Politics Blog

Big money also makes a splash in small-town Iowa

Whatcom County residents perturbed by the big money being spent on the four Whatcom County Council races -- $900,000 as of now, 1 p.m. on Election Day -- can commiserate with residents of Coralville, Iowa, pop. 18,907.

The New York Times reports that Americans for Prosperity, the conservative political action committee founded by the Koch brothers, has taken an interest in Coralville's City Council and mayoral races. The report doesn't say how much money was being spent. The Iowa chapter of Americans for Prosperity wouldn't say, and perhaps Iowa doesn't have the same campaign disclosure laws.

The article describes a small town with so much resentment over an outside group "wading into" their campaigns that they kept Americans for Prosperity at arm's length, even if they agreed with the group.

Shades of what's going on here: progressive council candidates disowned Washington Conservation Voters, even though they are on the same page with respect to the environment; and Bill Knutzen disavowed the coal money helping his campaign, focusing instead on all the "hard-working" Whatcom County residents that donated.

Locally, the county races could have been about commercial uses in rural areas, the growth of urban boundaries and cleaning Lake Whatcom. All of that got washed away in a tsunami of coal hype. This is why a particular statement by a Coralville City Council candidate rings familiar. Her town's main issues have been overwhelmed by AfP's fixation on taxes and spending:

Laurie Goodrich said that when she decided to run for the City Council, she planned to campaign on issues like painting the water tower, keeping the parks clean and maybe upgrading residential yard waste bags.

“We have not discussed any of that,” she said. “The sad part is, is that that’s really what concerns people who live here.”