Coon Rapids, IA —

Patti Edwardson of Jefferson Iowa asked Governor Terry Branstad and Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds to fire Iowa Regent Bruce Rastetter for ethics violations during a townhall meeting in Carroll County in Western Iowa Monday afternoon.

“I am a school teacher and like most teachers I try to teach my students about basic moral values including respect for others and for the environment, good character, and ethical conduct,” Edwardson told the governor.

“Our state leaders are role models for our students. When my students return to school on August 23, will I be able to tell them that our governor upheld Iowa ethics laws and fired Bruce Ratstetter from the Board of Regents because of his ethics violations?”

Branstad briefly defended Rastetter and said he would wait for an Aug 23 ruling by the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board before considering the matter further.

Last week, independent family farmer and small business owner Garry Klicker of Bloomfield, Iowa asked Governor Branstad a similar question during a townhall meeting in SE Iowa.

Iowa CCI members filed a conflict of interest complaint against Rastetter after emails released to the Associated Press show Rastetter used the office of the regents in an attempt to leverage Iowa State University’s international reputation for a massive corporate land grab in Africa.  The plan could displace tens of thousands of refugees while making him and his investment partners hundreds of millions of dollars in tax-free profit.

The Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board will decide whether or not to investigate Iowa CCI members’ ethics complaint during their next board meeting at noon, August 23, in Des Moines.

Do you agree with Patti? Add your name to the petition calling on Branstad to 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.

 Join the fight

Dozens of CCI members converged on the Board of Regents meeting in Cedar Falls on Friday, August 3 to demand the resignation or firing of Regent Bruce Rastetter.

A long time hog and ethanol baron in Iowa, Rastetter is currently pursuing a large land grab in Tanzania through his international energy company, Agrisol Energy. CCI believes Rastetter, who worked closely on the project with staff from Iowa State University before and during his time as Regent, committed an ethics violation by failing to timely disclose his conflict of interest and even used that conflict to advance his interests in Agrisol.

Rastetter and Agrisol stand to make hundreds of millions of dollars off the land in Tanzania that they are seeking to lease at $0.25/acre for 99 years. Much of this land is currently home to over 160,000 Burundian refugees.

The Board of Regents had twice rejected CCI’s requests to speak to the board in a public forum before appearing at the meeting in Cedar Falls.

Here’s a full roundup of the press from the August 3 action in Cedar Falls:

 

Add your name to the petition calling on Branstad to 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.

 

 

 

 

Join the fight

Bloomfield, Iowa —

Independent family farmer and small business owner Garry Klicker of Bloomfield told Governor Terry Branstad and Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds to fire Iowa Regent Bruce Rastetter for ethics violations during a townhall meeting in Davis County in Southeast Iowa Wednesday afternoon.

“Rastetter did a real number on Davis county back when he was building factory farms down here with Heartland Pork, and now he’s trying to do the same thing in Tanzania,” Klicker said during a Q&A period.  “What he did was a conflict of interest.  Mr. Governor, I think you should ask Rastetter to step down from the Board of Regents.”

Branstad briefly defended Rastetter and said he would wait for an Aug 23 ruling by the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board before considering the matter further.

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement members will attend an Iowa Board of Regents meeting in Cedar Falls on Friday and demand the regents enforce their ethics policy.

 

Do you agree with Garry? Add your name to the petition calling on Branstad to 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.

 

 

 

 

Join the fight

 

 

The following op-ed by Des Moines Register columnist Rekha Basu appeared in the August 1, 2012 edition of the Des Moines Register. You can access the original version online here.

Bruce Rastetter and his AgriSol Energy colleagues came to the newspaper recently to rebut criticisms that the corporation, of which he is 30 percent shareholder and managing director, is making a land grab in Tanzania. In spite of their PowerPoint presentation and talking points, the company has more to do to prove its intentions are honorable.

It was reported that AgriSol officials stood to make $300 million from a deal that would have given it 99-year rights to cultivate land for as little as 25 cents an acre, while forcing the evacuation of refugees living there. AgriSol denies the profit amount, but acknowledges the cheap rent and says it wasn’t responsible for the evictions. It claims to have pulled out of that project. Yet the company’s website still talks about “discussions with the local and national government officials about developing farms at Katumba and Mishamo in the future.”

For now, the officials say, they are developing a model commercial farm in Kigoma in western Tanzania. They concede 25 cents an acre rent is low, but say the figure is set by statute, since all land is government owned.

For context, I contacted Mwangi Kimenyi, director of the Brookings Institution’s Africa Growth Initiative. “Just because the government says the price is 25 cents — to me, that is totally ridiculous,” Kimenyi said. He said the government may be the custodian of that land, but Tanzanian people are considered its rightful owners, and it’s not for government to give it away. “Some people will benefit, but the common people will not benefit,” he said.

