Fun with campaign finance -- A Frew PAC gone in a flash

Todd Dorman
Published: December 11 2013 | 11:03 am - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 12:43 am in
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So I was poking around the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board website, looking for one thing, when I stumbled across something else.

There’s a PAC called “Frew Development Group for Corbett and Swore.” Or at least there was one.

It was formed on Oct. 17. And it was dissolved on Oct. 18.

It donated $1,000 to Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett on Sept. 2 and $1,000 to at-large City Council member Chuck Swore on Sept. 30. It donated another $1,000 to Swore on Nov. 22 as he faced a Dec. 4 runoff vote, where he finished fourth.

Frew Development Group oversaw the construction of the city’s new convention complex, as well as the renovations of the U.S. Cellular Center and Double Tree hotel. Now, the group, headed by John Frew, is redeveloping Westdale Mall, with the help of city incentives.

So how does a PAC formed and dissolved in October give money in September and November? I called the board’s executive director, Megan Tooker, to find out.

And I learned something new (well, new to me) about campaign finance rules in Iowa.

Iowa law says “permanent organizations” that contribute more than $750 to a candidate or ballot campaign must create a PAC. That I knew. But under campaign finance rules written by the board, a “permanent organization,” that isn’t regularly involved in politics can file what’s called a One Time Contribution form, or OTC. That allows it to swiftly create and dissolve a PAC on a single form in order to make a single donation.

As one of my colleagues put it, it’s like a “flash PAC.”

That’s what Frew Development Group did when it gave Corbett $1,000. It’s what numerous construction and engineering firms did when they contributed bucks toward passage of the local-option sales tax for streets. It’s what Waterloo’s Isle of Capri casino did when it donated $150,000 toward the campaign to defeat a Cedar Rapids casino.

But when Frew’s group donated to Swore, it ceased to be a one-time thing. So then it had to form the cleverly named “Frew Development Group for Corbett and Swore” PAC, at least for a day. And when Swore failed to win outright and faced a runoff, campaign finance officials allowed the dissolved PAC to make another donation. It was simply added as an amendment to its October contributions report.

Beyond the PAC’s giving, FDG's namesake John Frew personally contributed $1,000 to the campaign of Council member Justin Shields, who had no opponent. Frew also gave $250 to Susie Weinacht, who won one of two at-large seats in the Dec. 4 runoff.

As I noted back in October, Frew has donated $1,000 to Council member Monica Vernon ‘s congressional campaign.


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