 13, 2011, after he found out that a Dan Rathers Report expose on the land grab was in the works.

Emails during that time show that Rastetter was personally involved in day-to-day negotiations with ISU dean David Acker throughout May, June, and July 2011, months after his term on the Board of Regents began.

In a letter dated August 20, 2012 written to the state’s ethics board by Paula Dierenfeld, Rastetter’s attorney, Rastetter says his original financial disclosure form was based on “statements filed by other public officials” and argues that Iowa disclosure law “is not clear.”

But the financial disclosure form clearly states that all investment income “more than $1000” must be reported, something Rastetter objectively failed to do the first time.

“The ethics board’s alleged failure to enforce the law with other political appointees does not let Rastetter off the hook,” Grooters said. “It only proves that the ethics board needs to start doing their job, beginning with a full investigation into Rastetter’s long pattern of unethical behavior.”

Iowa CCI executive director Hugh Espey wrote in an August 1 “Iowa View” op-ed in the Des Moines Register that Rastetter’s concession on his financial disclosure form “will not change the fact that he was duty-bound to get it right the first time.”

Iowa CCI members will make their case to the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board during an ethics hearing Thursday at noon.

 

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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.

 

Issue #1

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?

 

Issue #2

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.

 

Issue #3

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?

 

Issue #4

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.

 

Issue #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.

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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All summer long, CCI members across the state have been confronting Governor Branstad about Regent Bruce Rastetter’s misconduct. Two weeks ago, it was Garry Klicker from Bloomfield. Last week, it was Patti Edwardson from Jefferson and another member in Rockwell City. Yesterday it was Evan Burger, a CCI member from Huxley.

Evan ran into Branstad at the Iowa State Fair and took the opportunity to ask him some tough questions about Rastetter. When Evan asked what the governor thought about the scandal surrounding Rastetter’s ethics violations, Branstad asked, “What scandal? There’s no scandal.” Evan then asked whether Branstad had looked at the emails obtained by CCI which prove that Rastetter abused his position as a regent.

Branstad said he had not, but that the Ethics Board is responsible for looking into that evidence and making a decision. Evan continued to press Branstad, asking, “So if the board finds Rastetter guilty of an ethics violation, you will ask him to give up his position as a regent?” Branstad avoided the question by claiming that the governor does not have the power to fire a regent.

Evan pointed out that Branstad was able to force David Miles and Jack Evans out of their positions as President and President Pro Tem of the Board of Regents to make room for Branstad appointees Rastetter and Craig Lang. Branstad responded that “he simply let it be known that he would like them to step down,” and they decided to comply. Evan then asked the obvious question: “If Rastetter is found guilty, will you let it be known that you would like him to step down?” Before Branstad could answer, his handlers hurried him away from Evan.

The Iowa State Fair is an excellent opportunity to challenge our elected officials on important issues like the Rastetter scandal – keep your eyes open and you never know who you’ll see out shaking hands! And if you do get the chance to ask Branstad or anyone else about Rastetter, give the CCI office a call at 515-282-0484 or email us at iowacci@iowacci.org and let us know!

 

Ask Branstad to “simply let it be known” that Rastetter needs to go!

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.

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Des Moines, Iowa —

During a townhall meeting in Rockwell City yesterday, Governor Terry Branstad told an Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (Iowa CCI) member from Webster County that an ethics complaint filed against Iowa Regent Bruce Rastetter by Iowa CCI members would be dismissed by the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board on August 23.

“There is supposed to be a firewall between the governor’s office and the ethics board,” said Hugh Espey, Iowa CCI’s executive director.  “If that firewall has been breached, it could be an even bigger scandal than Rastetter pushing ISU to support a corporate land-grab in Tanzania.”

Members of the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board are appointed by the governor to six year terms, but the board itself is supposed to be independent and free from any influence from the governor’s office.  Iowa CCI member say they believe it is against Iowa law for the governor’s office to have any communication with the ethics board about pending complaints.

On Wednesday, an Iowa CCI member from Webster County attended a townhall meeting in Rockwell City and publicly asked Branstad if he would fire Rastetter.  Branstad told the gathered crowd that he supported Rastetter but would wait for an August 23 decision by the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board before considering the matter.

However, the Webster County man – who has ties to Iowa State University and wishes not to be identified for fear of reprisals – says he approached Branstad privately after the townhall had concluded to press Branstad further and that the governor told him the complaint would be dismissed.

“Branstad did say it was his understanding that this was all going to be dismissed anyway,” the Webster County man told Iowa CCI staff who transcribed the conversations.  “He didn’t say where he heard that.  But he offered that himself.  It wasn’t about me probing him or anything he just offered it himself.  So a bell went off in my head that they were going to just sweep this thing under the rug.”

Governor Branstad has been hounded by questions regarding Rastetter’s ethical conduct during townhall tours of Iowa the last two weeks, including in Bloomfield in SE Iowa on August 1, in Coon Rapids in Western Iowa on August 6, and in Rockwell City on August 8.

Iowa CCI members called Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board executive director Megan Tooker Thursday morning and left a message on her voicemail asking for comment.  Iowa CCI members also sent her a letter Thursday morning demanding answers.

 

Add your name to the petition calling on Branstad to do the right thing and Fire Bruce Rastetter:

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.

 

 

 

 

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