AgriSol has paid Tanzanian government officials, including one who was in charge of the refugee camps, to be advisers on the project. Rastetter claims others there don’t have the know-how. Kimenyi, however, says such payments can amount to outright corruption. He said “a few individuals in government who are not transparent” then negotiate terms that undermine people’s rights.

Rastetter further claims the company plans to invest $100 million over 10 years in infrastructure improvements in Tanzania, including water, power and storage. “That land was worthless without power, electricity, roads,” said Henry Akona, AgriSol Tanzania’s spokesman. “They need a company like AgriSol to come in and build that.”

But if the Oakland Institute, a California-based think tank that has had researchers in Tanzania investigate the previous AgriSol deal, is correct, AgriSol also demanded the Tanzanian government give it “strategic investor status,” which would grant it tax exemptions and a waiver of duties. And they asked the government to commit to constructing a rail link.

As to the promise of creating water supplies, Kimenyi said he has visited some large investor-owned farms in Africa, such as Del Monte’s in Kenya, where water is diverted for the company’s use. “They’re not interested in what happens downstream,” he said.

Rastetter boasts AgriSol “can be the Iowa of Africa.” Is that even feasible? Kimenyi knows Iowa’s farms because his son went to Iowa State University. African farmers do need help with technology and increasing productivity, he said. So he sees a place for large farms producing high-yield crops.

But as a model, he holds up the Clinton Foundation’s work in Malawi, where it leases and operates a large, so-called “anchor” farm and uses proceeds to extend credit to small farms. The project helps small farmers aggregate their output, get access to markets for their crops, negotiate prices and buy high-quality seeds and pesticides.

“It’s a large lease but not a land grab, because there are clearly defined objectives,” Kimenyi said.

AgriSol officials speak of doing similar things to help small farmers with eduction and “outgrower” programs. They claimed, in response to the earlier fiasco, that they would build schools and a health clinic and bring jobs. But the Oakland Institute pointed out that the company’s business plan and other documents do not mention such plans. “The tragedy,” Kimenyi says of some companies coming in, “is that they’re even entering agreements that the foods they grow do not have to enter the domestic market.” They may not create jobs because they bring their own labor and advanced technologies.

Up to 70 percent of Africa’s population is rural and depends on eating what the land produces. While development is necessary, the traditional, varied crops must be maintained to provide balanced diets, Kimenyi said.

The number of voices accusing AgriSol of being bad for Tanzania is growing. Whatever comes of the ethics issues involving Rastetter, what’s really at stake is whether African lands will be developed to benefit Africa’s people or be allowed to be a giant profit-making venture for foreign corporations.

If one thing has become clear, it’s the need to look at the fine print.

Add your name to the petition calling on Branstad to 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.

 

 

 

 

Join the fight

The following op-ed by CCI Executive Director Hugh Espey appeared in the August 1, 2012 edition of the Des Moines Register. You can access the original online version here.

Iowa regent, corporate CEO and political kingmaker Bruce Rastetter is clearly on the defensive after Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement members filed a conflict-of-interests complaint against him last month. Otherwise he wouldn’t have spent so much time recently reaching out to media outlets across the state in an attempt to squash the growing public outcry and spin the story back his way.

The only thing Rastetter is proving is that the public must hold him accountable for his continued refusal to come clean about his role in the AgriSol/Iowa State University scandal. It’s time to call him out on his smoke-and-mirror denials and flim-flam excuses.

Iowa CCI members filed a conflict-of-interests complaint against Rastetter because the facts clearly show that he abused his role as a member of the Iowa Board of Regents in an attempt to leverage Iowa State University’s international reputation for a corporate land-grab in Tanzania. The project could net him and other investors hundreds of millions of dollars in profit while displacing up to 160,000 Burundi refugees from their homes.

Rastetter claims AgriSol is no longer interested in the refugee settlements. But his company’s public documents prove otherwise and show that AgriSol is pressuring Tanzania to evict the refugees so the company can set up shop.

The evidence linking Rastetter to the AgriSol/ISU negotiations is shocking and includes a trail of emails and documents detailing his involvement with the project long after he was appointed to the Board of Regents by Gov. Terry Branstad on Feb. 25, 2011.

Rastetter claims he had no “direct involvement” after his term began on May 1, 2011, but the facts show something different. On May 18, a check for $13,379.82 to cover travel expenses for a trip by ISU faculty and students to Tanzania was written from Rastetter’s business account. Emails show he discussed joint AgriSol/ISU funding agreements with ISU Associate Dean David Ackerman in May, June and July.

