CEDAR RAPIDS — Gov. Terry Branstad’s staff says he will address allegations his administration paid hush money to buy employees’ silence about their jobs being terminated.
Regardless of what he says, Branstad’s behavior shows a “pattern of indifference” toward the government the fifth-term Republican heads, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Sen. Jack Hatch said Saturday.
Hatch also charged that the most recent allegations against Branstad’s administration — almost $300,000 in secret settlements to former state employees to buy their silence and the director of Iowa Workforce Development improperly influencing administrative law judges — are far worse scandals than either the misuse of funds by the Central Iowa Employment and Training Consortium that resulted in criminal penalties or the Iowa Film Office’s inappropriate issuing of tax credits during the administrations of Democratic Govs. Tom Vilsack and Chet Culver, respectively.
“The integrity of state government is at stake,” Hatch said during a stop in Cedar Rapids. “Events are being created by the governor and his party who don’t like government, (and) that makes Iowans more cynical about the government services that are supposed to serve them and protect them.”
Branstad campaign spokesman Tommy Schultz said the remarks showed Hatch is “completely desperate to bring his campaign back from the dead.”
“Loaning money to his campaign and baseless accusations are his only options given his thin record of accomplishments,” Schultz said.
“Though (Hatch) recently came to realize that Iowa ‘is a pretty big state,’ voters across all 99 counties already know that Gov. Branstad and Lt. Gov. Reynolds are strong leaders who have worked tirelessly to create more than 100,000 jobs, sign into law transformational education reform and cut property taxes by the largest amount history,” Schultz said.
Branstad has said that he was unaware of the secret settlements revealed by a Des Moines Register investigation.
“If he really didn’t know, that raises the question of who’s in charge. Who’s running the store?” Hatch said.
“And if he’s not in charge, who gave agency directors the OK to spend state money on secret settlements?” he added.
Branstad has appointed his chief of staff, legal counsel and director of the Department of Management to look into the allegations. But they may well be the people who OK’d the settlements if Branstad wasn’t involved, Hatch said.
Either Branstad is removing himself from situations when he knows there will be a problem, Hatch said, “or he’s letting his top lieutenants make decisions because he knows there will be problems.”
That goes to a pattern of arrogance by someone who has been in office too long, Hatch said. He charged that Branstad has demonstrated an abuse of power.
In addition to the most recent allegations, Hatch cited the closing of the Iowa Juvenile Home, giving an Egyptian company $687,000 in economic development assistance for every job created at a new fertilizer plant, his handling of the Iowa Veterans Home, his troopers speeding while the governor and lieutenant governor were in their vehicles and closing the Iowa Workforce Development office."It’s astonishing that we aren’t holding him accountable,” said Hatch, who later attended a candidates forum in Monticello hosted by the Jones County Democrats. "There have been so many incidents that people have to begin to wonder.”