Rastetter finally disclosed his conflict-of-interests to the Board of Regents on June 17 and ultimately recused himself on Sept. 13. But his recusal came more than six months after he was appointed and four months after his term began. Rastetter’s “too little, too late” half-measures are not nearly good enough.

He should have disclosed his conflict and recused himself prior to beginning his term, not long after the fact and only after he was caught. Top AgriSol executive Eric Peterson continues to sit on the advisory board of ISU’s College of Agriculture. 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.

Rastetter’s most serious ethics violation may be the financial disclosure form he submitted to the state on April 24, 2012, that lists him as merely a “farmer, self-employed” rather than disclosing the full extent of his many lucrative business interests, corporate ownerships and other investment income.

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. He used a public office to pursue private financial gain. This reflects poorly on the state and comes at the loss of public trust in the integrity of state government. The Board of Regents should serve the common good, not corporate greed. It’s time for Rastetter to go.

Add your name to the petition calling on Branstad to 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.

 

 

 

 

Join the fight

Last month, CCI members filed a conflict of interest complaint against Bruce Rastetter with the Iowa Ethics Board. The fact that Rastetter’s actions violate the State of Iowa’s general conflict of interest policy is obvious to everyone familiar with the situation.

But Rastetter’s misconduct also clearly violates the Board of Regents’ own conflict of interest policy. CCI members requested time on the agenda of the next Regents meeting to bring this important matter to the attention of the Board – but we were denied that opportunity not once but twice.

The Board of Regents doesn’t want the responsibility of enforcing their own ethics policy. Fortunately, the Ames Tribune did some digging and exposed the Board for trying to sweep this crucial matter under the rug. Read the article below!

 

Regents won’t put CCI on their agenda

By Hannah Furfaro

Staff Writer

They still have a pending ethics complaint filed with the Iowa ethics board, but the Des Moines-based advocacy group Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement was dealt a setback Monday when its request to get a spot on the Iowa Board of Regents’ agenda at its next meeting was denied.

Iowa CCI, which filed an ethics complaint against the board’s president pro tem, Bruce Rastetter, in June, recently requested to go before the regents to discuss its conflict of interest policy. Sheila Doyle Koppin, communications director for the regents, said Tuesday the group’s request was denied twice in the last two weeks.

The group has been traveling around the state in recent weeks building support for its ethics complaint with the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board, which accuses Rastetter of falsifying his financial disclosure forms this year and using his influence as a regent to get Iowa State University on board with an agricultural project his private company, AgriSol Energy, was working on in Tanzania.

At community forums and during media events over the last month, the group has called for the removal of Rastetter from his position as a regent.

Doyle Koppin said Robert Donley, executive director of the regents, denied Iowa CCI’s request because the board doesn’t have the power to remove Rastetter.

The denial letter from Donley, dated July 23, says he denied Iowa CCI a hearing at the regents’ meeting in Cedar Falls next week based on the group’s existing complaint with the state ethics board.

In the letter, Donley said Iowa CCI’s request to the regents contains the same facts as those presented in its formal ethics complaint. The state’s ethics board, he said, is better positioned to handle Iowa CCI’s request.

“The ethics board has been tasked with the responsibility of reviewing alleged conflict of interest violations for all branches of state government,” the letter reads. “Consequently, the board of regents is not the appropriate forum for resolving your concerns.”

Doyle Koppin said the decision was made in consultation with the board’s general counsel, but didn’t comment on whether denying agenda requests is common practice. She said Donley was unavailable for comment Tuesday.

David Goodner, of Iowa CCI, said the group hoped to discuss the regents’ specific conflict of interest policy, not the conflict of interest policy outlined in the Iowa Code, which is governed by the state’s ethics board.

“The regents’ ethics policy is something that entity came up with,” he said, “and presumably they are the ones that enforce it, so we requested a meeting with the board of regents … specifically to discuss the regents’ own ethics policy and that Rastetter violated it numerous times.”

Megan Tooker, executive director of the state ethics board, said her board does not have the authority to enforce the regents’ internal conflict of interest rules. The regents would be responsible for governing their own ethics code, she said.

But although they were denied a hearing, Goodner said about 100 members of Iowa CCI still plan to attend the regents’ meeting next week. While he stopped short of saying the group will hold a protest, Goodner said the group will try to make its case through informal means.

“There’s definitely an easy way and a hard way,” he said. “The easy way was to give us time on the board of regents’ agenda to discuss (its) ethics policy and how regent Rastetter violated that policy. The hard way is that we’re going to have a presence there and we’re going to make sure our voices are heard by the regents.”

Joe Murphy, spokesperson for Rastetter, said he didn’t have a comment on the regents’ policy or Iowa CCI’s request.

Add your name to the petition calling on Branstad to 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.

 

 

 

 

Join the fight